How to Sell Your Car to a Private Party

How to Sell Your Car to a Private Party
  • Opening Intro -

    If you’re in the market for a new car, then trading in your vehicle is one consideration as you put together a deal.

    It is also a near certain way for you to lose hundreds perhaps thousands of dollars as you accept the dealer’s offer which will be less than what your car would fetch had your sold it privately.


Classic cars can usually fetch a price premium.

Sure, selling your car on your own can take some time and can also mean you’ll deal with your share of tire kickers. However, you can limit the “just looking” crowd and line up a qualified buyer quickly. Here’s how to sell your car to a private party:

1. Buy a vehicle report — You can demonstrate your desire to be transparent by buying and supplying a copy of your vehicle’s car history report to potential buyers. Carfax, for example, has detailed information about most any vehicle built over the past decade or more including previous owners, accident information and at least some repairs.

2. Show your paperwork — The more information you can supply about your car, the better. Bring out receipts detailing repairs, the cost of new tires, recent inspection and insurance information. The more you can provide, the better you’ll look to serious buyers.

3. Set a fair price — Kelley Blue Book can tell you how much your car would sell for in your area based on its age, mileage, amenities and other factors. Price it near or slightly below that amount to attract buyers.

4. Get it ready — Thoroughly clean your car inside and out, removing stuff you’ve been carrying around in its trunk. Wash and wax your car, with a detailer’s eye to help the cost stand out, the trim and wheels look sharp, and the interior trim, dash, floor and seats look like new.

5. Write up an ad — You no longer need to advertise your car in your local newspaper, but using a free service such as Craigslist can be one way to attract buyers. Provide as much information about your car including make, model, model year, trim level, mileage, body condition, amenities and other important points. Supply an asking price, contact phone number or email address and other information to help buyers decide. Importantly, include several photos of your vehicle including interior and exterior shots.

6. Show it off — Place “for sale” signs in the window of your car with a contact phone number prominent. Qualify drivers before allowing anyone to test drive your vehicle, asking for and copying down driver’s license information. Beware of scams — consider riding with the buyer as would any salesman who is seeking to sell a car himself.

7. Make a deal — Have a firm price set in your mind when negotiating a deal. Cash only works best or a bank certified check would be the next best choice. Fill out the proper department of motor vehicles documentation and only cancel insurance once the check has cleared and you know that the new owner has taken possession of your car.


Higher gas prices have changed the value of used cars. Fuel efficient vehicles are retailing for a premium, while sport utility vehicles and large cars are selling for less. Price your vehicle according to demand to help it sell.

Photo: Morgue File

Adv. – Are you shopping for a used or new car? If so, has information about used and new cars, and offers free loan calculators and work sheets to help you close the deal.


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Categories: Autos Express

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".