What Is The Best Way To Sell My Used Car?

Get that money!

A used car lot.
Uli Deck/picture alliance via Getty Images

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So your jalopy is looking tired? Are you done with listening to your base-model stereo? Are you looking for something harder, better, faster, stronger? Something that speaks to the enthusiast within? Perfect! You’ve come to the right place, as The Drive is here to help you determine the best way to sell your used car and find your next whip. 

At first glance, selling your used car can seem daunting. You have to gather all your car’s paperwork together, papers you likely lost ages ago, and interact with a number of randoms that are all trying to get you to take less money. It’s not a fun prospect, especially when you absolutely have to sell your ride quickly and for the most money. 

Never fear, as The Drive’s crack informational team is ready to guide you through the best way to sell your used car. 

Let’s get crackin’!

Using Calculator for Car Loan

Man using a calculator for the car loan

Determine The Value of Your Car

The first step to selling your used car is to find out how much it’s worth. This is pretty straightforward, as there are a host of online resources available. The Drive’s favorite is Kelly Blue Book’s time-honored valuation tool. 

Using KBB’s program, you input your car’s make, model, and year, as well as mileage, condition, and any optional extras you may have ticked at the dealership. What comes out is a tiered valuation, which includes your car’s value going through a private sale compared to trading in your vehicle. 

With knowledge of your beloved car’s worth, you can then make a decision as to how and where you’re going to sell it.

Line of luxury used cars

Line of luxury used cars

How Can You Sell Your Car?

Across reality and the interwebs, owners can access a multitude of selling options that all but ensure you sell your car for a reasonable price. Here are just a few of the most common ways to sell your car. 

Option #1: Trade It In For a New Car

Simply walk into the dealership of your choice, tell them which car you want, and offer your current car as a trade-in. The amount you get for your trade-in, however, will be based on your willingness to haggle. And haggle hard. This is how most people sell their used cars. 

Option #2: Sell To a Private Party

The second most common way to sell your car is through a private sale. This involves putting together an ad, either locally or through an online resource like Craigslist, and having people come to your home to see, test drive, and make an offer on your car. This typically fruits the highest cash return.

Option #3: Sell It To Carvana

Carvana is quickly becoming a popular option, as the dealership chain offers instant appraisal and dropping off the check when it comes and picks up your car. The site also has an extensive array of available used and new cars. 

Option #4: Sell It To a Third-Party Dealer

A third-party dealer is a dealership not associated with a major automaker. These can be good options for those attempting to sell older vehicles. 

Car Detailing

Man cleaning car interior

A clean car is more appealing than one filled with leftover Burger King, shredded paper, diapers, newspapers from 1990, and the assorted debris and detritus that inevitably finds its way into your cup holders and seat pleats. Cleaning the vehicle with a complete detailing will make your car more valuable and potentially help it sell faster. 

To clean and detail your car, follow The Drive’s handy guides for How To Detail a Car and How To Hand Wash a Car.

Here’s a brief synopsis of How To Detail a Car:

Detailing the Exterior

  1. With dirt traps at the bottom, fill two buckets with water and add the soap.
  2. Rinse the car, top, body, and underneath, with the hose and let the water soften some of the dirt. 
  3. With a lathered-up mitt, start washing the car from the top and proceed down the car. 
  4. Wash and rinse the car in quarters to help prevent dried streaks and/or water spots. 
  5. Wash the wheels with a brush and rinse. You should use a different brush or towel if you want to do them first. 
  6. Once all parts of the car have been washed, rinse the entire vehicle again.
  7. Use one towel to quickly soak up the large majority of the water around the whole car.
  8. Use a second dry towel to detail dry.
  9. Lastly, with a small disposable towel, wipe and dry the wheels.
Man polishing cleaning car with microfiber cloth

Man polishing cleaning car with a microfiber cloth

Take Good Photos

When you sell your car online, you need to take good photos. Considering how stellar ubiquitous camera phones have become, it takes minimal effort to find a nice setting and a snap a few auto-focused shots. Take photos of the front, the side, the back, and throughout the interior. Make sure you take pictures of any known imperfections, as it informs potential buyers, helps establish trust, and helps you negotiate later. 

