The Garage Buy & Sell

What Is The Best Way To Sell My Used Car?

Get that money!

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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? Congrats on the decision to upgrade! We have a question for you, though: Do you know where to start? 

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. 

Add insult to injury and you’ve got a never-ending sea of options of how to sell your ride. From legit services like Carvana, Edmunds, Vroom, and even Craigslist, to scammy places like…Facebook Marketplace. *shudders. The sheer number of places, ways, and what’s needed can turn anyone off and make that ’91 Caddy you’ve got permanently become a lawn ornament. 

Never fear, as The Drive’s crack Guides & Gear team is ready to guide you through the best way to sell your used car and not get screwed. Let’s get crackin’!

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. 

2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD
A dirty Ridgeline., Jonathon Klein

Clean Your Car

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.

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. You have no excuse for grainy, blurry, or smudgy photos. 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, as it seems…suspicious.

2021 Toyota Tundra
Now that’s a truck. , Toyota

How Can You Sell Your Car?

Once all that’s done, it’s time to choose how to sell your car. Across reality and the interwebs, owners can access a multitude of selling options that will all but ensure you sell your car for a reasonable price. Here are just a few of the most common ways:

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, condition of your car, mileage, among other variables. You’ll also want to haggle hard to get the most for it and toward your new vehicle. Most people sell their used cars in this manner as its a one-stop-shop for getting rid of your old car and gaining a new one. 

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 a Third Party Website or Dealership

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 or for folks who just don’t want to deal with a dealership and the more predatory salespeople. 

Carvana, Edmunds, Vroom and others are quickly becoming a popular option among sellers, as these offer instant appraisals, payment, and ease of use, even going so far as picking up the old car from your house. Each site also has an extensive array of available used and new cars for you to pick from, as well. 

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 a most enticing advert 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, and anything else relevant. Include your contact information and never, and we mean never, write out the words, “No low ballers, I know what I have.” If you do, you’re a meme and we’ll mercillesly mock you. 

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

If you’re going along and not selling the car to a third party dealer or company, you’ll have to set up a test drive for the person interested in the car. After screening your potential sucker, err buyer, you’ll want to 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. 


We now you want more. More information, more know-how, more everything. In that effort, here’s O’Reilly’s video on how to get your car to sell. 

FAQs About Selling Your Car

You’ve got questions. The Drive 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. 

When’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.

Jonathon Klein Avatar

Jonathon Klein

Managing Editor, Commerce

Jonathon is the Managing Editor for Commerce at The Drive and has been writing about cars and motorcycles for over a decade, but he's been known to scribble pretty things about the foster care system, adoption, tattoos, sex and life, gear, adventures, food, autonomy, technology, and numerous other topics. He’s been working for The Drive since 2019 when he started as its Senior Editor.