5 Keys to Commanding the Best Price When Selling Your Car

The glut of used cars on the market doesn't mean you can't get top dollar for yours. But you'll need these tips from auto dealers and other insiders.

5 Keys to Commanding the Best Price When Selling Your Car Photo by MosayMay / Shutterstock.com

The number of off-lease cars on the market has been growing, contributing to what Edmunds recently described as “one of the strongest buyer’s markets in recent memory.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good price when selling your used car.

In fact, the average used-car price reached an all-time high in the first quarter of this year — $19,227 — according to Edmunds’ latest quarterly Used Vehicle Market Report. The cars on dealer lots this year are much newer compared with five years ago, however.

Regardless of the vehicle you are trying to sell, fully capitalizing on the market means knowing some tricks. Auto dealers and other insiders offer these steps to help you get top dollar for your used car or truck:

1. Get a CarMax appraisal

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This used-car retailer, started in the early 1990s, now operates more than 175 stores and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

In its bid to redefine the industry, one of the things CarMax does is offer a free no-obligation appraisal in as little as 30 minutes.

Burton Hughes, general manager of Subaru of Las Vegas, recommended that his son visit CarMax before asking his dealership for an estimate.

“When people bring that price to me … we will be able to tell if we can match it,” he said. “CarMax may well offer the better price because of their ability to move the cars around the country.”

2. Don’t skimp on due diligence

 zeljkodan / Shutterstock.com zeljkodan / Shutterstock.com

Take your vehicle to a qualified technician for a safety check, advise experts at the publication Driving. Even if you plan to sell your car at a dealership or other retailer, understanding what work needs to be done will help you better negotiate a selling price, especially if you get an estimate on needed repairs or maintenance.

3. Keep it clean

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Whether you have the car professionally detailed or clean it yourself, make sure it’s spick-and-span inside and out, advises Driving. Otherwise, expect potential buyers to wonder whether the lack of cleaning translates into lack of maintenance.

4. Know the crucial times in your car’s life

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The ages 16, 21 and 40 are major milestones in most people’s lives. Cars first hit a milestone at 36,000 miles or three years, notes Edmunds. That’s generally when bumper-to-bumper warranties expire and parts such as brakes need replacement.

Other milestones are 60,000 miles — when parts like timing belts, which cost at least $300, tend to need replacing. The next major odometer reading is 100,000 miles. Vehicles that hit that mark may still be completely safe and operable, but their values drop significantly.

5. Do your online research

 jocic / Shutterstock.com jocic / Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re researching your car’s value or planning to sell it online, Popular Mechanics recommends you consider these tips for using certain sites:

  • eBay Motors: Look at what sold and the prices. That way you’ll know if your car is in demand.
  • TrueCar: You’ll find actual-transaction prices. But if you sign in before searching the site, you’ll alert dealers that you’re interested in selling, so expect some calls.
  • Cars.com: You’ll find the highest and lowest prices nationally.

Do you have additional tips on selling vehicles? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham @NancyDWrites

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.


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