The Ultimate Guide to Sell Your Used Car

How do you get it ready to sell? What do you do when someone comes to look at it? Instamotor is here to walk you through the steps it takes to get your old car out the door.

The Ultimate Guide to Sell Your Used Car

Selling your own car can be a daunting task to take on. How do you get it ready to sell? What do you do when someone comes to look at it? Should you let them test drive it alone? Should you let them take it to a mechanic to have it checked out? There are so many questions. Never fear, though, Instamotor is here, to make selling your used car that much easier and walk you through the steps it takes to get your old car out the door in a simply, quickly and easily.


First, learn about the market for your particular car and do some research to get a good idea of what a realistic price might be. Use sources like KBB, Edmunds, and Cars.com to help you price it right. When you list your car with Instamotor, you can contact our customer service team to provide recommendations that will help you sell quickly and at a good price. When you visit the sites be sure to be honest about the condition your car is in. Does it have a few dings and scratches? Does it need some maintenance TLC? Does it have high or low mileage? How old is it? All of these things can affect the price of your car both positively and negatively. Pricing your car correctly is really crucial to getting it sold, so be upfront about any issues you know your car may have.

Get Your Car Cleaned

Next, get your car sale-ready. This means take it to the car wash and get all the grime and grit off the outside and out of the inside. Vacuum your carpets, get rid of all those old receipts, and escaped French fries, wipe down the interior and steering wheel with a conditioner and cleaner (we like Meguiars or Griot’s since it’s the stuff the pros at car shows use, and it won’t harm the interior of your car) and get the inside spic-and-span. Outside, be sure clean all the nooks and crannies and get a good wax. A hand wax is a lot more work, but it is much better for the car (here is a handy DIY guide for you), and it will make your car stand out as one that has been properly cared for.

Also, at least rinse off the undercarriage of your car, especially if you live and drive where they salt and sand the roads. In addition to cleaning it, be sure to have all the necessary maintenance done on it. Have the fluids changed, rotate the tires, get new windshield wipers if you need them. Save the receipts to show to any potential buyers that may be curious about the last maintenance the car had. If you need new tires, a sometimes pricey investment, you can either choose to replace them or disclose in your listing that they are not new and will need to be replaced.

Make it Instagram Worthy

Now it’s time to snap some photos. Take your car to a place where you can get far enough away from it to frame the entire thing. Take photos of the front, side, front and rear three-quarter, interior, and any details that you’d like to include. Photos of any special packages or features you may have on your car (like special tires or rims, upgraded navigation, any sport upgrades etc.) are valuable, too.

Photos are the main way that people evaluate a car, and they are the best way to advertise your car for sale. Be sure that the photos are as high resolution as possible, as well lit as possible and, as sharp and focused as possible. No one will show up to buy your used car if it looks like you took the photos using a potato.

Prepare Your Paperwork

Next, get your documents together. This includes your title and a bill of sale from your state’s DMV. It’s a good idea to make a copy of your car title so that when your vehicle sells you can take that copy to the DMV to inform them of the sale. It will also help when you need to call your insurance company to remove the car from your policy once it sells.

If you don't have your title in hand

If your title is held by a bank, you’ll need to get the bank to sign over ownership once your car is sold. You’ll also need to disclose that the car has an outstanding balance on it in your listing so that potential buyers are aware that the transaction can be a bit more complicated. The best way to get your lienholder’s signature is to sell your car (read as: do all the paperwork) at the bank that holds the lien. You can also consider hiring an escrow service if your bank isn’t in your area (or it’s an online bank). The escrow service will hold the title and manage the transfer of funds during the sale.

Read more about how to sell your car if you still have payments left.

Create a Detailed Listing

Once your car is ready all spiffed up, with its papers in order and photographs taken, it’s time to start the creative work. The best listings have great descriptions and a good story. As we pointed out in a recent post on how to sell your car quickly, be sure to highlight the things that make your car unique. What did you love about it? What might someone else love about it? In your description include things like warranty, maintenance and any known issues or complications to the sale, as well as the condition of your vehicle and the reason for selling it. Ensure that your spelling, punctuation, and grammar are correct and have someone else edit the listing for you.

Think of it like your vehicle’s resume; you don’t want misplaced commas or bad spelling to negate your hard work! Once you have your ad written up, post it on your platform of choice and be sure to share it across your social network. You never know when a friend could be looking for a car just like yours.

Showing + Test Drives

Next up: the showings. This part of the used car selling process can be a drag as it often takes time and effort to make it work. When someone expresses interest in your vehicle be sure that you respond immediately to their inquiry. Set up a time and location that is public and neutral and be sure your car is clear of any personal items before you head to meet the potential buyer. Also be sure that your insurance coverage covers someone else driving your car. If the buyer wants to take out the car solo (something we don’t really recommend), get a copy of the buyer’s license or write down their information. Agree on a time limit and distance for them to test drive the car before you let them head out. We recommend that you accompany any potential buyers on the test drive so that they can ask questions about the car as they go.

If a potential buyer asks to take the car to a mechanic, the decision is up to you. If you are a buyer, we recommend getting any used car inspected. As the seller, if you have that receipt from the most recent mechanic visit, now is a good time to bust it out and show them. It may put their mind at ease. You can also have a mobile mechanic come and check out the car. As Edmunds.com points out, if you feel at all uncomfortable with the person, plan to accompany them and your car to the mechanic.

Selling Tips
Closing the Deal
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The Negotiation

Now time comes to the nitty-gritty negotiation part. If the buyer decides that they are genuinely interested in the car, they will make you an offer. Negotiate with them until you come to a point of agreement about the price. Once the price is agreed upon discuss how they will pay. Cash is always a preferable way to complete the transaction but you can also choose to accept a check.

Agree on a payment method

In that case we wouldn’t recommend accepting a personal check as they can bounce. Ask for a cashier’s check from a local bank, instead. Also, be sure that you check with the bank that the funds are available that way you don’t get burned on the sale. Before you hand over keys or the title, be sure that the payment has cleared. Once it’s cleared sign the title and the bill of sale and have the buyer do the same then hand over the title and the keys. Be sure to get a copy of the bill of sale, too.

For more tips on how to protect yourself during the transaction, check out additional best practices we recommend.

After the sale: Notify the DMV

Finally, all you need to do is remove your old car from your insurance and let your DMV know that you have sold the car. You should take care of this immediately as you don’t want the buyer driving around on your insurance or under the pretense of being you.

If you want to take the complication of the entire used car selling experience, sell your car with Instamotor. Our app walks you through each step to create the perfect listing and let buyers get in touch with you directly.

The Instamotor TeamThe Instamotor Team

Not your typical used car salesman. Our team is here to provide honest and transparent advice about car buying and selling.