10 Steps to Sell Your Car Privately

How to sell a car privately advertisement example

How Do I Sell My Car

A guide to selling your car privately in the marketplace.

Step 1: Vehicle Value, Trade Value, Actual Cash Value

Selling a car privately is all about maximizing the amount of Value you get out of the transaction while also controlling the process. To learn how to maximize the amount you get for your vehicle you need to start by getting the value of your vehicle in the marketplace. The place to start is getting a car value from a trusted source in the marketplace. Often these trusted sources are KBB, Autotrader, and NADA. It’s important to understand how those ‘book values’ from the trusted sources are calculated and why they are relevant. KBB is probably the most well known source nationally for gauging values but there are intrincacies involved in using this tool in regards to vehicle condition. Autotrader and KBB are two companies that are basically working together and what you will find is Autotrader will give you roughly the same value or try to send you to a location where they have a trade in marketplace where they will offer to buy your vehicle for what THEY consider a fair price (often this is less than you can get elsewhere). NADA may be the most releveant and simplest to use in the Northeast and the reason is other than being fairly simple to use their website, they are the values that the banks/credit unions/finance companies in the Northeast region of the USA mostly use for establishing financing terms and contract on auto loans (which ultimately has a huge effect on the car values in the market).

Step 2: Paperwork – vehicle titles – invoices – bill of sales – liabilities

Once you’ve decided that you will sell your car or truck privately you should gather the paperwork that will be necessary to finalize the transaction with the seller. We recommend contacting our Key Auto Buying Center of New England, to get clear on the selling paperwork that is necessary before you start the process. You will find that sometimes there’s a piece to the puzzle you didn’t know you needed or that you had misplaced an important document like a title or death certificate that is needed to sell the vehicle. Selling a car privately in NH can vary from selling a car privately near ME, VT, Mass, or any other state. The legal requirements can vary from state to state – luckily for you our buyers have the expertise, knowledge, and most importantly the experience to guide you. They recommend you have the following:

Vehicle Title

Needed to transfer ownership of the vehicle. Sometimes there will be additional paperwork needed to prove ownership or document previous transfers of ownership. Proper documented transfers of ownership allow for quicker transactions, meaning, you get your money faster and the buyers gets the vehicle faster. You may have to reference DMV’s and try calling your state to get 100% certain on transaction process and paperwork.

Maintenance/Service Paperwork

Though not 100% necessary or legally needed, having kept up with service at the manufacturer’s recommendation will increase the value of your vehicle for most consumers. You can normally track down records of services performed at the businesses that performed them, if you haven’t kept them throughout the years. This is a courtesy too provide to the buyer of your vehicle so they can continue to properly care for the vehicle. This also allows for a transparent transaction of you selling the car to a buyer.

Invoice / Bill of Sale

This will serve as your documentation of the transaction. It can be legally binding once signed by both selling and buying parties. This will show the date, vehicle sold, buyer name/address, seller name/address, and the agreed upon financial structure of the transaction. There may be instances where liabilities can be agreed upon or denied on this document.

What are you liable for when selling your car privately?

If you have a proper “release of liability” form signed by both yourself and the buyer, you will avoid most any liability such as maintenance concerns or accidents that happen before the buyer has registered the vehicle in their own name. 

What if my car still has manufacturer’s warranty?

Provide documented proof that the vehicle still has warranty coverage so that the seller can properly identify the coverage still available and utilize the warranty if needed.

I want to sell my vehicle as-is with no warranty.

Maybe include this wording on the bill of sale, and consider typing up a document that both parties sign, explicitly stating this as a condition of the sale. This will help you to avoid any moral or legal responsibility for the repair of the vehicle for any reason what-so-ever after the transaction has been completed.

Step 3: Prepare your vehicle for sale

It is both courteous and wise to clean your vehicle out before selling it privately. You will want to check all compartments, nooks and crannies for trash, receipts, old bills, and any kind of paperwork with personal information on it. A full detail of the inside and outside of the vehicle will also make the vehicle appear to have been well maintained, thus increasing it’s value to potential buyers. You will want to do this before using photos (which are essential) to advertise your vehicle for sale. If you choose to do this cleaning yourself instead of having a professional handle that for you, be sure to hit these key areas:

Full wash of the exterior (and sometimes interior) 

Include a spray wax of the exterior, the rims and tires should be cleaned (be sure to reference trusted online how-to’s so you don’t use the wrong chemicals on tires)

Replace old accessories 

New seat covers, floor mats, steering wheel covers etc…

Clean interior

Fully Vacuum the vehicle, including the hard to reach areas, and consider using a WET vacuum treatment and an odor bomb. Full windshield cleaning, interior and exterior.

