How to sell a used car

Follow these step-by-step tips to get top dollar

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From the June 2016 issue of the magazine.

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Ready to sell your used car yourself with an online ad? It can mean more money in your pocket than selling to a dealer. But it’s not easy. Here’s what you need to know before tossing the keys to a complete stranger.

1. Price it right

Want top dollar but don’t want to risk having the car sit in your driveway? Compare your wheels to what’s currently available on sites like autotrader.ca and carpages.ca, and set a realistic price. Remember that the age, make, model, mileage and features all play a large role in your car’s resale value. Be sure to leave some room for negotiation; buyers expect a little back and forth and may bolt if you appear inflexible.

2. Consider a makeover

Looks matter when it comes to selling a car. No one wants to get in a dirty, smelly car filled with discarded tissues and coffee cups. So give your car a good cleaning or, better yet, pay for professional detailing.

3. Get the word out

Along with the online auto sites, use social media and sites like Kijiji, Craigslist and eBay to reach potential buyers. Old school options like work bulletin boards and “For Sale” signs in your car window work, too. Spread the word among family, friends and co-workers, but be prepared for their desire for preferential pricing, or the potential for bad feelings should the car develop problems down the road.

4. Sell safely

Strangers at your home can be unnerving, so consider meeting in a public place, such as a parking lot at a mall. Bring along proof of regular maintenance and even a recent mechanic’s inspection, though they may still ask to have their own garage look it over. Whatever you do, don’t let a prospective buyer drive off with your car and make sure someone knows where you’re going.

5. Do your paperwork

Provinces and territories vary in how they regulate used car sales. In Ontario, sellers must purchase a Used Vehicle Information Package for $20 and have a garage certify the vehicle as safe; in B.C. sellers must pick up a Transfer/Tax Form from an Autoplan insurance broker. You may also need to pass an emissions test. Check with your Ministry of Transportation.

6. Seal the deal

It’s time to make things official. You’ll need to sign over the ownership (that little green piece of paper that lists the vehicle’s details and VIN) and collect the money from the buyer. When accepting payment remember that while cash is king, a money order is just as good.

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