How to Get the Most Money When Selling Your Car

In this digital day and age, getting your car into the market isn't hard. The tough part in the selling process is how to get your car to stand out, and how to get the most money out of your sale.

Toby Schultz
4-minute read

When the time comes to get rid of your car, there is no shortage of options available to you. Between sketchy used car brokers that claim to buy any car, online car consignment companies that want to sell your car for you, and legitimate dealerships accepting trade in value when purchasing a car from them– selling your own car has become a lost art. Once you do make the decision to sell your own car, listing has never been easier thanks to free online marketplaces such as Craigslist. Now the trick is getting your car to stand out in a sea of used cars, and getting top dollar for it when it does sell. Compiled here are a few tips to help ensure you get the best possible selling price for your car.

Wash and wax the exterior; detail the interior

Although it may be old to you, your car is gonna be new to somebody, and selling a clean and shiny car really completes that new car experience for the next potential owner. You don’t even have to buy fancy cleaning supplies– often you can use everyday household items to get the job done. Take the time to vacuum out the food crumbs and pet hair, and give it a nice, thorough wash and a fresh coat of wax. This also serves as a chance for you to properly say goodbye to your car, with which you likely have some fond memories—unless you’re a robot or you loathed it.

Take some high quality photos

You don’t have to hire a professional, or even get your hands on a fancy camera. If you have a smartphone made within the last few years, chances are the built in camera is up to the task. Time of day and weather are very important when taking good photos. Cloudy, overcast days provide some of the best natural lighting for shooting cars. Sunny days provide strong glares and extreme variations between light spots and dark spots, which cameras have a hard time compensating for. If you’re not lucky enough to have an overcast day, then shoot in the evening, as it will give the same type of desirable results. Shoot pictures of both interior and exterior, from every angle possible.

Obtain a vehicle history report, and have the service records available

Getting a vehicle history report will cost you less than $50, and shows potential buyers you’re not trying to hide anything. It adds an extra level of transparency which will be largely appreciated, plus it saves the buyer from spending the money on a report themselves. Same goes for the service records—having them available and ready to view shows that you’ve maintained the car, and have the proof to back it up. If you maintain the car yourself or have a friend do it for you, keep a logbook of any and all repairs and services you perform.

Do your research before setting the price 

Check the blue book value using a couple different websites; the vehicle history report may suggest your particular vehicle is worth more than blue book value based on mileage, previous number of owners, and accident history. Compare this price to what similar vehicles are selling for in your area. Many people list their cars for far more than blue book value, so price yours competitively with these. Make sure to list any special features that were an optional add-on, are unique to your vehicle, or that people may not think to look for, such as an auxiliary jack for the stereo or xenon headlights vs standard halogens.

Prepare to negotiate 

It helps to have a bottom line price in mind before listing the car. Decide what the minimum amount you would sell the car for; this way if someone tries to negotiate for less money than you’re asking, you can very clearly and concisely say yes or no to a specific offer. It also helps to think of specifics that you could offer to get a higher asking price, such as offering to do the next oil change for free if asking price is met. Conversely, you can think of things that you can sacrifice to reduce the price, such as removing an aftermarket roof rack or performance part that is currently installed if the asking price is not met. Then you can sell those parts later to make up the difference.

When dealing with any online transaction, it’s important to exercise safety. Meet at public places during daylight hours, and get cash only if you need it, as opposed to carrying it around with you. If they want to take the car somewhere for a pre-purchase inspection, suggest they have a qualified technician do the inspection on site. Although selling your car can seem troublesome and intimidating, it’s generally the best way to get the most value from your old car. By following the above advice, you’ll hopefully be able to get the best selling price for your car, making it worth all the extra work.


Toby Schultz is the Senior Automotive Editor at YourMechanic.com. YourMechanic delivers mobile car repair by certified mechanics in over 700 U.S. cities. Their top-rated technicians can perform over 600 services at your home or office and will even answer your questions online.