Pinterest link icon on Twitter on FaceBook on LinkedIn Google+

How to Sell a Used Vehicle

Reference Library Index
Last Reviewed: September 27, 2016

Selling a vehicle for the best price requires a well thought out marketing plan, good pictures and other preparations. Here are some suggestions that might help:

1958 Plymouth Fury

1958 Plymouth Fury *

1. Assure your knowledge is up to date -

  • - Review magazine articles about your vehicle.
  • - Read a good historical book on the manufacturer.
  • - Get a vehicle history report so you know what a buyer might find.

2. Create a scrapbook for the buyer -

  • - Collect documents and books on your specific vehicle.
  • - Establish a list of appropriate organizations and car clubs.
  • - Organize pictures in an album or on disc.
  • - Organize service, repair and restoration receipts.

3. Research the current market -

  • - Search the Internet for similar vehicles for sale and note their asking prices.
  • - Use the 'Favorites' function of your browser to set up a file system to organize your research.
  • - Decide how your vehicle compares to others and classify it as 'Excellent/Show', 'Good/Drivable' and 'Poor/Project' condition.
  • - Join at least one historical registry, if applicable. (The more the better.)
  • - Find some similar vehicles for sale, present yourself as a buyer and note the pros and cons of their approach.
  • - Look up the 'Blue Book' value, using one of the many vehicle value guides.
  • - Consider having the vehicle evaluated by a professional appraiser.
  • - Consider using an escrow company to verify the title and assure payment.
  • - Establish your 'asking price' and lowest limit
  • - Decide whether or not you are willing to pay (or compensate) for any testing or repairs requested by the buyer.

No matter how valuable you think your vehicle is,
it will be difficult to find someone who agrees
and even harder to find someone willing to pay that price.

4. Create a marketing plan -

  • - Study the market and create a profile of the anticipated buyer - such as age, sex, education, worth, location, etc.
  • - Make sure that your initial research of what's available and the going prices is up to date and accurate.
  • - Create a list of potential markets, such as Internet sites, classified ads, car clubs, etc.
  • - Study current ads to get ideas.
  • - Create signs for the vehicle windows and flyers for local advertising. (This is a free and easy feature of, when you place an ad.)
  • - Collect information about how to advertise in areas that fit your profile.
  • - Prepare promotional packets with pictures, description, issues, location and price and send them to appropriate clubs and organizations. Include a cover letter that offers a generous incentive for the members to help you.
  • - Prepare a portfolio of good quality pictures, appropriate for your buyer's profile. For instance, affluent buyers will expect high quality pictures.
  • - Prepare and pose the vehicle for the pictures:
    1. - Assure that the background is appropriate for the vehicle. For a car, simple, clean and tidy. For a truck, at a job site or in the mountains, etc.
    2. - Take the pictures outside (not in the garage).
    3. - Pick a day when the weather is appropriate for the vehicle. For a car, bright and sunny. For a 4x4 truck, snow, etc.
    4. - Wash and polish the vehicle.
    5. - Detail the inside of the vehicle.
    6. - Do put signs, people, awards, etc. in the pictures
    7. - Take pictures of all four sides - but at a 30-45 degree angle.
    8. - Do not photograph the engine or trunk unless they have been detailed.
  • - Consider environmental influences. For instance, a convertible will be more appealing when the sun is out but a 4x4 truck might sell better with snow on the ground.

Search For Your Favorite Vehicle
Enter keywords (Ex: 1919 Ford, black) or filter

5. Prepare description and pictures for classified ads -

  • - How you present the vehicle in a classified ad tells buyers a lot about you and the vehicle. A thorough description and quality pictures (see above) will go a long way to encourage buyers and reduce repetitive questions.
  • - By making the vehicle look as good as possible and posing it carefully for pictures you give the impression that it has been well cared for.
  • - By giving a thorough description that includes the following you give the impression that you are serious and know the vehicle well.
    1. - Make, model, year, miles
    2. - Improvement you have made
    3. - Extras that you have added
    4. - Problems you are aware of
    5. - Condition of the tires
    6. - Why you are selling it
    7. - How and where it has been driven
    8. - Asking price and preferred method of payment
    9. - Willingness to trade
    10. - Willingness to ship the vehicle
    11. - Contact information (including a telephone number)

6. Prepare for the first visit and initial inspection -

  • - Move the vehicle to an appealing site.
  • - Have tools handy, such as a flash light, tire gauge, pliers, screwdrivers, adjustable wrench and rags.
  • - Make a list of all the significant, unapparent problems you know of and the approximate cost to remedy them. Be ready to discuss this with buyers.
  • - Prepare the above list as a formal document and include a disclaimer such as: "I attest that the above information is accurate to the best of my knowledge but make absolutely no guarantees or warrantees. The vehicle is being sold 'as is' and the buyer assumes all responsibility for its condition upon receipt of the title document." Include the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and signature and date lines for both you and the buyer. (Note: We do not warrant this as a legally binding document. If you want more assurance, discuss it with a lawyer.)
  • - Complete the Vehicle Inspection and Test Drive Checklist with the eye of a buyer, so you are prepared to discuss their concerns.
  • - Hire a professional mechanic to run a diagnostic test on the engine and evaluate its performance.
  • - Clean and polish the vehicle inside and out, from top to bottom.
  • - Remove everything that does not go with the vehicle.
  • - Get all the required forms from your state Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • - Be prepared to give the buyer information about appropriate finance companies.
  • - Be prepared to suggest the name of a professional, bonded transportation company.
  • - Assure that you have insurance to cover the buyer during a test drive.
  • - Have your scrapbook (see Step #2) ready for prospective buyers.

7. When the call comes from a prospective buyer -

  • - Set up a time and place that will be conducive to discussion and inspection.
  • - Be prepared to facilitate the needs of a mechanic and appraiser.
  • - Be prepared to allow the buyer and his representatives drive the vehicle, without you.
  • - Have all the necessary papers and documents ready for review and signatures.
  • - Be prepared to accept or reject different forms of payment (such as checks, money orders, etc.) or to require the use of an escrow company.
  • - Have your library and resource materials ready to share.
  • - Know what your minimum price is and be prepared to negotiate.

Do not release the vehicle or title
until all documents have been signed and
you have received payment in full.

8. When you make the deal -

  • - Do not sign or release the title until you have received payment in full.
  • - Retain copies of all pertinent documents.
  • - If the vehicle is to be left in your care after the purchase is complete, give the buyer a set of pictures of the vehicle to assure there is no question about new damages.
  • - Require a substantial, non-refundable deposit, perhaps 25%, if the buyer wants you to take it off the market before committing to the purchase.
  • - Require a smaller refundable deposit, perhaps 10%, to hold the vehicle for a day or two, but do not take it off the market.

9. If the buyer leaves without committing to buy the vehicle:

  • - Get their phone number, so you can let them know if someone else shows an interest.
  • - Give them pictures or a promotional packet.

10. If a prospective buyer does not return:

  • - Give them two days and then call to see what they think.
  • - Be prepared to renegotiate the price.

11. If the vehicle is to be picked up by a transportation company:

  • - Require that the buyer be present or sign a document releasing you of all liability.

Here is some more information about antique, vintage and classic vehicles. You will find services and resources in our Business Directory.

* Pictures are from ads on and may not be used without the vehicle owner's permission.