Step 4: Photograph your vehicle

Most private sellers use three to five photos to advertise their vehicle – however, we recommend you use anywhere from 27 to 40 photos to show great detail and show all the options the vehicle has to offer. This will show all the benefits the vehicle has to offer and will more likely gather consumers to make you high offers on your vehicle. If you have photoshop or equivalent editing abilities, be sure to use those skills to make the photos really stand out. If you don’t know how to do that, use your best judgement and take photos in bright areas while trying to avoid shadows, glare, and direct sun exposure. Be sure to show the following areas:

Front view, rear view, both sides, front and back seats, trunk, dashboard, odometer, floor, wheels (all four), engine compartment, and relevant damage that may exist. be up front and honest about the blemishes on the vehicle and about the added features of the vehicle.

Step 5: Bring your vehicle to market

Go ahead and notify anyone you can that your vehicle is for sale! You can use many websites to try to get the word out, including facebook, craigslist, and other various listing sites. We do recommend you use the Key Auto Buying Center of Portsmouth to ensure your transaction goes smoothly and quickly. This is also the best way to get the most value out of your vehicle and avoid stress.

Step 6: Your vehicle’s online presence

Create a valuable ad for your vehicle by coupling an honest and accurate description of the features and benefits of your vehicle with the photographs you have taken. Make sure your first few lines of description are the most attractive you can provide. You will want to include in your listing a few key components:

Asking price 

Your willingness to negotiate – exact odometer reading (and whether it will be going up while you drive it) – vehicle condition both mechanically and cosmetically – vehicle history both mechanically and if applicable accidents/damage – FULL 17 digit Vehicle Identification Number.

Step 7: Due diligence investigating prospects

If you are not selling to a known individual or reputable company that you are familiar with you will want to be sure any potential buyers who contact you are fully vetted before you commit to a transaction. Once you begin presenting your vehicle online you will need to be ready to respond to many inquiries from those sources. This can be time consuming so be sure to be quick and to the point with responses. Determine before you post your vehicle how you will determine whether a contacting individual is real, fake, or has poor intentions. Some easy steps you can take include:

Receiving the interested parties name(s)

be clear on the type of payment you will require (bank check, personal check, cash, etc…)

Never to consider monthly payments as an option and utilize financial institutions to help with the paperwork/payment transaction. Many banks and credit unions are happy to assist if you are already a member.

Many scams are similar and are based on the premise that the buyer is overseas or out of the country these should be avoided – if it is a legitimate buyer, it is still complicated since they cannot easily view the vehicle in person before buying.

Step 8: Be a great sales consultant

While the interested party is viewing your car or truck be sure to verbally discuss the benefits and features of the vehicle and point them out physically to the buyer. Tell them why the car is a good car and how it will be good for them to buy your car from you and not another similar car from someone else. A few pointers on things to think about while selling your car to someone:

What do they own now, why do they want your vehicle, how does your vehicle solve their needs. Tell them about the great service history, inexpensive repairs or low gas consumption, safety records, or spacious interior.

Step 9: Finalizing a transaction price and conditions

Also known as the ‘negotiation’ this is an important step where you may have to go back and forth with the buyer on an agreed price they will pay for your vehicle. Once they agree to a price you will have ‘closed’ your first deal. It’s important to remember that sometimes negotiation is about more than price. It could include giving a window of time for them to decide if they want to buy the vehicle, where to conduct the transaction paperwork, or how much gas needs to be in the tank of car before finalizing the deal. Our best advice is to know what you would minimally accept in your mind, before you start to negotiate and then be ready to go back and forth many times with the potential buyers. This may mean writing it down for yourself before you ever post you vehicle for sale.

Step 10: Closing the deal

Finalize all your transaction paperwork legally and ethically. Be sure to remove the vehicle from your insurance policy and hand the keys over to the buyer. It is often best to trade multiple forms of contact with the buyer just in case either of you need anything from each other in the future in regards to the transaction.


Key Portsmouth


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s