Selling Your Car: How to Make the Best of It


Ryan Ong



Now that video games are all downloadable, why would anyone need to leave home ever again? Do you realize what’s happened? The Internet has destroyed the concept of distance. So you may as well get rid of the car, and spend that cash on Pizza Hut, Bethesda games, and not having a life. But before you sell, follow our guide to getting the best possible price on your glorified go-kart:


Shine and Ready

This should go without saying, but some people need to be told. Before trying to sell the car, send it for maintenance. Shine the windows, wax the chassis, and see if you can find all the user manuals. The most overlooked detail are the floor mats; if they’re old and unwashed, they can create that “musty car” smell. It doesn’t cost much to just replace them. Also fix the small cracks and scratches, the sort that cost less than $200 – $500.


twin peaks bikini car wash
This is entirely about making my car look presentable, nothing else.

For major issues, such as fan belt problems or leaks, it might not be worth paying for repairs. Just be honest with the person you’re selling to, and factor it into your asking price.


Dealer or Another Motorist?

Whether you sell to a used car dealer or another motorist (end user) depends on your urgency. If you want to sell fast, and settle for a little less, the dealer is your best option. They’ll usually have the funds and paperwork on hand, and transactions can be completed within a few days.

Dealers have a good idea what your car is worth, and many more ideas on how to pay you less than that. Don’t expect the best price from them.


Used car parking lot, with "today's special" above a car
“Didn’t you trade me six donuts for that pile of junk?”


Selling to an end user can sometimes net you a higher price, depending on how savvy the buyer is. While there’s more room for negotiation, you’ll also encounter more time-wasters: gawkers who are just curious, or people who will take months to scrape the cash together. Remember: anyone looking for a used car is probably on a tight budget, and won’t have a lot of money on hand.


Find the Market Price

Drive your car to at least five different dealers, and ask them for a quote. Your asking price should be the average of all five quotes, plus 30 percent. If your car has very low mileage or was bought within the last three years, you can try padding it by 50 percent instead.

Also visit forums and see what the average prices are. And while you’re there…


Run Some Ads

Put up some offers online and in the classifieds. While online ads are cheaper and get more responses, my experience is that you’ll get more serious enquiries from print ads. Remember: people who are staring at the classifieds are actively looking for a car; people who saw your online ad may have just stumbled by and gotten curious.


Man reading papers
Ah Beng stole car: Wait for it to appear in newspaper ad.


While ads will get you more enquiries, don’t expect it to save you time! People will still insist on test driving the car. But the more interest you generate, the more likely you’ll fetch a higher price.


Rehearse Your Pitch

Pre-plan your sales pitch, and have your car’s make, model, and related details on hand. This is easier and faster than answering each enquiry “on the fly”. The idea is to waste as little time as possible on each enquiry, so you can sell sooner (your car’s value isn’t appreciating).

Remember to highlight the positive features (e.g. “the air-con will never break down”,  “the windscreen was just replaced two months ago”) in your pitch. Bring these up in the conversation, rather than waiting for someone to ask.


Car with differential lock ads all over it
“Did I mention differential lock? I just wanted to say it again, in case I wasn’t clear enough. Differential lock. Diff-Lock. This car: Diff-lock.”


Ultimately, getting the best price for a used car is a matter of patience. If you’re able to spend two or three months fielding phone calls and going on test drives, you’ll usually get a better price. But if you’re in a rush, expect to get a little under the going rate.

Image Credits:

Lucas de Vries

Are you selling your car? Comment and let us know, and I hope I won’t get my ass kicked for encouraging ads on this site! 

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.