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Selling Your Car Part I: Getting the Most from a Private-Party Sale

Published Mar 19th 2007, 4:11pm 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!

Getting Your Car in Shape
Before you get ready to sell your car, you should make sure it is in the best shape (physically and aesthetically) that you can get it in with a minimal investment. Keep in mind how a vehicle looks at a dealership when it’s for sale: it is clean, well-maintained and ready for the new owner to personalize and make it their own. This is the kind of atmosphere you want to replicate when you sell your own vehicle.

Woman_with_engine Getting It in Good Working Order
· Have your oil changed, whether you do it yourself or take it to a shop.  This will ensure that it is in peak running condition.
· Have the fluids topped off, including wiper fluid, antifreeze, and oil.
· Do a walk-around to ensure that everything is in good working order.  Check your headlights, taillights, blinkers, windows, locks, window controls, and seat controls.
· Check the tire pressure and make sure they are correct.  This ensures a smooth ride, particularly if a buyer test drives it.
· Fill the gas tank. 
· If your inspection is near due, you might consider having it done (if your state requires), particularly if you have an older vehicle.  Some buyers prefer to know that they will not have any problems for a period of time after they purchase the car.
· Replace any burnt-out bulbs, even if you are not near due for an inspection.

Saturn_aura Making It Look Showroom-Worthy
· Clean out your vehicle.  Check the glove box, console, door pockets, under and between the seats, the floor, and the trunk.  Gum and straw wrappers are usual suspects, as are change and pens.
· Wash and vacuum it; waxing it is a plus!  Nobody wants to buy a car that is covered with cookie crumbs and dust.
· Wipe down the dash and interior panels.  Dust bunnies are not good salesmen!
· Funky or musty smell?  Get an air freshener.  You can go to any parts store, or even some big-box stores, and purchase the same “new car smell” air freshener that car manufacturers use in vehicles when they head to a showroom.  Tough smell that won’t budge?  Smells like cigarette smoke permeate the fabric and interior of the car.  It may be worth it to invest in a professional cleaning to have it removed. 
· Have you put any bumper stickers or window clings on your car?  If you’re planning to sell, this is a good time to remove them, or have them removed.  You want a buyer to be able to visualize the car as being theirs, and your favorite bumper sticker may not be their favorite!  This also applies to anything you have dangling from the rearview mirror or seat covers or floor mats (not everybody loves lime green seat covers or floor mats with flowers on them!)

Coming Up
Stay tuned for Part 2 next Monday, where we’ll talk about getting your information organized and ready to sell!

To get a printable checklist to walk through Part 1: Getting Your Car in Shape, visit

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