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Need a New Vehicle? Here’s How to Sell Your Car

By: Holly Benedetto05.12.22

It’s time to upgrade your vehicle to something that better suits your lifestyle and needs, but what’s the best way to get rid of your old car? If it is in good condition, many owners choose to sell their car to put money towards the cost of the next one.

Selling a car is not as simple as selling other belongings and requires additional effort and paperwork. In this blog, we break down the process for car owners to pass on the keys.


How to Conduct the Sale

When selling a car, there are two primary ways an owner can choose from: a dealership trade in versus selling it yourself. A third option, the instant cash offer, is given by some auto-buying companies who often buy vehicles regardless of condition.

Option 1: Trade in at the Dealership


  • Typically the fastest option that requires less preparation
  • No need to orchestrate the transaction via texts and email
  • Potential to reduce sales tax on your new car


  • Dealerships may have overhead costs or trade in fees
  • May result in a lower sales price due to lack of negotiation

Option 2: Sell It Yourself


  • Sell for a higher price by negotiating directly with buyers
  • Avoid dealership fees and other hidden costs


  • More effort required including listing, communication with buyers, and paperwork

For this blog, we will be largely focusing on the process of selling the vehicle yourself. No matter which way you choose to sell your car, you’ll want to make sure you have the following documents available:


The Paperwork Needed to Sell Your Car

Vehicle title: A car’s title is the legal document that proves ownership of a vehicle. It’s issued by the state where the vehicle was purchased, and this title stays with the vehicle throughout its life. It includes the VIN, make, model, year, color, owner’s information, issue date, odometer reading, outstanding liens, and signatures.

Service records: Include any paperwork and receipts for your car’s maintenance to prove its condition and answer any questions about mechanical visits.

Original sales paperwork: The original paperwork includes the trim level, a list of features, and other information that can make your car more desirable to buyers. The window sticker also includes these facts.


If you’re selling the car yourself, you’ll also need to complete these documents during the process:

Title transfer: Both the buyer and seller will have to fill out paperwork to ensure the transfer is legal. In most transfers, the seller signs and dates the back of the existing title, writes the sale price and the exact odometer reading. For your own protection, make a copy of both sides of the title transfer.

Bill of Sale and Release of Liability: Not all states require this, but it is an excellent way to protect yourself after the transaction. This form protects the seller from any future tickets, violations, or anything that happens to the vehicle after the sale.


How to Choose a Price

The best way to get an idea of your car’s condition is to get an assessment from a mechanic. The mechanic will be able to identify issues that an inexperienced eye may overlook. Having a written assessment from the shop could help during sales negotiations, too.

Valuation tools, like the What's My Car Worth? quiz by Kelley Blue Book, let you see your vehicle’s projected value by entering its VIN or license plate number. Another way to research competitive pricing is to check local listings online for others selling vehicles comparable to yours.

The condition of your vehicle has a strong impact on pricing. Take the Kelley Blue Book Condition Quiz to determine the true condition of your vehicle. The quiz asks questions about the interior, exterior, and mechanical function of the car and provides a quick look at the factors that make up your car’s condition score.

If your vehicle is up to date with maintenance, requires no additional repairs, no accident history, or has had significant upgrades added, you can increase your asking price. If you simply want to sell the car as quickly as possible, consider pricing it at a discount from your competitors.


Additional Tips for a Successful Sale

When listing your car, describe its features and appearance, and make sure to include photos of the car from many angles, both inside and outside.

Include key information, such as the mileage, make and model, color, and condition. If the vehicle has any problems or in-demand features, disclose them here so a potential buyer knows up front. Many people want to know why you’re selling the vehicle to inform their own decision to buy, making this another important fact.

Inform the buyer that you intend to remove your license plates from the car once the sale is complete, and that they should have their own plates ready to drive off with the car. License plates can be turned in at the DMV, which cancels the vehicle’s registration in your name and removes liability from you.

Clearly state your price and if that price is firm, negotiable, or if you’re looking for a best offer. Make note of acceptable forms of payment, whether that is electronically or physically, such as a certified check.

Meet in a safe, well-lit, highly trafficked area with security cameras. Avoid going to the sale location alone and do not go for a test drive with the potential buyer alone.


Purchasing Your Next Ride

Selling your car can be empowering. Knowing the value of what you own, practicing negotiating skills, and having cash to put towards your next vehicle purchase builds your financial literacy.

American Heritage has experts to help you find, finance, and insure your next vehicle. Check out our current rates and members-only discounts on protection plans by clicking here.



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