Cars depreciate very fast, losing on average 10% every year. However, you can lose even more than that if you make some easily-avoidable mistakes when selling your car. You might think it’s straightforward, but you’d be surprised how much time it takes, or how much money you can save by doing it right.
Fortunately, you arrived at the right place to learn how to avoid those mistakes. In this comprehensive article, we’ll cover the most common blunders people make when selling their cars. After revisiting each one, we’re confident you’ll sell your car at a higher price, while also making the buyer happier. Sounds impossible? Let us show you how it could work that way for you.
Not knowing the correct value of your vehicle
The most common mistake people make when selling their vehicles is pricing it too high or too low. Sure, guessing the correct price is not easy for the average driver – it requires knowledge and skill. However, you can use automotive platforms to your advantage – some will even provide you with a price after you enter select parameters.
If that doesn’t work, you can browse the internet and see how much other owners ask for the same car model. Going with the average value is a good start – just make sure that you leave room for negotiation later on.
Lying that your vehicle had no accidents
Don’t you hate when second-hand car sellers lie about accidents? We hate that too! Which, of course, means that you shouldn’t do the same thing to other people. It might sound counterintuitive, but being honest pays off.
There are many cases where the buyer sued the owner for hiding past accidents, and the damages you’ll need to pay might be way greater than the cost of the car. Besides, the buyer will trust you about other things if you truthfully tell him/her about the accidents. And, if repaired right, it won’t even make a big dent in the price of your car.
Making expensive repairs before selling
So you want to repair everything wrong with your old car and then sell it? Well, good for you! However, in this case, we must say it’s better to leave that to the buyer. See, there is no single used car that’s in “like-new” condition, and buyers don’t even expect that.
You need to be honest – it pays off, remember? Tell the buyer what needs to be replaced or repaired, along with pricing information. That way, you’ll hold the aces in your hand, and if you play them right, both of you will be happy. The buyer will know exactly what’s wrong, which is good when buying used, while you will keep the price.
Not being honest about the vehicle’s condition
This mistake is a great follow up to the previous one, and again, involves honesty. Not telling the buyer about some big problems with your car will pay off at first, but you might be looking at a lawsuit later. That’s especially true if you took your car to a mechanic and already knew about the issues.
See, there is no point in hiding a $500 repair when you might need to shell out a few thousand later. You might get away with it, sure, but is it worth it? It’s a malicious and unfair practice, after all.
Not providing enough or accurate information
So, you decided to sell your car. Then, you posted a few photos, the car, the model year, and mileage online, and you wait for replies. Well, it’s not that easy. Buyers will skip any advertisement that doesn’t contain enough information. If you want to sell your car, you need to provide all information.
Posting a detailed maintenance record is always a good start. Also, be sure to include the trim level and all features your car has, including optional equipment, since it can raise your vehicle’s price. Ultimately, don’t be shy to write about your car’s problems – people like honesty.
No pricing strategy
Waiting on buyers’ offers to see how low you are prepared to go is absolutely a no go. Shoppers will always try to extract an even lower price, and if you’re not prepared, you might accept a terrible offer. Suffice to say, you always need to set a reasonable minimum price.
Besides, having a strategy lets you counter the offers you get better. Let’s say the lowest price is $5,000, and the buyer offers you $4,850. How are you going to react? You need to think of these things in advance, or you might end up feeling played.
There are trading-in tax benefits
Most people will frown at the thought of taxes, but what if we tell you that you could play them to your advantage? See, when trading-in for a new car, you’ll only pay taxes on the difference. Well, at least in most states – check with authorities to be sure.
Anyway, what this means is that it might be better to trade-in your car than selling it yourself and then buying a new one. It will not only save you time but perhaps money. When you buy a new car at the full price, you’ll pay taxes on that price, but not with trade-in. However, do your math – sometimes it might be better to sell your vehicle.
Leaving personal things inside or in the infotainment system
People tend to forget small things – it’s inherently woven into our nature. That’s especially true for car cabins, which can easily swallow smaller things. That’s because the cabin is full of hidden places (under the seats), where you might even forget that you lost something.
