How to Sell a Car Privately

Written by Banks Editorial Team
4 min. read
Written by Banks Editorial Team
4 min. read

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Car owners sell their cars for various reasons. Some people want to use the proceeds to buy a new car, while others want to lower monthly costs. Some sellers avoid dealerships and opt to sell privately instead. Selling your car privately involves more work, but you will save money and avoid dealership fees. Some people save over $1,000 by selling privately, and car owners have several ways to get started.

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Where Can You Sell a Car Privately?

Car owners can do local marketing or list their cars on several websites. You can list your car on the following sites:

  • eBay Motors
  • Autotrader
  • Carvana
  • CarMax
  • CarGurus
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • Hemmings
  • Vroom

Risks of Selling Your Car Privately

Although selling your car privately can save money and help you escape lease payments, this method has some risks. You may find it challenging to find a buyer since dealership financing won’t be available. You will have to promote your car to potential buyers who can pay in full. You may also get a lower price for your vehicle if you are not the best negotiator. Car dealers have salespeople that have gone through training and know how to get the best offer for your car. 

You can also attract uninterested buyers and scammers. Some people may even try to steal your car outright, while savvy scammers may trick you into giving up your vehicle and bail before you receive any payment.

How To Protect Yourself When Selling a Car Privately

Most private car sales go smoothly. After enough marketing, a car owner finds the right buyer, and after payment, the keys exchange hands. However, a bad actor can take advantage of a private car listing and pose a threat. You can use these strategies to protect yourself when selling a car privately.

Protect Your Personal Information

When you show your vehicle to others, remove your personal information. Check your glove compartment and remove any vital documents that contain sensitive details, such as your credit card number or social security number. In addition, you should remove your phone number and other personal details from the car service report. You don’t want this information falling into the wrong hands.

Meet Potential Buyers in Public and Stay Safe During Test Drives

Some thieves will use the test drive as an excuse to steal your car. Meeting in a public location and sticking to populated areas makes this behavior less likely. Any potential thief would have to contend with traffic, lights, pedestrians, and other obstacles. Make the test drive short, so a private buyer gets a feel for your car but doesn’t get an easy opportunity to ride away with your vehicle. Avoid meeting prospective buyers at your home. Someone may try to rob you and steal the car afterward.

Keep Paperwork to Avoid Liability

A vehicle transfer requires piles of paperwork. Each state has varying rules, but you will need to fill out a bill of sale to avoid legal complications. Keeping the paperwork long after the transaction can help you avoid fraud allegations.

Consider Refinancing Instead of Selling

Selling a car through a dealership costs more money, and a private sale can lead to risky scenarios. However, some people can keep their motor vehicles if they reduce monthly payments through an auto loan refinance. You can also do a cash-out refinance and get some extra proceeds to cover emergency expenses. Auto Approve makes it easy to get the best car refinance loans. The company has a network of banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions that offer auto refinance loans. You can submit your details on Auto Approve’s website and get loan offers delivered to your inbox. These loan offers come with no obligation.

Some Tips on How to Sell a Car Privately

People have many reasons to opt for a private sale. Following these tips can keep you safe and speed up the process.

Know What Your Car is Worth

You don’t want to accept a low offer on your car and leave money on the table. Before listing your car, look at competing models and compare their total mileage. Check the used vehicle market to get a gauge of how you should price your vehicle.

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Prepare Your Car

The first impression is the most important one you make. Consider cleaning your car before showing it to sellers so it looks sharp. Any dirt on the car will make it less attractive, and it is an easy fix. You should also remove personal information from the glove compartment and other parts of the car to mitigate risk.

Market and Advertise

Selling privately lets you escape dealership fees, but you won’t get their marketing. Car owners selling privately can invest in online advertising and list their cars on popular platforms such as, eBay Motors, Facebook Marketplace, and other websites. If your budget is tight, you can use a vehicle refinance to reduce your monthly expenses and increase your ad spend.

Test Drive and Inspection

The potential buyer will want to take a test drive before purchasing the vehicle. You can agree to meet at a public location with a clearly established route. Buyers will also want to inspect your car to make sure it is mechanically sound. The seller can speed up the process with a pre-sale inspection. Some buyers will not proceed with an inspection if you give them the report. If the buyer asks for an inspection, drive in separate vehicles to a reputable business.

Negotiate and Finalize the Deal

Knowing what your car is worth will help you get the best deal. Understand the advantages your vehicle provides and prepare for rebuttals. Do your research and look at data points from the used car market and other resources to support your position.

What Paperwork Will You Need to Sell Your Car Privately?

You will need several documents and paperwork to complete your car sale. Assemble these resources before listing your vehicle to make the selling process less complicated.

Car’s Title

This document proves that you legally own the vehicle. The car title gets reissued for every new owner.

Service Records

These documents reveal a car’s history. A potential buyer can review these records to see every time you or previous owners took the vehicle in for repairs and other services. Sellers also receive information about what happened during each service.

Information on Car Warranty (If Any)

Some sellers offer car warranties that cover repairs and replacement parts for a set period of time. This warranty can make a buyer feel more confident in their purchase. Therefore, you should include warranty documents if you plan to offer it.

As-Is Documentation

The buyer uses as-is documentation to take responsibility for repairs and maintenance of the vehicle when the keys switch hands.

Vehicle History Report

This report provides information about a car’s accident history, past and present ownership, and title status. 

Odometer Disclosure

You must provide this disclosure to a buyer before completing the purchase. This document asks the buyer to acknowledge the mileage shown on the odometer. This disclosure prevents a buyer from stating discrepancies and potentially starting a legal battle over the car’s total mileage before pickup.

Bill of Sale

The bill of sale verifies that the transfer of ownership took place. Most states do not require a bill of sale, but it can protect you from fraud. So keep it with you long after you sell your car.

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