We suggest taking pictures outside during the middle of the day when the sun’s out. This way, you get a lot of detail. Don’t post pictures that partially cut off pieces of the car, it seems suspicious

How to Sell a Used Car Quickly

Here’s how to sell your used car quickly, efficiently, and for a great price.

Collect Your Paperwork

It’s best to have your title, registration, and insurance information handy in case you sell your car quickly.

Set An Asking Price

Using KBB’s valuation tool, or your own research, set a price that you’d be comfortable with. You can add a little more than what your research dictates in case you expect to haggle—i.e. your 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan with 27,000 miles is worth $13,000 but you set the price at $15,000. 

Create An Ad That Sells

If you’re going the private route, put on that Don Draper necktie and write your most enticing copy without lying. Make sure you explain the nuances of the car, any issues it may have, any selling points that may attract someone, and what service history you have. Include your contact information.

Screen Callers Carefully

When someone rings you about your car, be sure to ask them if they have insurance, are ok with the asking price, and whether or not you can meet them at a neutral location. Try not to meet at your home. Never click links within texts or emails as they could be virus-laden. 

Set Up a Test Drive

After screening your potential sucker buyer, set up a test drive at a neutral location. Be sure to get a copy of the person’s insurance. For extra security and safety, it’s not a bad idea to text a friend of your dealings or simply bring them along.

Close The Deal

Get you that money! If you have to, haggle with the potential buyer. You should, however, stay firm if you need a certain amount for the car. 

closed deal

Closed Deal

FAQs About Selling Your Car

You’ve got questions, The Drive’s informational team has answers!

Can I Sell My Car with Outstanding Finance?

The short answer is yes, but it’s complicated. The easiest way to do this is through dealerships, where experienced accountants will roll in the outstanding amount owed on your previous vehicle into your new ride. Doing that privately is far more difficult and requires the buyer and seller to make arrangements with the finance company to take over the payments. We don’t recommend that method. 

What’s The Best Time to Sell Your Car?

Timing is important when selling a car, as there are specific times of the month and year that you’re more likely to be able to sell your car than others. One great time to sell your vehicle or trade-in your car is at the end of the month when dealerships are looking to bolster their monthly sales quotas.

For private sales, the end of the year and middle of summer (for college students returning to school who need a cheap ride) are great times to sell your car. However, as so many are looking for new or used cars throughout the year, you can sell your car whenever and get a reasonable offer. Awareness of the type of vehicle, such as a convertible, and it’s relation to the seasons can factor into how quickly a vehicle can be sold, as well

When’s The Best Time to Trade in Your Car and Buy a New Car?

At the end of the month. As mentioned before, the end of the month, when salesmen are looking to prop up their monthly sales, is the best time to find a screaming deal.

Find Your Next Car with Carvana

You know how satisfying it is to drop a coin into a vending machine, type in the respective alphanumeric code for a Reese's, hear the whirring of the motor twisting the delicious chocolate-covered peanut butter cup out toward you, and finally falling into the bin for your to enjoy? Yeah, that's how easy it is to now buy your next car thanks to Carvana.

Carvana has taken the vending machine process and applied it to car purchases, coin and vending machine included. They can also be delivered to your home, just like that Knives Out-like knit-sweater you won't ever wear. With thousands of cars to choose from across all makes and models, Carvana's selection is extensive and the company's confident, even offering a 7-Day Risk-Free Return policy, it has your next car. That's why The Drive's partnered with Carvana to help you find your next ride! Are you ready to get your next car out of a vending machine?

Featured Products For Selling Your Car

Turtle Wax Ultimate Car Care Kit

Mothers California Gold Carnauba Wash & Wax

Chemical Guys Bug & Tar Heavy Duty Car Wash Shampoo

Got a question? Got a pro tip? Send us a note: guidesandgear@thedrive.com