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selling-a-car-checklistBy Michael Jones

Selling a vehicle doesn't have to be stressful. A "Checklist for Selling My Car" is a valuable tool that will walk you step-by-step through the process.

If you are thinking of selling your car, theyou present your vehicle in the best light possible and make a good impression on potential buyers. Selling privately is the ideal way to get the most money for your car, and following a checklist makes everything much simpler and ensures that you do not forget any important details.

Consider A Vehicle Protection Plan

First, I recommend that you consider purchasing of a vehicle protection plan as a sales feature.  What better way than this to instill confidence in a potential buyer?  This will make the sale easier by giving your buyer peace of mind and you'll be able to increase your asking price. Another option is to just let the buyer know that your vehicle is eligible for a vehicle protecion plan.  Check here to see if you're vehicle is eligible.

Is My Vehicle Eligible?

Gather Important Documents and Paperwork

Make a file containing all the necessary and important documents that prospective buyers will want to see before purchasing your vehicle. Research the requirements in your area and find out what documents are needed to legally transfer ownership and make sure you also have these on hand when selling your car. Having all paperwork neat and organized will show buyers that you are prepared and serious about making a sale.

  • Obtain a vehicle history report. It is good if you are able to answer important questions about your vehicle's history, particularly if you are not the original owner. Be honest about any previous accidents, discuss major repairs you have done, and be prepared to give potential buyers the V.I.N. number if they want to order their own check. Vehicle history reports can be obtained from CafFax.com ,AutoCheck.com and several other websites online.
  • Gather all maintenance records including proof of oil changes, filter replacements, tire rotations, and hose or belt inspections. If you do not have these records, you may be able to obtain copies from the dealership or repair shop that completed the services. A well-maintained car is very appealing to buyers and will also allow for a higher selling price.
  • Be able to show any warranty or extended coverage documentation that is still valid and transferable. Make sure the information includes contact numbers for the extended coverage provider as well as a detailed outline of what is covered. You may be able to ask more for your car since an extended coverage will give any potential buyers peace of mind when completing the transaction. Also remember to include any other original manufacturer warranty documents that may apply to replacement parts such as the battery, tires, exhaust system, or transmission. Be sure to check with the vehicle protection plan provider (if one exists) to determine what information must be filed to transfer the contract to the new owner. There may be a nominal charge to complete the transfer.
  • Create an "As Is" document. This is important because it states very clearly in writing that there is no implied warranty on your part and that the buyer accepts full responsibility for repairs that are not covered by existing warranties.
  • Provide odometer disclosure. This is important because it states very clearly in writing that there is no implied warranty on your part and that the buyer accepts full responsibility for repairs that are not covered by existing warranties.

A typical Odometer Disclosure Statement usually includes:

  1. Year, make, model of car

  2. V.I.N

  3. Buyer's name and address

  4. Vehicle mileage at time of ownership transfer

  5. Buyers signature

  6. Sellers signature

  7. Notary Public's seal (in states where this is law)


  • Vehicle title is necessary to transfer ownership. If you own the car outright, then you will likely only have to sign the title certificate or ownership. However, if you are still making payments, you will need to contact the lien holder to determine the exact payoff amount. The loan must be paid in full before ownership can be transferred.
  • Make a bill of sale. Although this is not required, it is a good idea because it documents the terms and conditions of the sale in writing and protects you against any later complaints or disputes. In this case, you will have a bill of sale as proof of the agreement.
  • Include a current emissions certificate and safety certificate, if required. Some sales are contingent on the car having a valid safety certificate and this is often appealing to buyers since they do not have to worry about additional costs before licensing the vehicle. Again, laws vary from state to state, so check out the requirements for your area.

Price Your Vehicle

The next step on your "selling my car checklist" is to set a fair and reasonable asking price for your vehicle. Before making a decision, you should do some research so that you understand the market. You want to get the best price for your car while still ensuring a sale.

1. Gather information about the car. Grab a notepad and make a list of things that describe your car. Remember to include basic information as well as the specific features that will affect the value of your vehicle.

