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RPM Blog

The RPM Auto Wholesale Blog provides tips for buying and selling vehicles, humorous stories and narratives from the underbelly of the automotive industry.

8 Steps to a Successful DIY Car Sale

8 Steps to a Successful DIY Car Sale

Street sign showing direction of the easy way and the hard way
  1. Evaluate the Market
  2. Clean Cars Sell
  3. Price Your Vehicle
  4. Develop a Marketing Strategy
  5. Meet with Buyers
  6. Getting Paid
  7. Transfer the Title
  8. Avoiding Complications

DIY Step 1: Evaluate the Market

Street sign that says Evaluate the Market

Selling a car, van or truck on your own is a slow and demanding process. It is realistic to allow yourself 4 weeks to complete the sale. By following the suggestions listed below, you will be better able to negotiate a fair price for you car when you do locate a buyer.

Questions to Ponder

  • What is the demand for your vehicle?
  • What is a fair asking price?
  • Are all maintenance and recalls up to date?
  • Do the tires have a legal tread?
  • Does all equipment function properly?
  • How are the brakes?
  • Is there a loan payoff to coordinate?
  • Do you have the time to be a DIY seller?
  • Are you comfortable with the risks of meeting with strangers?
  • Can you negotiate a fair price?
  • Do you need a quick sale?

These are just a few of the many questions you will need to answer if you are going to be a successful DIY Seller.  Be prepared for lots of phone calls, missed appointments, tire kickers and lowball offers.  Be brutally honest with yourself because selling a vehicle is not for the faint of heart.

If you would rather skip the drama, Get a Quote to Sell Your Car Today

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DIY Step 2: Clean Cars Sell

Street sign that says Clean Cars Sell

First impressions are lasting! A car buyer will make a decision about your car within two minutes. You can improve the chances of a buyer falling in love with your car by taking a few simple steps before you list it for sale.

Give your car some curb appeal!

  • Consider a professional detail
  • Wash and wax the car
  • Vacuum the interior
  • Empty the trunk except for tools
  • Shampoo the carpet and upholstery
  • Clean the tires and polish the wheels
  • Remove dents and dings with painless dent removal
  • Complete small repairs and manufacturer's recalls
  • Be certain that all windows and mirrored surfaces are sparkly clean
  • Gather your maintenance records to show prospective buyers.

Selling a car is competitive. There are literally hundreds of similar vehicles for sale at any time in your market. If you want to compete, you want your car to stand out from the others. Buyers will look at many cars before making a decision. If your vehicle does not rise above the crowd you will only be able to compete on price. Why bother at all if you are just going to end up selling the vehicle for about the same price as we will pay you today?

Get a Quote to Sell Your Car Today

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DIY Step 3: Price Your Vehicle

Street sign that says Price Your Vehicle

Pricing a car for sale is part art and part science.  The science is easy to master by following the suggestions listed below.  The art of pricing a vehicle comes with practice and common sense.  Some factors that influence the pricing of a vehicle are esoteric and others such as pricing a convertible in the winter are more practical. Use common sense and you will do just fine.

Pricing Ideas

  • Determine the demand for your car
  • Are there a lot of similar vehicles up for sale in your market?
  • Survey online classifieds to learn the approximate market value
  • Limit the survey to your region
  • Look for exact matches of year, model, equipment and mileage
  • Choose a price that is below dealer prices
  • Be sure to adjust your price for condition
  • Visit dealer lots to see how your car compares
  • Pick a price that is near the middle of similar vehicles

Be prepared to negotiate the price with your buyer.  Everybody wants to think that they are getting a "good deal" and nobody pays asking price when it comes to automobile sales.  Regardless of the price you choose, the market is going to tell you if it is a fair price.  The market does not care what you think.  If you pick an asking price, advertise it in the online classifieds and find that nobody calls, you will know that the price is too high.  Listen to the sounds of the market and above all stay flexible!

Is this process starting to sound like a time vampire?  

Get a Quote to Sell Your Car Today

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DIY Step 4: Develop a Marketing Strategy

Street sign that says Develop a Marketing StrategyNow that your car is professionally detailed, all repairs are completed and you have an asking price, it's time to come up with your marketing plan. There are many different paths to follow when selling a car.  Listed below are some of the more common strategies for you to consider as you search for a car buyer.

Sales Strategies to Consider

  • Search online for a consignment lot in your market
  • Tell your friends and relatives that you are selling your car
  • Try an old fashioned for sale sign in the window-they work
  • Look for local informal lots where sellers park cars
  • Use Craigslist-it's free
  • Place a flyer on the bulletin boards of local stores
  • Staple flyers to telephone poles
  • There is an app at Facebook that will tell your friends of your car sale
  • Message boards and online forums usually have classifieds sections

You will want to be creative with your marketing strategies.  Gone are the days when you could buy a classified ad in the Sunday paper and wait for the phone to ring. Today's car buyers have the entire world at their finger tips.  Keep it simple, keep it local and keep it upbeat when your phone finally rings!  On the other hand, you might have decided that the whole DIY process is more than you care to tackle.  

