How To Sell Your Car (For More Than It’s Worth)

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Selling your car isn’t just a pain – it has the potential to be a financial disaster.

You’re unlikely to sell your car for what it’s actually worth, let alone make enough to cover the cost of therapy to deal with the stress and headache of fielding potential buyers, or avoiding scams, or tying up the legal loose ends.

Luckily, you don’t have to suffer. Here are some headache-free tips to get more money out of selling your used car.

Start with easy, cheap (or free) fixes for your car.

The best way to convince potential buyers of your car’s value is to make a good first impression. Dingy, smelly, scratched up cars won’t impress a buyer – no matter what’s under the hood.

  • Keep detailed documentation.
    • This is easy to do, with a HUGE potential return in value.
    • Taking the time to maintain records of every oil change, tire rotation, or trip to the body shop proves to a potential buyer that your car is your baby. It eliminates a huge amount of risk in buying a used car. (And wins a massive amount of trust.)

When we went to purchase Katie’s Jeep, she revealed a binder’s worth of receipts and service records – everything she’d ever had done to the car. That binder turned her $2,500 car into a $4,500 deal.

  • Lights
    • Usually not expensive to replace – and clear lights make a big visual impact. There are plenty of commercial light cleaners, as well as some DIY fixes.
  • Windshield Chips/Cracks
    • If your windshield is cracked, check the cost of repairing or replacing your windshield before showing your car to potential buyers. It may be cheaper than you think – and, you could make back the cost (or more.)
  • Tires
    • If you’ve let your tires get visibly worn, a buyer may assume that the rest of the car is that worn, too. A new, inexpensive set of tires (or even a polish) will greatly increase the curb appeal.
  • Scratches & Dents
    • Obvious dings and scratches might give the impression that you don’t care for your vehicle – and if it’s not valuable to you, it won’t be valuable to a buyer, either.
  • Detailing
    • You don’t have to pay a professional to get great results.
    • Vacuum, polish, and deodorize your car’s interior. Remember that the right products for the job will always be your best bet – run-of-the-mill all-purpose cleaner won’t do as great a job as something made specifically for this purpose.
    • Consider replacing floor mats (or any other easily replaceable interior item.) Don’t assume an item is too expensive to replace. Check online (or at your local auto supply store) for affordable options.
  • Fix warning lights.
    • Simple warning lights (washer fluid, low tire pressure, etc) are a no-brainer to fix – but your buyer may subconsciously ding their offer amount if they think there are problems to fix on the vehicle.

Don’t get fooled while shopping for used car buyers.

Take time to find the right buyers.

The wrong buyer will still manage to undervalue your car – no matter how well maintained it is.

Avoid Dealerships.

When you sell your car to a dealer, their motivation for buying the car is to turn a profit. This means that their ONLY goal is to acquire the car for as little as possible. (And, often, to trap you in a trade.)

It costs a dealer more than what they pay to take in your car. They have to pay to get it detailed, inspected, towed, auctioned, and more – and all that money has to be factored into their offer amount.


Trade dollars are not real dollars. You can check out our guide for more on how difficult it is to win a trade.

Stay informed while selling online.

Listing aggregators (like CarGurus, Auto Trader, or post your car to giant, searchable lists of thousands of other “for sale by owner” cars on the internet. Easy, right?

It sounds easy. SO easy, in fact, that everyone else with a car to sell is doing the exact same thing. Your car may struggle to stand out in an ocean of similar listings. Besides that, they often charge a fee, either upon sale of your vehicle, or upon posting your listing.

It’s the worst of both worlds:  you have to manage the sale yourself, (including fielding buyers, showing the vehicle, and dealing with paperwork,) and have to split the profits with the listing sites.

Deal Locally

Instead of listing aggregators, you might consider posting in Facebook groups, on Craigslist, or sourcing buyers from a local auto trader magazine.

Reach out to friends and family to see if anyone has a “car guy.” The accountability from knowing a friend-of-a-friend may help you get an honest deal.

If you deal with car buying businesses, make sure you’re dealing with honest experts. Many “cash for junk cars” offers turn out to be scams. Take time to research the business’ web presences, reputation, and owners before reaching out to make a deal. will pay $400 more than a competing offer. We’ve purchased thousands of cars in the Raleigh, NC area.

Advertising will sell your car for you.

  • Be sure to advertise effectively.
    • Be as up front and transparent as possible to earn a buyer’s trust.
    • Take good photos of your car on a sunny day. Make sure to document the interior and exterior, be up front about any wear and tear, and always respond promptly to any questions.
  • Accommodate the buyers.
    • It’s not the customer’s job to come to you. Do everything you can to make the selling process as easy as possible on prospective buyers.
    • Offer test drives and viewings.
    • Have the car’s history on paper and ready to share with any interested buyers.
    • A happy buyer is more likely to work with you than an inconvenienced one.

Above all: be patient.

Getting the most money out of your vehicle doesn’t have to be a headache. Keep your wits about you, know your car’s worth, and be prepared to walk away from the wrong deal.  

If you have a car to sell around Raleigh, NC, you can always just call us!