For that reason, thoroughly check your vehicle before selling. Be careful not to leave personal information or even items of personal interest. While doing that, you might also want to erase all your personal information from the infotainment system – a factory reset will do fine.
Selling is usually better than trading-in
Okay, didn’t we just say that trading-in is usually better than selling on the used market? Well, it really depends. If the difference between your car’s price and the new one is huge, you might want to sell your car.
Also, dealers will often want to cut you off significantly since they will need to re-sell the car at the actual price. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit car dealers. You can use the price they give you to prepare the selling strategy better or even accept the offer if it makes financial sense.
Accepting the first offer
Selling a car is all about negotiation. If you aren’t prepared to do that, then maybe you ask someone else to sell your vehicle for you? Seriously, you need to negotiate or you might be left empty-handed.
Even if the buyer makes a good offer, you might want to try with a counter-offer. Shoppers always make lower offers than what they are prepared to pay, so why not countering them with your own? There is no shame in bargaining – it’s how people have done these things for centuries.
A picture says a thousand words, so why not use that to your advantage? Bad car photos can put off even the most interested buyers, and they are seemingly everywhere. Besides, almost every person on the planet today owns a good smartphone camera.
But how do you get the perfect picture? First, ensure that you photograph the car during the golden hour – sunset or sunrise, since direct sunlight can hurt the photos. Then, ensure that you take photographs from every angle – front, side, back, front 3/4, back 3/4, and multiple pictures of the interior. Finally, make sure that your vehicle is the only subject in the picture and you’ll be good to go!
Accepting a bad deal just to sell your car faster
Selling a used car always takes time, and sometimes even our well-being. It often happens that sellers get several bad offers, either from dealers or private buyers, and then accept the least bad proposal. Well, if you don’t want to be left empty-handed, you might want to take your time.
This mistake often coincides with a bad pricing strategy and no negotiation skills. You need to be aware when the deal is bad, irrespective of what others offer you. If you are confident that you priced your vehicle right, it will surely pay off – you just need to find the right buyer.
Don’t be bullied by buyers
Used car shoppers are prepared to tell all sorts of stories to get the lowest price possible. A great example is telling you that there are similar vehicles at much lower price points or that the buyer doesn’t have enough money. You really shouldn’t fall for these stories, as most often, they are fictional.
If a buyer tells you that he/she can buy the same vehicle at a lower cost, then tell him or her to do that. The reason why he/she is negotiating with you and tell all those stories is probably that he/she is very interested in your particular car!
Meeting in dangerous locations
Although most populated places are relatively safe, there are still some areas where you might not want to do business. You should probably avoid buyers that tell you to meet in some dark alleys during the night (duh). There were many situations where car sellers were robbed, so beware of that.
Besides, you’re the seller, and you should have a say in this. It’s all about negotiating, remember? Our advice is to always choose public places, preferably during the day. Also, if these places have cameras, then even better. You can even tell the shopper to come to your area if you feel more comfortable that way.
Being too attached to your car
Cars might be a commodity, but you’d be surprised at how much people connect with them. We understand, no worries – we are the same. However, being too attached is not beneficial if you want to sell your car. It makes you think that your particular vehicle is better than similar cars, which will definitely put off buyers.
So, attachment is good, but be aware that other people love their cars, too. More importantly, always be aware of how your car rates among others on the used market and price it accordingly.
Offering your car for a solo test drive
Look, a test drive is essential if you want to sell your car. By driving your car, the buyer can feel how it performs on the road and see if something isn’t right, which is the whole point of a vehicle. Nonetheless, you should always be in the passenger’s seat.
There were many cases where cars were stolen because the buyer asked for a solo test drive. And, even if that doesn’t happen, drivers can be reckless and might damage your vehicle in some way. Ultimately, even if the shopper asks for a longer 1-2 day test drive, ensure that you sign an agreement first.
Fixing things the buyer asks for
“I’m very interested in your vehicle, but I’ll buy it only if you repair this and that.” We’ve heard that many times from shoppers, which doesn’t mean that you should succumb to it. If you think that the pricing is right, even with your vehicle’s problems, then there is no reason to agree to further repairs.
