How to Sell Your Used Car Online Safely

How hard could it be to sell your car online? Just a few years ago selling your car was as easy as taking out a classified ad in the local newspaper…and waiting for a buyer. But now you have a much bigger audience immediately at your fingertips; it seems like everyone at least starts the car buying process online. The truth is, you can sell your car faster, and get the price you want, by listing your car online and handling most of the process virtually.

There are a few questions you might have about selling your car online. How do you figure out what price to ask? How do you handle payment? Where’s the best place to list your car online?  And of course, you need to be safe. Nothing would be worse than thinking you found a reliable buyer and then discovering that they scammed you with the payment process! It can be hard to recognize a scam these days. This is how you can safely sell your used car online, even to someone in a different state.

Price your Car to Sell

Setting the right price for your car is an extremely important step. Let’s be clear that the money you want to get for your car, and what other people are willing to pay, may not be the same thing. So how do you set the right price for your car? It starts with a lot of research. Look for other vehicles similar to yours in the same area. See what they are selling for, both privately and at a dealership. When you’re comparing vehicles, it’s also important to be honest about the condition of your car. Don’t say it’s in “excellent” condition when the seats have a tear or your steering wheel is faded and worn. Good sites to check might be AutoTrader.com, KBB.com and even Edmunds.com for awesome pricing guides and information you can check to compare.

When pricing your car to sell, be sure to take into consideration any recent repairs or new parts. New brakes? New tires? Check to see if there are any valid warranties on your vehicle. These could increase the value of your car and might be worth asking a little more. On the other hand, don’t try to hide any necessary maintenance information from potential buyers. If you know you need a new fuel pump, a set of brake pads, or if the car has been in a flood or an accident you’ll need to knock down the price.

Put Together an Incredible Listing

Now that you have the price, you need photos and a detailed description of your car. People want DETAILS when they’re car shopping. They’re going to have questions. Writing a full description can decrease the amount of time you spend on the phone answering questions. Remember that the headline is everything! Put major search keywords in the headline, and in the body of your description. If you’re selling a pristine 2015 Honda Accord that has had one owner and is in amazing condition, tell people all about it. Don’t leave anything out!

It’s not only about the words. Make sure you take a lot of photographs. From the front, back, side angles and don’t forget about the interior. You’ll want to make sure your car is clean and spruced up before your photoshoot.

Where to List your Car Online to Sell

Be ready to handle the intake of requests you’ll get after you list your car. If you’re serious about selling it, you need to make yourself available to answer calls and texts and make appointments. Think ahead of time how you’ll make arrangements to meet potential buyers or talk with them.

Here are some of the best places to list your car online; some are even completely free!

Sell your Used Car Online Safely - Craigslist

Craigslist is the age-old favorite for selling furniture and vehicles online. Protect yourself by limiting how much personal information you include in your listing, and definitely meet any potential buyers in a public place. Be a bit leery of anyone who asks you to use a credit card or doesn’t want to talk with you via the phone or give you any of their information. Benefits? This is all free!

Sell your Used Car Online Safely - Facebook Marketplace

Have a Facebook account? Then you have access to Facebook’s own version of an online shop: Facebook Marketplace. It is so easy to post and keep up with messages. You can look at your potential buyer’s personal account to evaluate how legitimate their requests are too. This is also a free service.

Sell your Used Car Online Safely - Cars.com

A free listing on Cars.com gets you 30 days of visibility with five photos. Bump it up to a $20 or $49 paid listing to get 60-150 days on the site and additional photos. You also have the option to add on a CarFax report for $35.

Sell your Used Car Online Safely - AutoTrader

AutoTrader is one of the most common household names for car buyers and searchers on the internet. They have four different tiers you can choose from to post your vehicle, anywhere from $25 to $100. It all depends on how long you need your ad to run and how many photos you’d like to include.

Sell your Used Car Online Safely - CarGurus

CarGurus has tons of information on cars and a great blog too that we love to follow. Listing your vehicle on this site is free, but they will charge you $99 if you sell to someone on their site. Not too bad!

Staying Safe when Selling your Car Online

We recommend meeting potential buyers, if you’re meeting them in person, in a public place like a mall or a parking lot of a big box store. You can even check with your local police department to see if they’ll allow you to meet a potential buyer in their parking lot! For a buyer who wants to purchase the car online, you can offer to video conference with them about the vehicle itself. Even if you won’t be meeting a buyer in person, communicate with them throughout the process and pay attention for red flags. Red flags might include pressure to complete a sale quickly, to accept a particular form of payment like a money order or a personal check, and to ship a car before you receive money. This leads us to our last point…

It isn’t OVER until you have the cash in your hand!

Leave those listings alone until the sale is actually completed, meaning, you have verified and received payment. Use a local institution whenever possible, especially if the buyer wants to wire you money or pay via check. You can call their issuing bank to confirm that the payment is valid as well. Do not take any action until you know that the payment has been received. To be safe, cars.com recommends this: “… it’s a good idea to request a cashier’s check for the money that’s drawn from a local branch rather than a personal check. The vehicle buyer may have to pay a fee, but you’ll avoid a likely bigger one for taking a bad check that bounces.”

When you’ve got the cash in hand, congratulations! You’ve sold your car. Now it’s time to make up a bill of sale (there are lots of free templates online; the important thing is to make sure both you and the buyer keep a signed copy), and turn over the title and the keys. Be sure to include any receipts from work you have had done on the car, any historical reports or information you have as well. If your buyer lives in another state, help arrange safe and efficient auto transport with us!

Have you ever sold a car yourself online? If so, how did you do it? Tell us in the comments below!

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