Unless you have no other option, it is very smart to sell your car yourself rather than trading it in. While in college, I had a 2006 Chevy SS Impala. It was a great car, but it did not handle well on winter roads in Montana. I was offered $9,000 maximum for a trade-in, but I ended up selling my car for $13,000. You will almost always make more selling private party than trade-in, but there are a few tricks to increase your value and decrease your costs.
The first thing I did was avoid using advertising that costs me money. I had tried selling vehicles using paid advertisement, such as a newspaper or thrift magazine, but the resulting hits were very low. Posting on Craigslist was much more effective, but the best advertising was having my car on display near a high traffic area. After speaking with a local business owner, I was allowed to park my car on his lot right off of a main street. I easily got five times the calls about my car than I did from any other form of advertising. Remember that most paid advertising offers a two-inch by four-inch description that only people looking for your car will find. Keep your car in sight, and make sure that people are going to like looking at it.
The next move I made was making sure that my car looked appealing. For a little over $100, I had the car professionally detailed inside and out. For an additional $50, I had the engine cleaned as well. This may have cost me to start with, but a potential buyer has less reason to negotiate an attractive looking car down. I also gathered all service records and a vehicle history report. This does cost about $20, but it leaves less negotiating room for the buyer. After preparing the car and advertising, all that’s left is to set your price and sell.
I knew that my car would be worth roughly $12,500-$13,000, but I set the selling price at $13,500. Most buyers will try to negotiate down, regardless of the condition of the car. By increasing my original price, I planned for this and saved on the final sale. I also found different ways to get around so that my car was not gaining any miles while I waited. Averaging about 250 miles per week, one could potentially lose hundreds of dollars in depreciated value just by driving while they try to sell. Remember to have a realistic goal and to stick to that goal as the lowest selling value for your vehicle.
After about three weeks, my vehicle was sold. I was very fortunate with the sale of this vehicle, but anyone can be just as fortunate with most vehicles. The difference of selling and trade-in price for me offered me an additional $4,000 for my next vehicle. The most important thing to remember is not to be in a position where you are rushed to sell your vehicle. There are lots of people looking for vehicles and if you advertise smart, offer an attractive vehicle, and have a realistic price, you will certainly find someone willing to buy.