selling a car

Selling a car privately seems to be an easy job.

Make a sales sign; park the car in the driveway or visible place, pop an ad on the internet and off the car goes. Problem solved.

In theory yes…..but in practice a very big NO!

Today, if you want to sell your car privately, you have to be well prepared and put some work in to it.

When people realize this fact, they rush off to a dealership and let them handle the selling part.

Well, this is OK. But for a little invested time and money you can pretty much do the same job.

These tips will hopefully help sell your car and avoid any mistakes in the process.

One more thing to know; all of these tips apply for used cars and are derived from my own selling experience.

Step 1. Clean the car thoroughly.

No one wants to buy a chicken coop.

Just put yourself in the customers position.

Opening the door and finding pieces of paper, food remains, stains, filthy floor mats is a major turn off.

Poor cleanliness of the car can also cause a lack of confidence when selling your car privately.

Ultimately a sloppy and filthy car will cause the selling price to go down.

To avoid this wash and clean the car thoroughly.

  • Car exterior

Your average 5 minute visit to the car wash will not do. If you want top results, you”ll have to work much harder.

What I mean is clean the parts that are almost never washed (the inner and upper part of the wheel arches, upper parts of the door, small crescents on the car body etc).

Those parts of the car body are hard to reach thus causing filth and muck to gather over time.

If you’re going to do this at home (which is my warm recommendation), use car shampoos with wax as this will both clean the car and give it some extra shine.

  • Car interior

The car interior is highly susceptible to all kinds of stains, filth, dust etc.

If you’ve slacked on cleaning the interior, selling time is payback time.

Use sponges, brushes or else that won’t harm the car plastics or upholstery.

Also, you have a lot of specialized cleaning products that will do the job very well.

Go in detail as much as you can. Clean the air vents, the foot rest near the pedals, handles, switches, crescents between the plastics; the more the better.

Step 2. Provide a detailed car service history

Having a detailed service is history is pure gold.

In lots of countries, cars without a service history tend to be 20 percent cheaper than the exact same car that has one.

Although a car without a car service history has been properly maintained and serviced, the sad truth is that seeing is believing.

When there’s a written or electronic service record, the customer has a clear view of what he/she is buying.

Essentially, they get a kind of voucher for their future investment.

If you don’t have a regular car service book, then find all (or some) of the service receipts you’ve got for repairs over time.

Even if you have a self-made made record of the car service and maintenance,this will do better than nothing when selling a car privately.

Step 3. Create a good selling price

This is an art on its own.

You have to find that sweet spot. Not too high, not too low.

Make the price too high when you sell the car privately and there’s a good probability that your car will be your companion for a long time.

Too low, and you’re going to suffer a money loss.

In order to create a good selling price you have to take in account a few things:

  • The condition of the car (car body, engine, interior etc.)

The better the overall condition the more money you can ask for. Also, you’ll sell it faster. All the opposite for a car in bad condition

  • The age and mileage of the car

Higher mileage and age equals less money. The car has to be spot on to get a good price with higher age and mileage

  • The average present price of your car model on the market

Look around the market and get a picture of what you’re dealing with. Start your price as an average between the best and worst.

  • What is your lowest selling price

Prepare for the haggling part; this is imminent. A customer will want a “discount” on your price so calculate it in. Ten percent higher than you want is OK.

  • Expenses for running that car model

Most potential customers do their research. If you have a car that is expensive to maintain, high insurance rate etc. be prepared to wait and perhaps lower the price. People tend to run away from cars with high expenses.

  • Popularity and knowledge of the car model in the market

It’s much more easier to sell a car model that’s familiar and popular among people. Even if it’s not in a good condition. If you have a rare car model, be prepared to wait for a sell.

  • How fast do you want to sell

If you want a fast sell, you”ll probably have to lower the price tag. Low pricing is a strong magnet to potential customers.

  • Put yourself in the customers shoes.

This worked for me lots of times. Simply ask yourself, would you as a customer pay that kind of money for that car? Being realistic is a huge help for selling the car privately

Step 4. Do some minor repairs if needed

tselling a car privately-skoda-fabia

Squeaks, leaks, strange noises, burnt out bulbs will all cause your selling price to plummet.

It will also drive away the customer like the car is on fire.

First see if the repair can be done on your own. Minor repairs like broken hoses, loose clamps, old gaskets etc can be easily replaced on your own.You’ll save time and money.

These kinds of videos you can see on our You Tube channel 

If you need professional help from a mechanic, try to find a good mechanic that will make a good estimate of the repair costs.

My point: if it’s a costly repair, you have to know that.

This demands recalculation of the selling price or even if you want to sell the car at all.

