How To Get the Most When Selling Your Car

Selling your car can be stressful. Not only are you saying goodbye to an old friend, but you also have to face negotiating with someone on a big-ticket item. It may be easier to just trade your car in at the dealer, but that is not the best choice financially (unless we’re talking about a car under $1,000).

Today I’m going to answer the question, “how much can I sell my car for?” and also tell you how to sell it for the highest price. A private party sale will get you the most bang for your Buick, and, believe it or not, it does not need to be a painful ordeal. Just following these simple guidelines will help you to maximize your sale price—and make both the seller and buyer happy in the process.

1. First Impressions Are Important!

How Much Can I Sell My Car For - Used Car SalesmanEven if you cannot afford to replace the upholstery where your nephew “decorated” with purple Kool-Aid, you can certainly clean your car thoroughly inside and out. A two- to three-hour time commitment with a hose, bucket and vacuum will make your car seem much more salable.

When cleaning your car, don’t forget that buyers will also be checking out the engine. While you do NOT want to have your engine steam or professionally cleaned (it can cause electrical problems), using a rag to clean up oil and grime will make the engine parts easier to see and the car seem newer. If you’re selling your car in the winter months, having it cleared of snow and already warmed up when a potential buyer comes to see it will help your car stand out.

2. Know Your Car

Your buyer will want to know everything about the history of your car. Imagine if he asks you the last time you changed the timing belt, and you can’t recall exactly what a timing belt is, let alone whether you’ve changed yours. It will be much more difficult to make the sale if you cannot provide the history of the car’s maintenance. (You’ve kept all the receipts for maintenance, right? Right? Or you’ve had the dealer’s mechanic make notations of service in your owner’s manual, haven’t you?)

Even if you are a sloppy record keeper, do everything you can to recall what you have done to the car and approximately when. Even a partial history is better than none at all.

3. Know Your Potential Buyer

If you have an idea of what kinds of questions your buyer will ask, you’ll be better prepared to answer. So have an idea of why a buyer is interested in your car. Is your car super efficient? Be able to tell your buyer what your best mileage was. Is it a family van that can haul anything? Be ready to answer questions about capacity and towing.

In addition, don’t forget that some cars are seasonal beasts. Selling a convertible in February is as difficult as having a successful hot chocolate stand in August. Similarly, all wheel drive vehicles and SUVs sell better in the fall months, as people are gearing up for winter. So unless the depreciation will be enormous, save your seasonal car to sell in the correct season.

4. Determine a Fair Selling Price and Stick to It

Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, eBay Motors and Craigslist will all give you an idea of what your car is worth considering factors like your location and the car’s condition. Once you have decided on what you think is a fair price—and you can articulate why that price is fair—don’t let a pushy buyer force you to lower your price. You can always walk away from a deal, and you can always find another interested party.

Here are some more tips from for preparing your car for sale:

What are your tips for knowing how much your car is worth and selling it for the best price?

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About Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is an award-winning writer, author, money coach, and retirement expert. Her four books include The Five Years Before You Retire, Choose Your Retirement, Making Social Security Work For You, and End Financial Stress Now. Learn more about Emily at


  1. Take good photos and post it on Craigslist. We had a lot of people interested in our car then. Good negotiation if you mention other people are interested in it.