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10 Rules for Getting the Most Money When Selling Your Car

For most of us, selling a car is a stressful experience and can feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. By following a few simple rules, you can ensure that you will get top dollar for your car.

Rule 1: Sell the car yourself. You’ll only be getting wholesale value for your car (if that) if you trade it in at a dealership. They can buy 10 more just like yours at a wholesale auction, so that’s the value they’ll put on it.

Rule 2: Clean it inside and out. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If the outside of the car is dirty and the inside looks like a Happy Meal exploded about a month ago, that is a pretty good indication that you have not treated your car very well. It’s also a major irritant to all five of their senses.

Rule 3: Tighten anything loose. Shake, rattle and roll is not what you want to hear when test driving a used car, so secure that loose tire wrench, tighten the screws on that wobbly mirror, etc.

Rule 4: Ensure all lights work. A car with a burned out interior light or one dead headlight screams lack of care and, of course, is extremely noticeable after dark.

Rule 5: Replace wiper blades. If your wiper blades do more smearing than wiping, then Murphy’s Law suggests that there will be a torrential downpour the day you show your car to prospective buyers.

Rule 6: Keep all maintenance records. Nothing says to prospective buyers that your car has been well cared for like a stack of receipts from every type of maintenance done—right there in the glove box.

Rule 7: Determine your car’s value. Look up your car’s value online at This site will give you the Clean Retail, Clean Trade-In, Average Trade-In and Rough Trade-In values of your car. “Trade-In” refers to what you might get if you traded it in at a car lot. “Retail” is close to what you should expect to get by selling it to an individual.

Rule 8: Advertise for free. No sense wasting your profits on ads when Craigslist, Local Sales Network and other effective and free options exist. And don’t forget to let your family and friends know too.

Rule 9: Offer a two-hour showing. Instead of letting every call and inquiry end up in another night spent showing your car to a different person, let callers know that you will be showing it from 2-4 p.m. this Sunday at the front of the Walmart parking lot (pick your time and place). This way you only take two hours of your time, and prospective buyers will know that others are interested too, which helps you get the price you are asking.

Rule 10: Cash only, or close the deal at a bank. If the buyer doesn’t have cash on him, meet him at his bank to close the deal. This will ensure that any cashier’s check you may take is legitimate.

Danny Wilson can be reached at 615-690-1434 or by email at

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