These kinds of situations happen, for instance, when you have to make a dual mass flywheel replacement.


Step 5. Put a quality ad on the internet 

Car internet ads are one of the foundations for selling a car privately.

With simple interfaces all you have to do is take some pictures, fill out online forms and the ad is finished.

But from my own experience, giving some extra work on this part will go a long way.

Better pictures and more detailed explanation of the car will get you a customer more likely.

Pictures are the language of the internet car ads; blurry pictures, pictures taken in motion, night-time pictures are not an option.

People also like good information in the car ad. The website questionnaire will take care of the basic information needed, but if you have an “edge” like special alloys, special upholstery, tuning etc. put that in the ad also.

Driving attention to your car ad is very important!

Step 6. Pay attention to details when selling a car privately

When people want to buy a car, they tend to look at everything.

They try if everything works, they flip car mats, they look at the pedals, look around the engine. The list goes on.

Knowing this, no detail should be unchecked.

If you have, for instance, a worn out gear knob, broken door knob, broken or missing plastic parts, old and torn floor mats replace or fix this.

Most times, these parts are cheap to buy and fixes are a DIY job.

This is very important for a first impression on the customer.

Step 7. Make a good first impression 

Remember that you’re the salesman in this case.

How many times have you bought all sorts of stuff that you didn’t really need?

I presume, many times and what does it boil down to?

Either you liked it, it had a good price or…… it was well-presented to you.

Selling a car privately is almost the same. Putting in a little effort and some nice words will surely help.

Think of what you’d like if you were going to someone’s place to check out the car.

Would you like a grumpy, moody and “eye-rolling” person to meet you at the door or someone nice, kind and polite?

Nice behavior is good for selling. It tends to soften down people so even if you have some minor fault, it won’t get that much attention.

Step 8. Let the customer have a test drive

selling a car privately-test

I don’t know about you, but this is the hard part for me whenever I sold one of my previous cars.

So, you have to let someone drive your car whom you don’t know, has unknown driving skills and maybe won’t even buy the car.

The matter of fact is:no one will actually buy the car if he/she hasn’t driven it.

So just pucker up and look at this as a necessity. If the car is OK and you’re not hiding anything it will endure without consequences.

But on the other side there are all kinds of people out there and you have to keep your car and yourself safe. Some suggestions:

  • Make the test drive on a secluded road or remote parking lot; this will minimize any potential car damage.
  • Keep all of the car documents with you.
  • Don’t put much gas (petrol) in the tank.
  • Empty all your private possessions from the car
  • Insist that you ride along the customer; this way you’ll avoid possible abuse of the car

Better safe than sorry. Anyway, a serious buyer won’t mind.

Step 9. Have on honest stance when selling a car privately

What I’m going to write further down this article comes solely from my own experience and what effect it had when I sold my previous cars.

(If any car salesman reads this, they’ll probably laugh so much, they’ll fall of their chair!)

I’ll be free to say that, when it comes to car sales, honesty and truth are first out the window. They are also subdued to the sale.

It’s always sales first, customer second. Well….I did the exact opposite

I told every one of my customers all the ups and downs of the car, to the best of my knowledge.

Didn’t hide anything and when ever people went around the car and said “aha, there’s a scratch” I would just say: “yeah, you’re right, nice you noticed”.

The point is that I wanted people to see that they’re not getting swindled and that I’m not hiding anything. What you see is what you get.

That has helped selling a car privately every time. Guess that people are just fed up with all the pretending and fake posture.

But you be the judge of it all.

Step 10. Selling a car privately means no emotional connections with your car

When I sold my first car I cried. Literally.

I shook the customer’s hand, we did the paperwork, he sat in the car and drove away. I watched in tears as my pet went away forever.

Memories started to flash in front of my eyes like: it was my first car ever, I put so much time and love into it, had so many nice trips, first car my family had etc.

God forgive me, but it was something like parting from a dear family member.

Well….. looking back at those moments, I can only conclude that these feelings are a total and utter nuisance for selling a car privately.

You, see the car is just a commodity that should serve for YOUR good. From a users point of view this is only logical.

Some reasons for this logic:

  • Over time, it becomes ever more unreliable
  • Maintenance costs build up as time goes by
  • The more money you invest in the car, the less you’ll get back when you eventually have to sell it

This doesn’t apply,for instance, to old-timers or future old-timers.

People who decide to keep the car in this manner are prepared for these kinds of costs and problems.

Even in this case, it’s not a matter of emotions but of a future investment.

So, it all comes down to how much you’re willing to pay for your love.

Just think about huge maintenance costs, price depreciation, frequent breakdowns, not knowing if you’re going to arrive from point A to point B…..

These thoughts will make the separation much easier, trust me.