I recently sold my car, a 1999 Corolla with 140K miles on it. I bought it 3 years ago for $3,000. And I sold it for… $3,000. I am about as far as you can get from being an expert on cars, but here’s what little advice I have to offer.
- Change the oil frequently. Some people will tell you that this isn’t necessary, but older cars can burn off quite a bit of oil. We found it frugal to use Valvoline for our oil changes. With a $10-off coupon, they cost about $50, but come with free top-offs in between changes, which it itself would have been $30-$35 worth of oil. By keeping the oil clean and full, we preserved the value of our car, as well as our own safety while driving it.
- Perform regular maintenance. This car did need some maintenance over the three years we owned it, and almost all of that maintenance could have been put off. However, putting it off would have made the car unsafe and raised the chance of more expensive maintenance in the future. Replacing a $90 serpentine belt can save thousands in repairs, so preventative maintenance is key.
- Advertise online, but don’t underestimate the sign in the windshield. Craigslist is a great place to advertise car sales for free, but what ended up working for me was parking the car in a visible spot with a bright orange posterboard in the windshield displaying the mileage, price, year, and my phone number. Write large and clear, and don’t bother with “for sale”… that’s obvious.
- Price fairly. Know the Blue Book value of your car, be realistic about the condition, and then choose a price that’s a bit over what you’d like so that you have room to bargain.
- Be honest. This one might not help you sell your car, but I just feel like it’s really important. If there’s anything about the car that makes it unsafe or requires costly repair or maintenance, be sure you disclose that information and price accordingly. You should expect that potential buyers will want to drive the car and may also want to have their mechanic check it out.
- Give yourself time to get the price you want. If you are in a rush to sell, you’ll find there are many people happy to pay you much less than you’re asking. By giving yourself time to sell, if possible, you can wait for the best possible offer.
- Put some elbow grease into it. It’s hard for potential buyers to see themselves in your car if there’s trash in the backseat and your junk in the glove compartment. Wash the car, vacuum the inside carefully, and clean any stain or spots on the interior. Empty the car of any personal items or garbage, and put any service records you have in the glove compartment (black out any personal information first). I ordered new hubcabs for my car on Amazon for about $25, and it made a huge difference in the way the car looked.
I was really glad to be able to sell my car and put that $3,000 toward my student loans. I’ll need another car in November, but I don’t need one until then, and it’s nice to be free of the insurance cost and the worry of having a car for a little while.
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