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Selling Your Car: Getting the Most from a Private-Party Sale, part 5 of 5

Published Apr 30th 2007, 9:06pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Heatherconary_small by Heather Conary
When you buy your next car, you might think about trading your older one in to a dealership.  While this is convenient, and may be the best option for you, it can be more lucrative to sell your car as a private party.  Using the same process and techniques that dealerships use to sell cars, you can make sure you get top dollar for your investment!

In Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 we talked about how to get your car in tip-top selling condition, getting your information organized and ready, taking great photos, and researching and setting a price!  In Part 5, the final piece, we’ll talk about writing a great description and advertising your car.

To get a printable checklist to walk through Part 5: Write a Good Description, visit

Write a Good Description
You should write your description as if you were having a conversation with the person reading it.  The best descriptions are friendly, yet thorough. 
•    Detail all of the information you gathered in Part 2, including the basic information (mileage, transmission, engine).
•    Note what features and options your car has, including any aftermarket/non-factory ones.

Think about who will want your car.  Use this to build a headline or summary, like one of the following:
•    Is it a little older, with higher miles?  Is it a small car?  “Perfect first car!”
•    Is it a minivan or SUV? “Perfect for a family!”
•    Does it need a little work?  “Great for someone mechanically inclined!”

Some questions to consider answering:

•    Why are you selling the car?  Are you replacing your sports car with a minivan because you’re starting a family?  Are you replacing your pick-up or SUV with a smaller car because you recently got a new job with a long commute and you need better gas mileage?  Did you get a great deal on your dream car?  Are you moving?  Did you recently get a company car?  If you have a reason like this, note it.  It builds confidence in your buyer that they’re not getting a lemon.
•    Is the mileage low relative to other cars of the same year?
•    Were you meticulous about servicing it and doing regular maintenance?  This is a good thing to mention, especially if you have the service records to show to a buyer.
•    Are you more concerned about getting cash as soon as possible? You might wish to note that you will take reasonable offers because you need the cash.

The most important thing to keep in mind when you’re writing your description: what is special about your car?  Why is it better than all the other used cars in your area?  Above all, be honest and complete in your description!

Advertise It
One of the most important factors to selling your car for the most money is to time it right, if this is possible for your situation. Selling a convertible or sports car in the middle of winter might not work if you live in a cold, snowy climate, where selling a plow truck may not be the best idea in the middle of July!  Early spring is a good time, particularly because people have tax returns that they will have to spend.

You will need to determine where to advertise your vehicle for sale. When considering potential places, you should consider the costs and how many people will see it.  You may have any of the following to consider in your area: newspaper classified ads, local websites, and local classified ad or sale listing publications.  In addition, you may want to consider national sites like eBay or AutoTrader.

If your employer or school offers classified listings, consider listing it there.  If you’re a member of a gym or library where you can put up an ad on a bulletin board, consider that as well.  Many times, free postings sell just as well as ones you’ve paid for.

Wrapping Up
The tips above should help you get the most from selling your car as a private-party.  While it is a little more time-consuming and involves more work than trading it a dealership, it can mean hundreds or even thousands more than trading at a dealership.  Good luck!

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