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If done correctly, you can make more money by privately selling your car versus trading it in at a dealership. However, this takes a little extra work and time on your part. Here are some guidelines for how to prepare to sell your car to make the most money.

Fix up your car to prepare it for a private sale

For sale sign in window of Honda Civic, highlighting tips for preparing to sell car to make the most money
For sale sign in car | Michael Siluk/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The editors at offer some helpful tips for preparing a car for a private sale — helping you to make the most money. The first tip is to fix up your car. Clean your car to give it the best possible appearance. This includes washing and waxing the exterior, cleaning the windows, removing clutter from the cabin and the trunk, wiping down surfaces in the cabin, and vacuuming. 

You can either do the cleaning on your own or have it done by a professional service. Prices range from $20 for a basic washing and cleaning job to $200 for full detailing. After the cleaning of your car is completed, take some high-quality photos of it, making sure to highlight the best features.

Vehicle history report for selling your car

For sale sign in old car, highlighting tips for preparing to sell car to make the most money
For sale sign in car | Hilbert Hill via Unsplash

It’s important to be honest and transparent when selling your car. This demonstrates trust and credibility to potential buyers. One of the best ways to do this is by showing potential buyers a vehicle history report. You can obtain a vehicle history report for your car online through sites such as CARFAX and AutoCheck. Buyers will likely pay more money for a car from a seller that they can trust. 

Prepare your car for inspection before selling it

The third guideline for getting your car ready for sale is to prepare it for inspection. Ideally, you should have detailed records of itemized maintenance receipts for your car. This demonstrates to potential buyers that you routinely maintained the car as needed and that the car is reliable. 

Some buyers prefer to have a car inspected by their own preferred mechanic. To avoid any possible surprises, you can have your car inspected by your mechanic before listing it for sale. Another option is to use a third-party service, which can do an inspection of your car at your home or office. They independently verify a car’s description and general condition. These types of services, which can be booked online, typically cost between $100 and $200.

Get the vehicle title and other paperwork ready for the sale of your car


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The fourth step for preparing to sell your car to make the most money is to get the vehicle title and other paperwork ready. Make a copy of the title. If you don’t have the title due to still owing money on your car, then call your lender and ask how you can close out the loan and get the title. If you already paid off the loan, but the lending entity doesn’t exist anymore, then contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for assistance in getting your vehicle title.

Also, depending on the state in which you live, you might also need to provide a bill of sale when selling your car. A bill of sale is a legal document that describes the terms of the sale. It has two primary purposes: It waives liability for the seller and acts as a receipt for the buyer. Usually, a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website provides a bill of sale template that can be downloaded.

If you want to make the most money when selling your car, then take the necessary steps. This includes fixing it up, providing a vehicle history report, preparing it for inspection, and getting the paperwork ready. These steps take a little extra time and effort, but in the end, you’ll be rewarded with some extra cash in your bank account.