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5 Worst Mistakes When Selling Your Car

5 Worst Mistakes When Selling Your Car

It’s time for a new set of wheels. Maybe you’re ready for something newer, faster, bigger. Or maybe your current ride is collecting problems faster than your paycheck can cover. Either way, you need to get as much money as possible from your old car. But stumble into one of these common pitfalls, and you could lose hundreds of dollars or blow the sale entirely.

Here are five of the worst mistakes to make when you are selling a car, and how you can avoid them:

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Skip the Wash


If your car is full of dog hair, stale cheerios and food wrappers, the trash distracts a potential buyer from seeing your car’s actual condition. A washed car always looks better and a clean interior always smells better, making your ride more enticing all around. This also shows the buyer that you take care of your car.

At the very least, do a thorough vacuum and scrubdown. With this illustrated guide, washing and drying will take you about an hour. Plan on a full detailing if your asking price is more than $5,000. This includes shining the interior, washing the windows inside and out, and applying a glossy new coat of wax.

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Head Straight to the Dealer


One of the easiest ways to unload your old car is to trade it in at the car dealer, where selling and buying happen in one step. However, this gets you the least amount of money for your car. