I recently outlined the reasons for selling our older car. When we finally made the decision, the next obvious question was “How are we going to do it?”
We tossed around a few ideas, including:
- Trading in the car through a dealer.
- Selling through an online service.
- Car donation.
- Selling the car on the private market.
Ultimately, the success of a coworker with selling her mechanically-challenged car on Craigslist won us over and we decided to go that route.
For a little more effort, we knew we could get more money selling the car privately than through any other means. Your mileage may vary, but we had great success with getting rid of the car via Craigslist.
I listed the car for sale on a Friday afternoon at 11:30 AM. By 3:30 PM the same day, I had a stack of cash in my hands. Sold in 4 hours–success!
Although I got $300 less than what I listed the car for, I also got $300 more than what I thought the realistic final sale value would be.
The Step-by-Step Craigslist Process
Craigslist is free and popular, and as a result, it’s active with a lot of ready and willing buyers. Many of you will be interested in following what I did in some fashion, so I’ll recap the main parts of the process here:
- Research all of the car sale laws in your state and local municipality. You’ll need to know about things like transferring the title, registrations, sales tax, etc.
- Prepare all the paperwork you have on your car, but most importantly the title, your insurance card, service records, and any past history (lien releases, purchase record, etc.). (P.S. I recommend Esurance for car insurance, which is what I personally use.)
- Create a vehicle history, including things like when you purchased the car, what work has been done to it, etc. in chronological order as an outline to all of your paperwork.
- Research the price of the car. Look up its value or see what cars with similar age, mileage and condition are selling for locally.
- Clean the car thoroughly. Remove all of your personal possessions from the vehicle, remembering all the little nooks and crannies that often get overlooked.
- Take photos of your clean car using a decent camera, and include as many views as are necessary to tell the complete story.
- Familiarize yourself with the common scams prevalent on Craigslist.
- Determine how you’ll show the car and deal with requests. Email worked best for me, because I could organize and screen interested parties in bulk.
- Prepare your listing and post it to Craigslist. Friday at lunchtime or early afternoon worked out great for me, since it gives you the opportunity to sell the same day or over the weekend.
- Show your car, making sure to meet at public places. If you get a lot of inquiries, you can choose to set up a time where everyone can arrive simultaneously.
- Accept the offer that you like best.
- Exchange payment for your title, registration, or any other forms your jurisdiction might require, like a Bill of Sale.
- Notify your county or state that the car has been sold. Typically, this is done through some type of Notice of Sale and can protect you from liability.
- Notify your insurance company that you’ve sold the car and no longer need insurance.
Here’s my basic list of tips for getting the most out of your Craigslist experience:
- Be up-front and honest. Don’t cost yourself the sale by being a sleazeball–many car buyers are savvy at spotting damage and problems with cars. You’ll also ruin it for the rest of us.
- List everything that’s good about the car first, followed by everything that’s wrong with it. People will be more likely to overlook the negatives if they’ve already warmed up to the benefits of buying your car.
- If you’re lucky, you’ll have multiple people lining up to see the car as soon as possible. Be fair, but remember that you’re trying to get the best price for your ride.
- Be thorough in your listing. Write out everything you can think of that you would find relevant as a buyer. Try to put the buyer in your own shoes as a car owner and walk them through the car’s complete history, both good and bad.
- Format the listing like a blog post. Use short, concise paragraphs with a few sentences each. Too many Craigslist ads are painful to read. Be as clear and precise as possible. Enclose each main idea in its own paragraph or list.
- Take great photos showing multiple angles. A side shot is a great way to show the profile of the car to people who may be unfamiliar with the model.
- Don’t let people push you around. The best way to do that is to be armed and ready with information about the fair price for the car and your local laws. If any request seems fishy, question it.
- Assume people are not familiar with the car. You know your car intimately, but others may not. Providing complete descriptions of the car model is helpful.
- If the car has never been in an accident, or is a one-owner or non-smoking family car, say so. People want to know they’re getting a relatively “clean” car.
- If your car needs work, it’s helpful to have an estimate for the work handy. Often, mechanics will purchase cars that need work, so get an idea of the “parts-only” cost as well.
- Don’t price the car too low. Give yourself plenty of negotiation room to work with, and don’t rely entirely on Blue Book averages.