  • List the year, make, model, and trim level as well as any optional features or 'extras' such as leather interior, navigational system, or upgraded sound system. These can increase your resale value so keep them in mind when setting your asking price.
  • Record the current mileage. Lower mileage will allow you to increase the price, while extremely high mileage, in comparison to the age of the car, will likely mean you will need to lower your expectations in order to sell your vehicle.
  • Do you have an extended warranty from the manufacturer or a vehicle protection plan from a third-party like Autopom? Is it transferable? This is a huge benefit and really increases the resale value. If there are any transfer fees, decide ahead of time who will be responsible for paying these costs, you or the buyer.
  • What is the overall condition of the vehicle? Make note of any scratches, dents, cracked windshields, ripped or stained upholstery. If you decide not to get these repaired, be sure to disclose them to potential buyers.
  • Has there been any manufacturer recalls for your particular make and model? If so, have the problems been corrected? Any buyers who have done their homework will likely be aware of these recalls, so it is a good idea to have documentation to prove these issues have been fixed.
  • Gather maintenance and repair receipts. A well cared for car will increase the sale price, particularly if you have completed recent repairs such as new brakes or tires.
  • Get an inspection and ask a mechanic for an opinion about the car's condition.

2. Research values for similar cars in your area. Do some research to find out the demand for your vehicle and how popular it is with interested buyers.

  • Check both online and local newspaper classified ads to see how many similar cars are currently for sale as well as the typical asking price.
  • Find out the suggested retail value for your particular year, make and model by checking Blue Book or Bold Book values.
  • Check the Black Book rates to find out the wholesale value of your vehicle. This is likely the amount you will receive in the typical trade-in should you decide to go that route.
  • Are you still making payments on your car? The payout amount may influence your asking price.
  • Now that you have all the important figures, it is time to set a price. Consider the range of prices on the market and begin with an amount roughly in the middle, then add or subtract based on the condition of the car. For example, if your car needs new tires or brakes, you may have to lower your asking price accordingly. On the other hand, if you have an extended extended coverage (of any type) or have recently completed major repairs, you should be able to increase your asking price.
  • When setting your price, remember to leave a little room for negotiation since buyers will likely offer you less than you are asking.

Prepare Your Vehicle for Sale

When selling your car, you should take a little time to clean and prepare it so that potential buyers will have a good first impression. It is important to be aware of any issues that a buyer will likely notice or question.

A few minor repairs and a little TLC can go a long way in making a sale:

  • Be aware of any imperfections or unusual noises. Buyers will probably ask about these, so be prepared to respond. You may even wish to inform buyers of these issues ahead of time to show that you are honest and not trying to hide anything.
  • Will fixing some of the smaller problems allow you to increase the asking price? Will this increase be significant enough to make it worth it? If you do not wish to complete repairs, you may consider selling the vehicle 'As Is', but it is important to be honest with buyers about what the car needs.
  • Replace burnt out lights and fuses.
  • Change the oil and top off fluids.
  • Gather maintenance records and have them ready to show potential buyers.
  • You may want to visit a mechanic and get a report of what the car needs to receive a safety certificate (if needed) or any other necessary repairs that may influence a buyer's decision.
  • Wash and wax the car.
  • Vacuum the vehicle thoroughly, shampoo carpets if needed, clean floor mats, and wash windows.
  • Empty and vacuum trunk. Make sure that the spare tire is in good condition.
  • Scrub the tires and shine rims.
  • Pressure wash or clean under the hood, making sure to remove dirt or oils.
  • If you're not included to do this type of work, consider having the car detailed by a professional service.

Advertise Your Vehicle

How well you advertise your car will make a big difference in how many potential buyers you attract. Options range from online classifieds, to local newspapers, free circulars (usually found at supermarkets), bulletin boards (found at stores, libraries, school campuses, or bus stations), or a for sale sign in the vehicle window. Some forms of advertising are free while others will cost, but it is important to make sure your ad is professional, well-written, and thorough.

