Thanks to the sluggish economy and the price of gasoline, folks are having to tighten their belts on auto expenses these days. Some are selling their gas-hogging SUVs and purchasing more efficient cars. Others, like us, have had to downsize from two or more automobiles to one per household.
When it’s time for you to downzise, you will want to get the most value for your car–whether as a trade-in or sale.
When my sister and I sold our truck on Craigslist recently, it was snatched up within hours of being listed. How did we make such a successful and speedy sale?
Here are five tips for getting the most for your car (all DIY’ed):
Detail Your Car
You know, of course, to vacuum and wash your car for a sale. But if you want to get top dollars for your car, you have to go the second mile. That means clean the trunk, the door jambs, the door pockets, the tires and rims, under the seats; get a cotton swab between the vent slats; and use a mild buffing cream on the outer body to remove minor scratches and give the car a like-new shine. Lastly, clean the engine. You don’t have to use any caustic chemicals to clean the engine. Just pour very hot water on the grungiest parts of your engine (avoid a direct hit on any wires), then wash with a mild dish soap and warm water. Rinse again with warm water. This is enough to place it in the top percentile of for-sale-by-owner cars.
Have all the Important Documents
Find the title to the car before you list it. If you can’t find the title, apply for a title replacement before you even show the car. Have all the repair receipts in a folder ready for the new owner. If you want to go the second mile here, offer a Carfax report to ease the buyer’s mind regarding your car’s history.
A car’s value is nothing more than what someone is willing to pay for it. But you can take the guesswork out of what people are willing to pay for similar cars by consulting Kelley Blue Book. This value estimator takes your car make and model, year, mileage, and general condition and finds what people in your zip code have paid for similar cars. Be honest about the condition of your car, take the value given, and add maybe 10% to the suggested price for “bargaining room.” Remember that the buyer has access to Kelley Blue Book as well and will know the range of values for your car.
Take Great Photos
This may be where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck. After you’ve cleaned your car, take it somewhere free of distracting clutter and shoot photos of it at several angles. Be sure to open the hood and capture your clean engine! These photos will be uploaded in the next step.
List on Craigslist
With your car ready for viewing, list it as For Sale By Owner on Craigslist. You can find your local online listing at [your city].craigslist.org. Include the make, model, year, and mileage of your car, asking price, what type of payment will be accepted, and your phone number (though you may want to skip the phone number and ask that they inquire by email first).
If you’ve done all the above, you can be confident in giving the buyer a good deal and getting the most for your car at the same time.