Repairs cost money, but they also take precious time. During that time, you might even get a better offer from another shopper. For that reason, even if the buyer is persistent, you should keep your ground firm.
Wash and polish the car’s body
The first impression is always the most important. And, let’s be honest, a dirty car is bad on many levels, but especially when you try to sell it. So, please, wash your car before meeting with a shopper. It’s cheap, yet it can significantly raise the price.
But you can always take things even further. Polishing is an excellent practice if you want to keep the paint shiny, so do that before selling your vehicle. You might also try clay bars – they will add the like-new shine to the paint, raising the price even higher. Just be sure to use a clay bar first, and then polish. Your car will look like new for a few months afterward.
No maintenance records
Providing a maintenance record is a crucial thing when selling a car. It’s the document that tells potential shoppers how well you maintained the car, since fluid changes are the most important when it comes to durability and reliability. Without that insurance, good luck selling your vehicle at a good price!
This is also a lesson for current vehicle owners. Always keep the maintenance record in a safe place, and ensure that the auto shop notes every service inside. Used-car buyers are happy to spend a little bit more on well-maintained vehicles.
Not reading the sale documents entirely
This is especially true if you sell your car to a dealership or trade-in for a new vehicle. In any case, you should always read the sale documents entirely. Dealerships usually prepare these documents to have an advantage, and you might be left hanging.
And, yes, reading documents and contracts is true for everything in life, even when signing a cellphone plan. You need to protect yourself from anything that might hurt you in the future, however small that might seem at first. Besides, it usually takes 5-10 minutes to fully read and understand the agreement.
Don’t lie about other offers
If you didn’t learn by now, honesty is a great asset when selling a car. Thus, lying about other offers is certainly bad, and not for the buyer. You might get the shopper to accelerate the buying process, but most of the time, they freeze. This is especially true for dealers, who are very experienced and can tell that you’re lying.
And, when that happens, they might offer you even less. What you need to do, instead, is to reveal the offers you really have. Having them written or sent by email is a great bargaining chip!
Get ownership of your car
It sounds silly, we know, but there are situations where people want to sell their cars without getting the title from the lender. You might try to sell your car, but it won’t pass the bureaucracy, and you’ll need to do everything from scratch.
Thus, the first moment you think about selling your vehicle, make sure that you get the title from the lender. The Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for that, but you’ll also first need to settle any debt that you have toward the lender.
Use free online advertising services
We live in the year 2020, and while we still don’t have flying cars in our cities, there are at least some very good free advertising services. And, yes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, but if you already have an account on those services, use it to your advantage.
So, advertising on Craigslist seems obvious, but you can also try some automotive websites. Also, sharing great pictures of your car on Instagram and Twitter won’t hurt – maybe some of your friends will want to buy your car.
Telling that your sports car wasn’t abused
The hard truth is that people buy sports cars to drive them fast. It’s the reason why these vehicles are built in the first place. Now, sure, some drivers do that only occasionally, but most sports cars are abused.
So, don’t be the seller that says their Supra was only driven in urban environments, never above the speed limit. This is especially true for tuned cars, which scream that they were abused. What you need to do, instead, is tell the buyer that you enjoyed your vehicle thoroughly but that you also maintained it properly.
Get ready to advertise your car in person
You don’t need to be the best seller in the world to sell your car, but preparing to show-off your vehicle certainly doesn’t hurt. A positive tone and a smile always helps, along with deep information about your vehicle.
Oh, and while you’re talking about something, show it. For instance, when you tell the shopper about the engine, open the hood. Or, while talking about the interior, let them sit inside. To make things easier, you might want to prepare a plan for everything you want to tell about your car. Have it written – there is no shame in that.
Trying only one dealer
Different dealers will give you different offers for your car, obviously. Then, it’s best to have multiple offers so that you can choose the best one. However, many people go only to one dealer and accept the offer immediately. A salesperson can look trustworthy, but that doesn’t mean you should accept the proposal right away.
Besides, having multiple offers in writing can be a great bargaining chip, even with dealers and experienced salespersons. Thus, take a day to visit all of the dealers in your area – you’d be surprised at how much money you might save.
