How to Sell a Used Car: A Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide

Posted on
3 min to read


Selling a used car can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can be a smooth and rewarding process. Whether you’re upgrading to a new vehicle or just looking to downsize, following these steps will help you sell your car at the best price.

1. Prepare your car for sale

Before listing your car, make sure it’s in the best possible condition to guarantee the highest value. Start by thoroughly cleaning and detailing your car, both inside and out. Vacuum the interior, clean the upholstery and give the exterior a good wash and wax. 

Next, perform any necessary maintenance such as an oil change, tire check and brake inspection to ensure your car is running smoothly. Then gather all relevant documentation, including the title and maintenance records.

2. Determine your car’s value

Understanding your car’s value will help you set a competitive price. Start by researching the market value using online tools like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. These resources provide a good estimate based on your car’s make, model, year, mileage and condition.

Additionally, consider local market trends that might affect your car’s value. Set your price slightly above your target to allow room for negotiation. For a more in-depth assessment of your vehicle’s value, consider getting a used car appraisal.

3. Decide where to sell your car

There are several strategies for selling your car that offer specific advantages. The best option for you will depend on the type of car you’re selling, your desired sale price and how quickly you want to sell it.

Private sale

Selling privately may get you more money, but it takes longer and requires extra precautions for safety. A private sale will require you to do all of the work, from advertising and promoting your sale to screening buyers and handling the payment. 


Trading in your car at a dealership offers convenience, though you might receive a lower price. Dealerships offer a higher level of security than a private sale and may come with unique trade-in offers that could go toward your next car purchase. 

Online car-selling platforms

Online car-selling platforms like Autotrader and offer broad exposure and ease of use. Furthermore, there are several niche online marketplaces designed to connect sellers with the right audience. 

For example, Bring-A-Trailer and Hemmings specialize in collector cars and hard-to-find vehicles that might not sell on a standard used car website. To find the best platform for your needs, check out our blog featuring the 13 best used car sites.

4. Create a compelling listing

A compelling listing is key to attracting buyers. Write an honest and detailed description of your car, including the make, model, year, mileage, condition and features. Take high-quality photos that showcase your car from various angles and in good lighting.

Highlight any unique selling points such as aftermarket accessories, new tires or an excellent maintenance history. Be transparent about your car’s condition, especially if it has any issues.

5. Screen potential buyers

When inquiries start coming in, respond promptly and provide any additional information requested. Arrange to meet potential buyers in safe, public places and consider bringing a friend along. This step helps ensure that both you and the buyer feel comfortable during the transaction process.

6. Negotiate and complete the sale

Be prepared to negotiate the price with potential buyers. Knowing your car’s value and having a firm minimum price in mind will help you avoid haggling. Remember, the goal is to reach a fair agreement that satisfies both parties.

Once you’ve agreed on a price, it’s time to handle the payment safely. Accepting cash, a cashier’s check or an electronic transfer are generally secure methods. Sign over the title to the new owner, following the necessary legal steps for transferring ownership. Providing a bill of sale is also crucial as it serves as a written record of the transaction.

After the sale is complete, remember to cancel your car insurance and report the sale to your local DMV. This will help you avoid any future liabilities associated with the vehicle. 


Selling a used car involves several steps, but with careful preparation and research, you can achieve a successful result. Take your time to complete each step thoroughly and don’t hesitate to seek additional resources. 

If you locate a long-distance or out-of-state buyer, consider working with a professional auto transporter to ship the vehicle to its destination. While it often comes down to the buyer to arrange shipment for their purchase, it’s helpful to have a reputable auto transporter to reference. 

Montway Auto Transport provides car shipping services for car resellers in all 50 states. Since 2007, Montway has worked to deliver an efficient and streamlined car shipping experience, earning its reputation as one of the nation’s top-rated auto transport companies. With over 30,000 carriers nationwide, Montway provides reliable transport for all vehicle types including cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and more.

Get an instant quote