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Ready to sell your car? Your options include selling it via a dealer, a used-car retailer like CarMax, or selling it on your own.

Not everyone wants to trade in their car or truck to a dealer or a used-car retailer, especially because those guys take a percentage of the sale. Instead, many sellers choose to market the car themselves to maximize profit.

Whether you want to upgrade to a new model or just get rid of your old ride, you can sell the vehicle yourself. It just takes a little (and sometimes a lot) of work. Here's what you need to know about selling your car privately.

Looking good

"Appearance is everything when it comes to selling a used car," says Joyce Chou, a legal writer who sold her 2009 Honda Civic privately. "That means deep cleaning it, both inside and out."

Wash and wax the vehicle. Be sure to clean all the trouble spots like the grille and the wheels, both of which tend to collect grime.

Chou recommends removing trash from the vehicle; vacuuming away crumbs, pet hair and other debris; and wiping the seats with an all-purpose cleaner.

"Details go a long way," she says, encouraging sellers to dust between the car's heating/air conditioning vents and knobs, too.

Use an air freshener, as well. She says baking soda is a great DIY freshener.

Consider doing basic maintenance like an oil change or getting new tires. Fix dents, if possible. Major fixes and upgrades aren't worth the added expense.

After the car is cleaned, take great pictures. Photograph the interior and exterior, and don't forget to show specific features like the steering wheel, trunk space, dashboard and more. The more photos you include in your listing, the better. Buyers will have the chance to see more of the vehicle and will be less likely to contact you asking for more images.

Price it right

To make sure you get the best price, research the vehicle's value. Check out pricing guides like Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides. Get an idea of your car's value by searching the Edmunds appraisal site. And price your vehicle for negotiation, too.

"Once you know the market value, list your price within a reasonable range, keeping in mind that you will most likely be asked to knock a couple hundred dollars off of the final cost," says Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate for personal finance comparison website Finder.

When determining the sale price, factor in any modifications or repairs you've made, as well as the car's maintenance records.

"Buyers like to see that they are purchasing a car that has been taken care of and kept up to standard," says McDermott, who recommends providing documentation of those repairs.

Paper trail

Get your paperwork in order. "Gather all documents and paperwork pertaining to your car, including a vehicle history report, maintenance records, an odometer disclosure, vehicle title, and emissions certificate," says Mike Jones, president and CEO of autopom, a company that sells extended warranties and vehicle protection plans.

Chou advises reading up on your state's vehicle sale requirements. She explains, "It's possible you may need an official bill of sale to legitimize the transaction and transfer ownership."

A bill of sale also helps clear up expectations and any potential misunderstandings, such as fines or tickets. Once the car sells, be sure to contact your insurance company to update your policy.


Be honest about anything a buyer needs to know. Those vehicle history reports will show a lot. But it's smart to share all the facts.

Was the car involved in a minor fender bender? Was there a safety recall and when did you get it fixed? Transparency is essential.

"The buyer will feel comfortable knowing they are getting a fair and honest deal," says McDermott.

List it

More than ever, you have many options for listing your car for sale. Go the traditional route and place a sign in the vehicle's window and tell everyone you know that your car is for sale. Place ads in the local newspaper. Or get high tech and advertise it on social media or on Craigslist and AutoTrader.

Write an informative listing that will entice buyers to contact you. Sweeten the deal if you can by adding in extras, like a spare tire or floor mats. Would-be buyers appreciate the bonuses as an incentive to purchase.

Next, be patient. It can take time to sell your vehicle, especially if you're doing it on your own.