Respond to inquiries promptly
Imagine yourself looking for a used vehicle – you’d probably contact multiple sellers. So, what happens if one of those sellers doesn’t respond to your inquiry promptly? You would probably go with some other seller. Well, then, if you want to sell your vehicle, we recommend that you respond to buyers asap.
Now, sure, it doesn’t mean that you should respond right away, but ensure that you do within 24 hours. Car shoppers can be very impatient and if you don’t reply quickly, you might lose out on a great offer.
Let the buyer know about the warranty (if any)
Some car brands offer longer warranties, which adds resale value to the vehicle. Thus, if your car is still in the warranty window, you should absolutely advertise that to the buyer. Really, it should be one of the first things that you note on that online advertisement.
Buyers will love that. The warranty will give them peace of mind that everything will be right with the vehicle, including no expensive repairs. Warranty sells new vehicles, but it sells old ones as well. So, use it to your advantage – it really makes a big difference.
Not letting the buyer inspect the car at a technician
Inspecting a used car at a technician is an unavoidable practice nowadays and a perfect way to tell if it’s worth the cost. However, there are still some car sellers that won’t agree to let the buyer do that. If you are one of those sellers, then you might never sell your vehicle.
Letting the shopper inspect the car instills confidence. Moreover, if your car is in great condition, it might even be a great bargaining chip! Use everything to your advantage, even the inspection. And of course, don’t forget that the buyer should pay for the inspection.
Talk with your buyers
Buyers are normal people, just like you! Getting to know them right can play to your advantage, making you look more trustworthy. Sure, you don’t need to talk about everything but ask some things when meeting up.
The one buying the car should always ask more questions, but it doesn’t hurt if you do that, too. Good communication can prepare both of you to strike a deal that works, keeping everyone happy. Besides, by getting to know the buyer, you can ensure that you are not being scammed, which happens quite a lot nowadays.
Avoid being scammed
On that note, scammers are seemingly everywhere. Most of the time, they would pay you with a check or with counterfeit money. Besides, wandering around with a large amount of cash is not the safest thing to do, especially since the buyer will already know that.
There is an easy way to avoid that, though. You can both go to the nearest bank and get the money inspected. Then, when you accept the payment, you can immediately put the money into your account. The safest way, though, is to get the payment via a bank transaction.
Don’t accept last-minute price reductions when trading-in
So you agreed on trading-in your old car with a new one, but the dealer just told you that there is a last-minute price cut? Like, something in the line of “we can’t pay the full amount and need to cut $100 to make it happen.” They might tell you good reasons for that, which of course doesn’t mean you should accept it.
A deal is a deal, and both you and the dealer should respect it. Dealers, especially, use deceptive practices to make larger profits, which is their job. However, once you get an agreement, there is really not much they can do.
Mishandling or being late on appointments
People don’t like it when somebody wastes their time, especially if you keep them waiting. That’s especially true when you want to sell something to them, like your car. When you agree to meet the buyer, make sure that you always arrive there and on time.
Being late will probably put off the buyer, and even if you give a good deal, he/she won’t accept it. Of course, it’s the same if the buyer is late to the appointment – you probably won’t want to agree to the deal. Ultimately, it’s about respect, and people like it when their time is respected.
Not making a quick inspection and tune-up
Making costly repairs is usually not worth it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make a quick inspection. Trying to sell a car with even a light bulb that doesn’t work or might put off most buyers. For that reason, make sure you bring your car to a technician before selling and make a tune-up.
It should include checking all light bulbs, tires, brakes, and fluid levels. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, yet it will keep your car’s price higher. Besides, it will a fully-functioning vehicle always leaves a good impression.
Not thoroughly cleaning the interior
Many car owners are guilty of driving around in not-so-clean cars, especially inside. That’s especially true in the hard-to-reach places, which a regular car wash won’t tackle. And while that’s fine for you, the buyer may be put off by dirt inside the cabin.
Fortunately, there is a thing called interior dry cleaning. It might be expensive, but it would eliminate any dirt in the cabin, including the hard-to-reach places. The result is a car that looks almost like new inside. It leaves a good impression on the buyer and is also a great bargaining chip.
