Knowing how to sell your car for the most money possible has never been more important. In 2021 we’ve seen used car prices appreciate nearly 30%, which means the car (or truck, or SUV) in your driveway is worth way more than when you originally bought it. What a time to be alive!
If you decide that it’s time to sell your car, there are a few things we recommend you do to make the most money possible. Right now, with new car inventory at all-time lows, car dealers, consumers, and everyone in between will be interested in your used car for sale. To maximize your profits we have a few suggestions.
Let’s explore how you can sell your car and address some common questions, like “Should I get my car detailed before I sell it?” “Should I sell private party or to a dealer?” And, “How much is my car really worth?” Let’s dive in.
Sell Your Car to Carvana, Vroom, CarMax, or Shift
National online used car dealers like Carvana, Vroom, CarMax, and Shift have been growing in recent years. These companies are publicly traded and focused heavily on growth. Because of this, digital retailers are always purchasing more vehicles in order to continuously expand their inventory.
To sell your car for the highest price possible we recommend you start by getting free online quotes from these four major players. Their business models rely on them having vehicles to sell, and because of that they have made it very simple to sell them your car online. Getting a quote from Carvana takes less than five minutes and only requires your VIN and the current odometer reading.
Carvana, Vroom, CarMax, and Shift vary their prices by geographic region. We recommend you get quotes from each company to see who is offering the highest price right now. Each company wants a different “mix” of inventory and one of them will want your car the most.
Click here to get a Carvana quote: https://www.carvana.com/sell-my-car
Click here to get a Vroom quote: https://www.vroom.com/sell
Click here to get a CarMax quote: https://www.carmax.com/sell-my-car
Click here to get a Shift quote: https://shift.com/sell-my-car
From our experience, we’ve seen that Carvana and Vroom will typically pay the highest price for newer used vehicles. CarMax typically pays the most for older used vehicles. Shift occasionally tops them all.
Bear in mind that Vroom has recently been admonished by the Better Business Bureau, so if the quote you get from Carvana is within a few hundred dollars of your price from Vroom, you may simply want to go to Carvana.
Sell Your Car to Your Local Car Dealers
Car dealers are notoroius for “lowballing” your trade-in. Well, in today’s market you are the one in control, and we recommend you give your local dealers a chance to buy your car from you.
Car dealerships are rapidly running out of inventory, and with Carvana, Vroom, Shift, and CarMax spending a lot of money to buy cars directly from consumers, local car dealers know they need to pony up some serious cash to do the same.
We recommend that you contact all of your local dealerships and share with them the quotes you received from the online digital used car dealers. To sell your car for the most money possible, you need leverage, and with online cash quotes, you have that.
If a dealership is willing to beat the price quote you have, that’s great! Your next concern is likely “will they change the price when I come in and they inspect the vehicle?” To mitigate issues there, watch this video on how car dealers appraise cars, and make them aware of any issues in advance.
We have heard a few horror stories from the online used car dealers that they revise their prices lower once they have inspected a vehicle, so the best thing you can do with them, or with your local dealer is to pre-empt that by telling them about any damage or issues.
Sell Your Car to a Private Buyer
After going through the prior two steps, if you are willing to invest more time in the process you’ll likely be able to sell your car for the most money possible to a private buyer. Unlike selling to a dealership, selling to a private party takes a bit more work, however an interested private buyer will likely pay even more than the dealership, because they know that if they don’t buy it from you, they’ll have to buy it at a marked up price from the dealership.
What price should I list my vehicle at?
Thankfully, the work you did in the steps before (getting quotes from dealerships) will inform your asking price. We recommend you take the highest offer you received from one of the car dealers and add 10% on top of it. That is a fair listing price for a private party sale.
Why 10%? It’s simple:
- The dealership is likely going to sell the vehicle for much more than 10% than what they are buying it from you for, so it’s a reasonable price for a private party to expect
- When negotiating with a private party they’ll likely want to haggle, and with 10% of extra “profit” built in, you have some room left to negotiate and haggle
Where should I advertise my vehicle for sale?
Advertising a vehicle for sale right now has never been easier. There is A LOT of fraud on peer to peer websites, however. We recommend listing your vehicle on the classic websites: Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
In this market you will likely be receiving many inquires immediately.
Should I detail my car before selling it?
If you’re selling your car to a private buyer we recommend you clean and detail it. If you are selling to a dealership there is no need to get the vehicle detailed, however it is a good idea to get the vehicle looking clean and like it has been well maintained.
CarFax Reports and Pre-Purchase Inspections
If you’re selling a vehicle to a private buyer do not be surprised if they ask to see a CarFax report and to get a pre-purchase inspection.
- CarFax – All serious buyers will want to view a detailed vehicle history for the car. This helps them determine if your car is a good investment. Be sure to have this ready, whether you are contacting an online retailer, visiting a local dealer, or finding a private buyer. We recommend you pay for this and have it ready to share with prospective buyers.
- Pre-Purchase Inspection – A serious prospective buyer will want to conduct a pre-purchase inspection. Be prepared for that and not surprised. We don’t recommend you preemptively get a pre-purchase inspection, because buyers will want their own mechanic to review the vehicle.
When considering how to sell your car, be prepared to accommodate a PPI and have a vehicle history ready for potential purchasers to review.
What Do I Need to Sell My Car?
Great, so you know how much your car is worth and you’re ready to sell it. You likely now wondering, “So what exactly do I need to sell my car?”
The following items will be useful in making your sales experience as smooth as possible:
- A driver’s license or other official identification
- The vehicle’s title
- The vehicle’s registration
- Ten-day loan payoff (if you have a loan on the vehicle)
- All sets of keys for the vehicle (at least two)
- All maintenance and vehicle service records
If you’re selling to a dealership your experience will be pretty simple … Arrive, sign off on a variety of paperwork that allows the dealership to handle motor vehicle paperwork on your behalf, get your check, and leave.
If you’re selling to a private party it will look a little different.
Here are a few pointers:
- Never allow the potential buyer to test drive the vehicle by themself. Always accompany the potential buyer on the test drive and have your friend tag along as well.
- Establish the test drive route prior to leaving and set the ground rules for how the vehicle is allowed to be driven. The driver must obey all traffic safety rules and stay within the posted speed limit at all times.
- Once you have agreed to sell the vehicle, complete the transaction at your bank, credit union, motor vehicle agency or local police station to protect all parties from any issues. Be certain to make sure that buyer’s funds are indeed good prior to releasing any paperwork or keys to the vehicle.
- Do not allow the buyer to drive off using your tags and registration.