Are you ready to upgrade your vehicle? Need more room for your growing family? Just tired of your ride? We’ll show you where to market your old car so you get the price that you know it’s worth.

So you want to sell a car…

Almost 40 million pre-owned cars are sold yearly, a number three-fold higher than the number of new cars driven off the lot worldwide. Despite the considerable market for used vehicles, finding a buyer can prove tedious if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Used to, when you wanted to sell a car, you’d park it in your yard with a “for sale” sign and call the local paper to list it. Nowadays you can advertise your car to millions of potential buyers with a few keystrokes and a click of a button. Creating an ad in the internet age couldn’t be simpler, but finding a serious buyer on the internet platforms can be a little more complicated.  

7 things you need to sell your car:


Transferring ownership of an automobile without a title is illegal almost anywhere in the States. Lost, stolen, or severely damaged titles can be easily replaced by filling out paperwork for a replacement title in person at any DMV or through their website. There is usually a small fee (around $25) for the replacement copy. You’ll need your ID, VIN, registration, and in some cases an odometer disclosure form, to apply.

According to Kelley Blue Book, “In many states, the seller signs the back of the existing title along with the date, sale price and exact odometer reading before handing it over to the buyer. You should also make a copy of the signed title (both sides) for your records.”

In some states, older makes and models (at least 15 to 25 years or older depending on the state) are not required to have a title. In this case, you’ll only need a bill of sale to make it official. Check with your local DMV to see if your car falls under this exemption clause before transferring ownership without a title.

Warranty Documents

A transferable warranty can add to the value of the car, but you’ll need the documentation to prove it’s existence. It’s a good idea to write out the contact info for the company who issued the warranty so the buyer can have it transferred to their name after you close the deal.

Records of Upkeep

Try to track down the paperwork and receipts for any car maintenance or servicing you've done during the life of the vehicle. Potential buyers want proof that the previous car has been properly cared for. Keep receipts of oil changes, tire rotation, brake pad replacement, engine work, and any other automotive services you’ve had done to maintain the vehicle. Having detailed records of automotive maintenance will also increase the resale value of your car.

Certificate of Inspection

In Maryland and Alabama, you must obtain a certificate of inspection before selling a used vehicle. For this certificate, a state-approved inspector will look over the car to ensure it’s safe to drive and then fill out a document stating that it’s operational and up to regulations. Some states require periodic inspection for all cars regardless of transferred ownership, you can find a detailed listing of those laws here.

Odometer Disclosure Form

Per the federal Truth in Mileage Act, sellers must state in writing the exact mileage of the car at the moment of transferred ownership. Never round up or estimate when filling out this document. Both the buyer and seller will need to sign this at the time of sale. There are some exemptions for this form, you can read more about those here.

Bill of Sale

Many states require a Bill of Sale to legally relinquish ownership of a vehicle to another person. A Bill of Sale protects both the buyer and the seller. This document will list the VIN, selling price, vehicle mileage, as well as the names and signatures of both parties. You can find a list of states that require a bill of sale here.

Release of Liability Form

Filing a release of liability form is incredibly important when finalizing the sale of your vehicle. This releases you from responsibility if the car is damaged or involved in an accident after you close the sale. In most areas of the US, you’ll need to contact the DMV to file the release of liability, but in some places, you may be directed to the Dept. of Revenue or the Motor Vehicle Administration

Set your asking price.

People in the market for a new car will typically haggle in large increments, so it’s best to set your asking price about $1,000 to $1,500 higher than you expect to receive. Appraisal tools like Kelley Blue Book are the easiest and most efficient way to find the going price for your specific vehicle. KBB takes into consideration your car’s make, model, condition, special features, and any aftermarket add-ons, to estimate the worth of your vehicle.

If you’ve browsed any online marketplace then you're probably familiar with the lingo such as “OBO”, “OBRO”, and “firm price”--but you may not be aware of their possible implications. OBO (or best offer) gives the impression that you’re willing to haggle substantially and may attract people who aren’t ready to commit. This wording also makes it seem like you’re in a rush to be rid of the vehicle at any cost.

“OBRO” (or best REASONABLE offer) gives the idea that you’ll allow a little wiggle room in the price, but you’re not going to take less than the car is worth. This lingo is more likely to attract people who are currently in the market for a vehicle and have the means to buy it.

Stating that your price is firm, is pretty straight-forward--you know what the car is worth and you’re not going to settle for less, even if it does take more time to find a buyer.

Make your car look good.

Besides adding to its appeal, detailing your car can also increase how much buyers are willing to pay for it. The most obvious way to spruce up the appearance of your used car is to give it a thorough wash and wax.

Tire shine and blackening products can make your wheels look brand-new without the several hundred dollar price tag. Adding some air to your tires can also help with the appearance, though be careful not to overinflate, since this can make tires more prone to popping.

Erase shallow scratches with an artist brush and a small vial of matching body paint. These can be purchased for fairly cheap at most car dealerships. You may be able to pop out small dents and dings with inexpensive at-home repair kits. Make sure you read the instructions or watch an instructional video before you attempt to use these tools, using them incorrectly can sometimes make matters worse.

Last but not least, don’t forget the air freshener! Scent-marketing is a very real thing, and studies show that the “new car smell” increases sales of vehicles. Dealer Marketing Magazine explains, “The sense of smell, which is directly linked to emotion and memory, has the ability to elicit powerful reactions. Appealing to customers’ sense of smell creates sales opportunities by putting them in the buying mood.”

Many people chose to advertise through social networking sites, but this isn’t always the best avenue when selling a high ticket item such as an automobile. The problem with social media advertising is it targets a large audience, which makes weeding out serious buyers difficult. You may get tons of messages asking if you’ll trade or accept a small percentage of your asking 2 am. Not cool.

Choosing an online marketplace specifically geared towards selling cars privately is usually your best bet. Generally, people who browse these websites are in the market to buy a vehicle at that moment and are less likely to waste your time. Some of these online marketplaces charge a fee to post ads, this can range from $20 to upwards of $100 for “premium” features which claim to boost your ad to the top listings.

Interested in selling your car? Try PrivateAuto.

PrivateAuto makes it easy to sell your car privately and close the sale on your own.