Use Cooking Spray For Bumper Bugs
Don’t have a dryer cloth handy for bumper bugs? Here’s another option. Spray your bumper with cooking spray, preferably Pam. Take a soft cloth and wipe the bugs away. It works great after you’ve driven through a cloud of gnats!
It’s also less damaging to your paint than a dryer wiper, even if you need to use a little extra force. Just make sure you’re using an extra soft rag to wipe the greasy away!
Clay Bars Leave Your Car’s Body Clean And Shiny
This one made us do a double take, but we promise it’s becoming common practice. Apparently, you can use clay to clean-up and shine the body of your car. The reason is that clay works to pick up any gunk on your car’s body.
We looked up how much car clay would cost you, too. The lowest price we could find was $15, which doesn’t sound too bad to us if your car looks fresh off the lot for the first time in years.
Paint Brushes Are Great For Your Vents
Paint brushes aren’t just for art and walls. If you have dust blowing into your car from your air vents, try using a small paintbrush to clean them out. They’re cheap to buy at your local hardware store and could end up being a real lifesaver.
The bottom line is dust is bad for you. Especially if you have allergies. This may just seem like a simple hack, but it’s also important for your health. And did we mention they’re cheap?
Rubbing Alcohol Gets Rid Of Wiper Streaks
Are your windshield wipers streaking after you replaced your old ones? Try cleaning your shiny new set with rubbing alcohol. Pop your wipers back in and enjoy your new streak-free, clean windshield.
This is a great tip if you live in a drier region where wipers tend to go bad more quickly from drying out. By doing this you might be able to extend the life of your wipers and save a little money in the long run.
Rustoleum? Have You Ever Tried Soda?
Looking for a healthy way to use soda? Aside from being a tasty and refreshing beverage, the sugar-filled drink is also great for removing rust from cars. It works so well because of how much acid is hiding in your carbonated beverage.
To take advantage of cola’s rust-destroying properties, put some in a spray bottle and get to work on the affected part of your vehicle. Afterward, maybe reconsider how much soda is in your daily diet.
Have You Ever Tried Steel Wool On Your Windshield?
This one sounds like we’re jumping the shark, but we promise we’re not! Steel wool is actually one of the best windshield cleaners you can use. The reason? Your windshield isn’t as weak as you think.
Imagine everything your windshield has to protect you from. When gravel hits your car, your window would shatter if it wasn’t heavy duty. Basically, if you have some grime on your window and no idea how to get rid of it, try steel wool.
WD-40 Will Clean Your Stickers Right Off!
Tired of seeing your 2016 “vote for” sticker on your bumper in 2020? Try using WD-40 to get those pesky stickers off with perfect results. Otherwise, be prepared to peel paint away with the sticker thanks to the adhesive they use.
To make this hack work, just spray the outdated bumper sticker with WD-40 and let it soak in. Be patient, wait, and let the magic happen. Once the miracle solution has soaked through the sticker and its glue, peel it back and smile.
Nail Polish Will Save Your Windshield
You never know when a small rock will pop up on the road and crack your windshield. If you don’t get the small crack fixed, it will grow and become a real danger to you.
One thing you can do to buy time before getting to an autoshop is to fill the crack with clear nail polish. Once dry, the crack will stop spreading. It won’t make the crack go away, though. You’ll still need to get it fixed, just with less stress.
Vaseline Is Like Magic
Vaseline isn’t just for moisturizing dry skin. When your leather or vinyl car seats begin cracking, dab some Vaseline on a cloth and rub it down. It won’t fix the cracks, but it will help prevent further cracking.
It’s great for cold weather too. Tired of waking up on a snowy morning to realize your door seals are frozen shut? Rub some Vaseline on the rubber seals to prevent this annoying problem.
Try Washing Your Car With Hair Conditioner To Get Extra Shine
Another way to avoid taking your car to an overpriced car detail shop is to wash it yourself with hair conditioner. Hear us out on this one. Buy conditioner with lanolin it and apply it to your vehicle.
