The Dumbest Mistake You Can Make When Selling Your Car

There’s no shortage of expert tips and tricks for buying a car. It’s not uncommon to find countless pieces of advice about negotiating a good buy, figuring out your trade-in value, and avoiding mistakes. But there’s also need-to-know information to help when you’re on the other side and looking to sell your car.

When it’s time to list your vehicle for sale, there are a few best practices you should tap into for a successful transaction. And in the same vein, there are a few mistakes you’ll want to avoid when selling your car. In fact, there’s one setback that most consumers and experts alike would suggest is the dumbest mistake you could ever make.

Selling your vehicle to a private buyer is actually smart

Sure, there are some pretty terrible mistakes to avoid when selling your car to a private buyer. But the idea itself is actually a pretty smart move. There’s a reason Kelley Blue Book offers different values for vehicles, including trade-in value and private party sale value. Selling your used car outright can mean cashing out with a few extra dollars more than what a dealership might offer as a trade-in value. Over the past few years, the average difference in price can be about 12%, according to The Appraisal Lane. But, of course, selling your car yourself means taking on a few additional responsibilities and a few risks.

Beware of shady characters

Dealing with the public can mean sometimes encountering some shady characters. When you’re ready to sell your car, you’ll want to be as transparent about its condition and your willingness to negotiate. Posting on Craigslist or within social media selling groups is usually a great place to start. But always remember: If a potential buyer sounds too good to be true, is elusive about connecting, or low-balls your price, you could have a dishonest contact on your hands.

A few questions to ask any potential private buyer

To make sure you’re having a conversation with a genuinely interested private party, you may want to ask a few key questions, according to Money Crashers. Inquire about what this person is looking for in a car. For example, maybe it’s a dad searching for a reliable teen car. Or it could be someone interested in working as a ride-share driver and needs a fuel-efficient vehicle. You don’t have to get into all the details, but how the person responds will help you determine if you’re dealing with a legitimately interested buyer.

You should also ask if the person will need to secure a loan before buying. Loans take time and can ruin a private sale if the lender backs out of the deal. This can lead you to wonder how this person plans to pay for the vehicle. And don’t be afraid to ask about meeting in person so the shopper can look at the car.

The dumbest mistake you could ever make selling your car


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The absolute worst and probably the dumbest mistake you can make when selling your car outright is to accept payments and let the buyer take the vehicle. Don’t ever sign over the title or relinquish the car to anyone until you have payment, in full, in hand. On Reddit, there are countless horror stories of sellers who found themselves ghosted by car buyers, with no vehicle and no cash. If you must agree to payment terms, keep your car and title until the payments are completed and a bill of sale can be signed.

Don’t be afraid to sell your used car outright. Take the time to prepare the vehicle, clean it, and snap pictures. Be transparent about what’s wrong and any wear. It’s OK to want to accommodate a private buyer who may be requesting a payment plan. However, under no circumstances should you ever let the car or title go until you have been paid in full. It’s one of the dumbest mistakes sellers make sometimes. And it’s probably the most easily avoidable.