Selling a car is not as straightforward as taking it to a dealership and expecting them to give you the price you deserve. You need to do some prep work first! In this fast-moving and pro-seller's market, here are some of the most effective ways to prepare your vehicle for sale:

Get it Checked Out

Start by scheduling a pre-sale inspection with a mechanic you trust and ask them to give the car a thorough look. You don't want to invest in repairs that could have been addressed before putting it on the market.

Ask them to check your tires, brakes, dashboard lights, and all fluids, including oil, coolant, and transmission fluid. These fluids can be topped up at any garage service station. Even if they are not leaking or low, they should always be checked regularly in case there is something seriously wrong under the hood which might affect their performance (like an overheating engine or leaking head gasket).

Thumbs up from two certified auto mechanics in their shop

Make sure all your lights work as expected: headlights and taillights are crucial for safety reasons but also because they make your car more attractive to buyers who will consider whether it's worth their time driving away in something that doesn't seem safe enough for them to drive around town with their families in it.

If work is necessary to pass your state inspection, get an estimate from your mechanic about what type of work needs doing. From cosmetic issues like scratches or dents, which may cost between $150-$500 depending on how much damage there is; to larger issues like major rusting around wheel arches, which could mean replacing body panels costing upwards of $3k; or other potential problems such as faulty brakes and shocks — it's good to know what's going on so that you know exactly how much money needs to be spent on your car before listing it online​, or what kind of information you need to disclose on the listing.

Collect Maintenance Records and Documents

You can make the process of selling your car much easier on yourself by collecting all your maintenance records and keeping them in chronological order. This will help buyers to trust that you have been maintaining the car as needed and make it less likely for them to try and negotiate a lower price. If possible, print out any relevant information from Carfax (if available) for proof of any accidents or other issues with the vehicle.

Clean Your Car Inside and Out

The first thing to do when getting ready to sell your car is to give it a thorough cleaning. This will help you get the most money possible, and will also make buyers feel like they're purchasing something that's clean and well-maintained.

Cleaning and polishing are two of the most important parts of prepping your car for sale. A dirty vehicle isn't going to attract many buyers, so make sure that you go through every nook and cranny before showing off your ride. Visiting your local car wash is an easy way to get started with this process. You'll want to pay attention not only to how clean the outside of your vehicle looks but also to its interior and even undercarriage.

If possible, bring the car into a professional detailing shop where they can get rid of those pesky spots and make it shine like new again. Detailers can address any other areas that need attention — including wheels, tires, and windows so they're crystal clear!

Car detailer brushing the AC vents in a car

Take High-Quality Pictures

You don't want to waste your time and energy trying to sell a car that looks like a clunker. But how do you ensure that the car is shown in its most flattering light? First, take good pictures. You've probably heard this advice before, but it's worth repeating: good photos are critical for getting the most money for your sale.

What makes for a good photograph? Lighting is important, so make sure there's plenty of light so that potential buyers can see all of the features of your ride in detail. Composition is also important. Remember that people tend to look at their phones in portrait mode (vertical), rather than landscape (horizontal). So make sure your shots have plenty of space above and below each piece of information you're sharing with potential buyers.

Cell phone camera taking the picture of a car interior

One way to make sure all those details come across clearly is by including multiple angles within each photo set — for example, one shot from above showing off its sleek lines, another with an eye-level perspective showcasing its interior features like speakers or seats (or any other add ons).

Finally, don't forget about any mechanical problems with your car; taking close up shots will help potential buyers get an idea of what might need fixing before they buy it!

Price competitively but be reasonable

You're going to have a hard time selling your car if you price it too high. Price your car as if you were buying another one yourself. Start by looking up the value of similar cars in reasonable condition. If there are no comparable vehicles listed in the area where you live and drive, use a site like Edmunds or TrueCar to determine an average selling price for similar cars in nearby areas. Use this information as a baseline when determining how much to ask for yours.

We recommend starting with an asking price around what Kelly Blue Book says they're worth so long as they're not too far off from their estimate. If people aren't responding positively when they see what we want for our used car sale ad online,  lower the asking price slightly until someone bites and gives you a fair offer.

Create a Listing

Once you've cleaned, prepped, and polished your vehicle to a shine, it's time to list your car. There are various ways to do so: you can post an ad on Craigslist (or any other local classifieds site), or contact a dealer or dealership that specializes in used cars. If you choose Craigslist or another similar site, make sure to include all pertinent information in your listing — a clear description of the car; photos that show both sides of the vehicle; and a price range for interested buyers. Keep in mind that the longer your listing sits without selling, the lower its value becomes as more people see it online!

Woman checking the tire pressure on her car

Legal Stuff — Bill of Sale & Title

When you sell your car, there are two documents you will need to complete: a Bill of Sale and a Title. The Bill of Sale is an official document stating that you have sold the car to another party. This document is also used as proof of ownership when transferring ownership from one person or entity (you) to another (the buyer). It's imperative that this information be accurate and legible so that it complies with all state requirements.

The Bill of Sale must include the following information:

  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • Make/Model/Year/Trim Level
  • Date Sold

Be Ready to Tell Your Story Truthfully

Be ready to tell your story truthfully. As a seller, you are selling the car, not yourself. You want to be honest about its condition and if you know something is wrong with it don't hide it. If there's a problem that you're unsure of and can't find an answer to, state that fact in your ad. This way potential buyers will have all the information they need when they come to take their test drives or see the vehicle in person.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, we've given you some useful tips to help you sell your car. If you are also in the market for buying a new car, check out our post about 2022's Most Reliable Cars and our guide on the Best Time to Buy a New Car.