Use a circular buffing motion to apply it to your vehicle’s body until all you see is shiny paint. Jealous of how shiny your car looks? Take a shower, apply conditioner, and then go out for a night on the town to show off all your shine!
Always Hand Dry Your Car
Unless you love streaks all over your car, always dry it by hand. Water leaves streaks, which is why air drying your car never works right. Driving your car around the block to help it dry only makes the streaks worse, too.
The best thing you can do to make sure you never get water streaks left on your car is to hand dry it. Every time. Don’t trust a drive-through car wash either. Once you’re out, pull over and dry the car yourself for best results.
Don’t Forget The Toothpaste For Your Headlights
While you’re out buying cotton swabs for your car, you might as well buy some toothpaste as well. It’s a great cleaning solution to clear up the fog on your headlights, and it’ll save you money by avoiding the mechanic.
Some mechanics will charge up to $1,000 to clean your lights. A tube of toothpaste will cost you less than $10! It’s easy to do, too; scrub toothpaste on the lens of the light, rinse it off, and dry it. The results will speak for themselves.
Squeegee Your Seats To Remove Dog Hair
This one only applies to pet owners or excessively hairy individuals. If there is noticeable shedding on your seats, a vacuum is useless. What you need is a squeegee and a water bottle.
If you don’t believe us, try it yourself. Fill a spray bottle with some water and bring it to your car with a squeegee. Spray the affected area and squeegee the problem away. We promise you won’t be disappointed with the results.
Newspapers Are Actually Great Window Cleaners
This is the perfect hack if it feels like you have the worst luck possible with dirty windows. Take an old newspaper and crumple it up. Then take regular window cleaner and spray your car’s window with it.
Now use your newspaper ball to wipe away the washer fluid. Your windows will look good as new afterward. It might sound silly to replace a normal cloth with a newspaper but it makes a big difference! Just be warned, if you have tinted windows do some more research to see if your tint can handle it.
Use White Vinegar To Clean The Inside Of Your Windows
Just because you clean the outside of your windows, that doesn’t mean your windows are clean. You still have to clean the inside to keep your vision perfect. Luckily, it’s much easier to clean the inside of your windows than the outside.
Take a cloth and dip it into a mixture of white vinegar, dish soap, and warm water. Then wipe your windshield. NOW it’s clean. Time to go on a drive and get it dirty again!
Olive Oil Is A Natural Buffer
Looking for an easy way to make the leather on your dashboard look good as new? It’s time to start using olive oil. It doesn’t take a lot and it will shine things back up perfectly. It also lasts a while.
You can use olive oil to help buff your seats as well. Then, with whatever is left over in the bottle, make an Italian feast as a reward. You’ve earned that spicy meatball!
Make Your Own Interior Cleaner Using Soda
If you want to save some money on car cleaning supplies, here’s a recipe to create your own solution: one cup of distilled vinegar, one cup of club soda, and half a cup of dish soap.
Take the mixture and put in a spray bottle. Spray the affected areas of your car and let it soak in and dry. In just a few hours you’ll notice a big difference. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Detail On The Go With Q-Tips
We bet you’ve never thought about using q-tips or other cotton swabs to detail your car. The tiny cotton headed swabs are perfect for creeping into small crevices and picking up gunk. And they come in packs of hundreds!
The best part of q-tips, however, is that they can be stored anywhere. Leave some in your cup holder and side storage compartment for an easy way to detail on the go! It’s the smart thing to do.
Clean And Replace Your Filters
When your vents are clean but your car still smells, it’s time to clean or replace your filters. This is a common sense cleaning hack that’s easy to forget until you get your oil changed. When you get your oil changed, they’ll show you how gross they’ve become to get extra money out of you.
Now that you know, you can clean or replace the filters yourself and use the money you save to buy yourself a nice dinner.
Baby Wipes For Windows? Yes!
Apparently, this is a big hack in the military. Always carry a box of baby wipes in your car with you. Not only are they a quick way to clean up accidental messes but they work wonders on your windows!
If you’re taking a long drive and your windows are getting caked up, pull over and use a baby wipe. It works just as well as wiper fluid and can be used on every window on your car, not just the windshield