Why not Get a Quote to Sell Your Car Today

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DIY Step 5: Meet with Buyers

Street sign that says Meet with Buyers

While talking with potential buyers on the telephone pay close attention to their tone and try to gauge their intentions.  It's OK to ask a few questions of your own.  Some folks prepare a list of questions ahead of time.  No matter what, trust your instincts.  If something feels wrong about the buyer or the situation do not show them the car!

Effective Showings of Your Vehicle

  • Do not meet a buyer for the first time at your home.
  • Show your car at well lit public locations
  • Answer questions honestly-the buyer is evaluating you too
  • Take a friend along with you-don't go alone
  • Go with a buyer for a test drive after you know they are serious
  • Ask to see a driver's license
  • Trust your instincts-do not go for a ride if something feels wrong
  • Decide ahead of time if you will allow mechanics visits
  • It is best to accompany the buyer on the visit to the mechanic
It can take years to learn how to effectively sell anything especially a car.  Many buyers will have bought more cars than you have sold which gives them a distinct advantage in the process.  It is best to think through this stage of the sales process carefully before you get to it.  This is the first place where things can go south in a hurry!

Ready to get off the DIY train? Get a Quote to Sell Your Car Today

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DIY Step 6: Getting Paid

Street sign that says Getting Paid

After spending days or even weeks locating a buyer your attention will turn to the form of payment you are willing to accept for the vehicle. This is usually dictated by the value of the car being sold. Let's take a look at the options and the challenges faced with each payment method.


You have heard the saying that cash is king but unless you have a king's army to protect you, you might consider an alternative method of payment. Sure, cash is the safest method of payment but it also exposes you to a great risk of harm and robbery. If either you or the buyer insist upon cash, meet the buyer at your bank and deposit the cash to your account.

Personal Check 

Personal check is safer than cash but carries the risk that the check is stolen, forged or the funds are insufficient.  In this instance, it is best to meet the buyer at her bank where you can verify funds and ask the bank to certify the check.

Cashier's Check

A cashier's check used to be a safe option but these days there are so many stolen and counterfeit cashier's checks that you are well advised to avoid this option all together.  Ask for cash or get a certified check at the buyer's bank.

Payment Plans 

In the business, this is referred to as an offer to pay a certain amount today and the rest when you catch him.  Avoid this situation entirely and look for another buyer.  You are not a bank and you are not running a charitable organization.  Do not fall victim to the sad stories you will hear about someone down on their luck!

Escrow Services 

We use an escrow service to pay our sellers with every vehicle we purchase.  This is the safest and most reliable method of getting paid for your vehicle.  We use Escrow.com for all of our escrow services.  They can even process a payoff or arrange transportation if your buyer is far away from you.

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DIY Step 7: Transfer the Title

Street sign that says Transfer the Title

Each state establishes their own regulations surrounding a vehicle sale.  Be sure to check with the department of motor vehicles (DMV) before you sell your vehicle.

The Federal Odometer Act requires the disclosure of your vehicle's mileage.  Your state may require additional disclosures.  In some states, the license plates are transferred with the car and in others they stay with the seller. 

You should furnish a release of liability statement to your buyer and keep a copy for your records.  It's also a good idea to keep a bill of sale for the transaction.

The title (when present) is signed by the seller and given to the buyer.  In some states, the signatures of the buyer and seller will need to be notarized -another good reason to close the sale at a bank.  A new title will be issued and mailed to the new owner.

In many states, both the seller and the buyer have additional responsibilities during and after the transfer of a vehicle. Contact your local DMV field office to learn of the requirements in your state.

To avoid all of these aggravations  Get a Quote to Sell Your Car Today

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DIY Step 8: Avoiding Complications

Street sign that says Avoiding Complications

In most states, the sale of a used car is considered "as is" and no warranty is provided or implied. The old adage "buyer beware-caveat emptor" applies.  Therefore if you sell a car and it breaks in half the buyer will own both halves.  You are under no obligation to repair the vehicle.

That is not to say you are protected if you purposely conceal or lie about the condition of the vehicle.  Be honest about the condition of the car before the sale and give the buyer an opportunity to obtain their own professional inspection.

As with most things in life, be fair, be honest and do the right thing. Our advice here is provided for your own personal use and to aid you in deciding if you want to undertake a DIY sale of a used car.  It is not intended to provide you with legal advice. If you feel you need legal advice about the sale of your vehicle, you should seek it from from competent professionals in the jurisdiction where you reside.

If you have read this far, you are determined and just might be successful with a DIY sale of your car.  None the less, you may still want to consider getting a free quote to sell your car.  You might be surprised how simple it is to Sell Your Car Today!

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