Save Money

Get the highest price for your car: 6 tips

In addition to my car buying strategies, another way to save money is to get the highest price for the sale of your used car. Many people trade in their car when they are buying a new car, but based on my experience over the years selling my used cars typically yields me a higher price. Below are 3 tips for getting the highest price for your used car.

1. Preparing your car for sale

Spending a few hours thoroughly cleaning your car and making minor repairs before selling it can make a huge difference in your selling price. I believe a good exterior appearance indicates to a buyer that you’ve kept up with mechanical maintenance too. I remember one of the minivans we sold looked terrible because of deferred cleaning and we probably would not have been able to give the car away, but after spending a few hours deep cleaning the van inside and out, it looked almost like new. My wife even said it looked so nice she was considering keeping the van.

2. Research your car’s value online

It’s always a good idea to check your car’s value at websites like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds for a starting value. But, you’ll also want to check used car sale websites like Cargurus,, etc. to see how many similar cars with similar mileage are for sale and how much owners are asking for their cars.

3. Don’t trade in your car

Typically, trading in your car when you purchase a new car will typically yield the lowest sales price for your used car. I believe I’ve only traded in one car in my life.

4. Don’t sell your car to an online car sales website

There are many online car sale websites, like and, where they will give you an offer for your car online subject to an in person inspection. My experience has been limited to obtaining a purchase price because typically I’m able to get higher sales prices by selling my cars to private parties or dealerships.

5. Consider a direct private party sale

Private party sale is when a car owner sells directly to a buyer. I’ve done this before, but it doesn’t always pan out and it takes a lot more time, energy and risk to accomplish. But, when it does work, you can typically make $1,000 or more than selling to a small local dealership.

Based on my experience, selling directly to a private party works best when you’re selling an older car and your selling for less than $10,000. Buyers are more willing to take a chance on buying from a private party if the price is low enough. When selling your own car, you’ll need to take good pictures (pictures are worth 1,000 words), submit your pictures to the many free and paid used car websites, respond to buyer inquiries, meet with buyers, allow buyers (strangers) to test drive your car and complete the transfer paperwork when you sell your car private party.

You can find many online resources, including your state’s department of motor vehicles website, regarding completing a private party sale. Your insurance company and your bank may have resources regarding how to sell your car as a private party too.

6. Sell your car to a small local dealership for best price and least amount of hassle

I sold most of my cars to small local dealerships. Before I visit a dealership, I obtain a price from Kelly Blue Book, then an offer from an online car sales website, then an offer from Carmax or other large dealership, then make my way to the small local dealerships.

What I’ve experienced is Carmax and major brand dealerships give you the lowest price. And, small local dealerships typically are able to give you the highest price, especially if you have a desirable type/brand of car AND you’ve taken good care of the car.

For example, when I recently sold our family’s Japanese minivan, we got about $2,000 more selling to a local small dealership versus selling to Carmax or the other major brand dealerships.

The best way to find the best small local dealerships for you is to email your car’s pictures to multiple dealerships until one or more bite and give you a solid offer. You’ll also want to sell to a reputable dealership, as you’ll be relying on them to complete and submit the proper paperwork to the state and to issue you a check that won’t bounce. It’s a good idea to read online reviews about the small local dealerships and confirm your chosen dealership is licensed to sell cars in your state.

I hope you’ve found my article helpful. Below are some other articles I’ve written that may be helpful:

Get the lowest price for your new car: 5 tips (Car buying tips)

Buying a used car: 6 tips (Used car buying)

Save money on car maintenance and repairs: 3 tips (Car maintenance tips)

Buying an electric vehicle: 3 tips

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