Put yourself in the buyers' shoes and consider what you would look for when purchasing a used car:

  • Include all the basic information such as year, make, model, body style, mileage, price, and V.I.N number.
  • List any important or extra features such as stereo, air conditioning, GPS, security system, or leather interior.
  • Provide good quality photos that show the car from every viewpoint. Buyers will want to see the condition of the entire vehicle, so include pictures of the trunk, under the hood, and dashboard, as well as the exterior from multiple angles.
  • Emphasize your car's best features. For example, if the vehicle has low mileage, has been well-maintained, gets good fuel mileage, or has had a single owner, be sure to promote these factors. These are great selling points, so take advantage of them in your advertisement.
  • Explain why you are selling the car. Buyers will likely ask, so it would be good to include this information in your ad.
  • List any repairs that have been done and be honest about what the car needs.
  • Include important warranty information.
  • State negotiating terms such as "firm" "OBO" (or best offer), "must sell", or "asking price". Include available payment methods.
  • List your contact information. If you are only available by phone during certain hours, be sure to state this in your ad.
  • Avoid putting any personal information in your advertisement. You do not want dishonest people showing up to your home unexpectedly.

Meeting and Negotiating with Buyers

Now that you have decided on a price and advertised your vehicle, it is good to follow a checklist that will prepare you for the actual sale and negotiation process.

  • Reply to any inquiries promptly and make sure your responses are friendly. Be willing to be flexible when it comes to arranging meeting times with potential buyers.
  • Most buyers will want to test drive the car, but it is important to consider a few things before handing over your keys.

    Know your car and its history, and be aware of commonly asked questions so you are prepared to answer them. Always be honest.
    1. Where are you going to meet? At your home or in a public place? It is necessary to consider the safety implications of people coming to your house and you should not let yourself be talked into anything that makes you feel uncertain or uncomfortable.
    2. Are you going to accompany potential buyers on the test drive or let them go alone? If you do not feel comfortable, do you have a friend or family member that could go instead?
    3. Check to make sure that potential buyers have a valid driver's license before letting them take your car on a test drive. You may want to make a copy so you can prove identity should any problems arise.
    4. Make sure to get any applicable insurance information. Check with your insurance company to see if test drives are covered in your policy or what this additional coverage would cost. Obtain any required information from potential buyers before they drive your car.
    5. Record the full name, address, phone number, and license number of anyone who test drives your car. This information could be important if something goes wrong.
    6. If test drivers arrive in a car, consider asking them to leave their keys as an extra security precaution.
  • If they ask for a mechanic inspection, you may want to offer to take the car to the shop of their choice. However, be sure everyone understands who is paying for the inspection. If you have already had the car inspected by your own mechanic, showing them this report may put them at ease and they may decide further inspection is not needed.
  • Have all necessary paperwork ready. Being prepared will instill confidence in the buyer. Having extended coverage for mechanical breakdown protection is also a great selling feature.
  • Be prepared to negotiate. It is unlikely that buyers will pay your asking price without first presenting a counteroffer. Know the value of your vehicle and decide ahead of time how much your're willing to lower your price. This way aggressive or pushy buyers will less easily influence you.

Making the Sale and Closing the Deal

Once you and the buyer have agreed on a price, you will need to complete all the required paperwork to transfer ownership.

Specific requirements vary depending on location, so check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to find out what you need.

  • Record the odometer reading and sign the title certificate over to the new owner. Remember, rules regarding odometer disclosure can vary, so find out what is required for your area.
  • Give the new owner any valid warranty documentation, maintenance records, emissions certificate, safety certificate, or any other paperwork that is requested.
  • Give the new owner an "As Is" document. Make sure both parties sign this.
  • Make a bill of sale. This should include:

    1. Name, address, phone number of the buyer.
    2. Vehicle make, model, year, mileage, V.I.N. Number
    3. Sale price and method of payment
    4. Statement that the vehicle was sold "as is" and a note that an "As Is" document was given.
    5. Signatures of both the buyer and the seller.

Even if you are planning on selling your car through an auction or trading it in at a dealership, preparing it properly can still help you get the best possible price. Selling your car does not have to be stressful or complicated. By following this "checklist for selling my car" you can make sure that every detail is covered so you will be able to handle the process efficiently and professionally.

Lastly, do consider purchasing a vehicle protection plan as a sales feature.  What better way than this to instill confidence in a potential buyer?  This will make the sale easier by giving your buyer peace of mind and you'll be able to increase your asking price.

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