Step by Step Guide for Selling a Car on Craigslist

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Step by Step Guide for Selling a Car on Craigslist

Listing a car on Craigslist is easy, but selling it is another thing. Anyone can create a post, but it takes careful thought and planning to make an advert for your car really shine. Follow these simple steps and you will give your car the best chance of being sold in no time.

1. Make sure your paperwork is in order

Before even starting on the question of selling, it’s important to make sure you have all your paperwork straightened out. At the end of the day selling a car is about transferring legal ownership from one person to another, so there are boxes that need to be checked. Once you have all the legal paperwork in order you don’t have to worry about bureaucracy slowing you down during the sale process.

Image Credit: Kars For Kids / flickr

Check the Vehicle Title

Is the vehicle title in your name? It might sound like a stupid question, every name on the vehicle title must sign for a successful transfer, something that can trip you up if there’s an incorrect or out-of-date name on there. You’d be surprised how many car owners still have obsolete names on their vehicle registration paperwork. Maybe it’s a maiden name, maybe the person who sold it to you is on there somewhere – it’s worth checking.

Prove the Car is Clear of Liens

If you ever took out a loan on your car, something you might find when looking into the vehicle title is that the bank who financed the loan is listed on the title. Usually when the loan is paid off the bank sends out a new title cleared of the bank, or lienholder, but some banks require that you specifically request a title transfer yourself. This may involve getting a Lien Release form from the bank to prove that the car is clear of liens.

State-by-State Requirements

Unfortunately, selling your car isn’t standard across the country. Different states have different requirements when it comes to procedure and paperwork. Check your local state’s DMV website for a full breakdown of what you need. Here are a couple of examples of paperwork your state might require:

2. Prepare your car for selling

The difference between listing something and selling something is in how you present it. A new showroom car is enticing because of its shiny, polished body, clean interior, and that new car smell. You might not be able to provide a new car, but you can sure have a good go at making it look as good as possible to convince any would-be buyers.

3. Settle on a competitive price

Giving your car a once over to make it look nice and shiny will start you thinking on what you can sell it for. Coming up with a price for a car is no exact science. It comes from a combination of market research, historical information, and clever marketing.

Car Value Estimators

The first port of call for most sellers are websites that generate value estimates for secondhand vehicles. There are plenty of sites out there that give you a rough estimate of a car’s value based on a VIN, license plate, or the make, model, and year. However, you shouldn’t rely entirely on these kinds of sites. They’re usually linked to sales sites, so they have a vested interest in your liking their valuations. Also, they generate estimates from a big data set of values, resulting in a value that is potentially lower than what your specific car could be worth.

Look at the Market

Prices are determined by the market, so it’s worth doing some research on what is selling in your area. Boot up Craigslist and look for your make and model, or for vehicles of a similar age. Just like with the online estimate, those prices might not be exactly right for your specific vehicle, but it should give you a ballpark. Listing your car for much higher-than-average prices in your area is unlikely to get it to sell and listing it much lower is doing yourself a disservice.

Focus on Your Car

It all comes down to the specifics of your vehicle. Is there anything about it that makes it stand out from other similar cars? This might be an advantage that helps you sell it for more (e.g., recently refreshed paint job, new tires). It also could be a problem that drives people away (e.g., cracked windshield, stained seats). Some details can be advantages or disadvantages, depending on how you market them (e.g., decals or other modifications). Bear all of this in mind when you look at comparative prices online and on Craigslist.

4. Write a winning description

Buyers want to know everything they can about their purchases, especially if those purchases cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. When writing a description for your car, be as informative and transparent as possible. Basic things that every listing should include are:

5. Attach quality pictures

There’s no point spending energy cleaning the car up if you’re not going to take great photos of it for the listing. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or use an expensive camera - most smartphone cameras are high spec enough these days. Photos are what stops a buyer from scrolling and entices them to learn more, so they’re even more important than your description.

6. Dealing with Your Buyers

Once you’ve got your listing together it’s time to publish the post. But selling your car doesn’t end there. If you’ve followed all these steps, be prepared to receive a lot of calls and emails from interested buyers.