Sell Your Car Yourself, Screw the Dealership – Part 2

Car For Sale

Yesterday I talked about the old ways of selling your car on your own. While occasionally effective they don’t provide the best bang for your buck. With the advent of the internet there are many ways you can tap this ever growing population to not only list your car for sale but make sure it is directed towards the people most likely to want to buy it. While listing your car in the local paper classifieds is appealing your target audience, internet classifieds increase that audience 10 fold. Today we are going to take a look at how I actually went about selling my car.

The New Way

Did you know millions of people are on the internet all the time? THEY ARE. So why not sell your car on the internet. The best place to do that is on Craigslist, mainly because it is free and widely used. Craigslist isn’t just a place to find crackpots and scam artists, you can actually sell stuff on it. Really you can sell anything you want, of course I don’t have any experience with that, just selling a car so that is what I am going to focus on here. The key to selling your car quickly is to be as descriptive as possible so the potential buyer doesn’t have to do a lot of guessing. Below is my actual listing, minus some personal details (click to enlarge).

Probably the most important thing is to be honest, if you know something is wrong with the car state it up front. Don’t paint a picture of a perfectly sound car then spring the issues on them during the test drive. You will just piss them off.  My car sold within three days of placing my ad here are my suggestions on what to make sure you include to get your car sold fast.

  1. A Good title, include vehicle make, year, model, mileage, and one or two key features
  2. Be upfront about issues
  3. List out all of the features your car has
  4. Pictures, lots of pictures
  5. Be descriptive in your wording, lets face it talk sells
  6. Include your phone number, just because they are on the internet doesn’t mean they don’t want to deal with a real person
  7. Pictures, really pictures

I said pictures twice for a reason, people want to see what they are getting before they actually make a decision. Craigslist allows you to upload picture but they make them tiny and limit how many you can have. If you are a little web savvy you can actually host your own photos and just include them in the ad as <img> tags. I did it that way so the pictures were much bigger than the Craigslist Standard.

Once you have your ad make sure you are responsive to people who call about the car, I put one call off for 30 minutes and the lady had already bought another call. The guy who bought my car didn’t leave a message, I called the number back to see what he needed.

Make sure you wash your car, inside and out, before you bring it for a test drive. People don’t want to see your 3 month old McDonald’s wrapper in the car, they want to see you took care of your ride. It is best to clean your car the day before you list it otherwise you will be rushed to get it done in a hurry, like I was. It is really best to make sure you take pictures of your car while it is clean. As you can see from the photo in that ad I had a lot of brake dust on the wheels.

Be prepared to negotiate, have a price in mind you are willing to accept and stick to it. If you are asking $7 but know you will take $6 don’t balk at it when someone offers you $6, negotiate but don’t throw in the towel. I sold my car in 3 days for $2k more than I would have got a dealership. I only had to take it for two test drives. That is the last thing I will leave you with. If someone wants you to bring the car to them do it but do it someplace neutral. I met at a park and at a college campus, both heavily populated. Don’t risk your life but be accommodating, you are the one trying to make the sale.

Have you ever sold a car on Craigslist? How did it go?

photo: (hugo90)


1 Aaron @ Clarifinancial May 13, 2010 at 9:11 am

You did a great job of using a title that sticks out a little bit from other potential search results by starting it with “4×4”. You also included a lot of keywords that people would search on. For this particular vehicle, I would have mentioned “Honda Passport” in the bottom somewhere because they are siblings and anyone looking for a Passport should consider the Rodeo.

I sold a car in a day for more than I would have settled for on Craigslist. I didn’t have a clear title at the time, but that didn’t slow things down. Check your state’s laws. For a technical buyer, mentioning maintenance records (if you kept them) is great, as well as listing the VIN number, and go ahead and pull the CarFax report for them.

Also, the most common question is “why are you selling the car”, so answering that in the ad is the right. If you phrase it right, it can even help elevate your car above others. And figuring out how your car will be cross-shopped will help your description. Mentioning leather seats and other features in our Mazda Protege 5 helped it compare against VW GTI’s instead of VW Golf wagons.

I like that photo, but I would want to see at least one interior photo and possibly one more exterior photo. They should be as descriptive as possible – driver’s seat angle of dash and 3/4 exterior shots.

Also, make sure that you take cash, cash, or cash. If they want to give you a money order, check, cashier’s check or anything else, just meet up at their bank so they can give you cash.

2 Kyle May 13, 2010 at 9:15 am

On the pictures, I actually had I think 6 photos. The side shot, front, back, front seats, back seats, trailer hitch. I tried to make sure I had it all covered so people could see there were no major dings or dents. I wouldn’t have taken a money order but I did accept a cashiers check, it didn’t occur to me a cashiers check could be forged but I guess it is possible.

3 Kevin@OutOfYourRut May 14, 2010 at 9:31 am

Thanks for showing us the better way Kyle! Whenever I work with a car dealer, I can never escape the deep conviction that I’ll either pay more or get less than the best sale price/trade in. Anything done to eliminate dealers is a step toward financial sanity.

We’ll be selling a car soon, and while I’ve been hearning a lot about Craigslist, I’ve been a bit reluctant…until now reading this post.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Why Leasing a Car is a Bad Deal =-.

4 elan June 1, 2010 at 1:14 am

are people buying all sorts of different priced cars on craigslist? What I’m saying is, do people buy expensive cars on craigs list?

Also, how do you avoid getting scammed? Do you go with them to the bank to do the deposit? Do you check driver’s license?

5 Clint@CarDealers June 22, 2010 at 6:08 am

Nice Info Kyle. We should keep in mind those precautions while buying a used car. Also you are right images are very important they show the reality of car and make a nice picture of the car in buyer’s mind.

6 Carla July 18, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Thank you so much for this info! I had been considering the dealership but under the advice of my friends and parents… they suggested other options… including Craigslist. Thank you for the suggestions. REALLY good Post!!

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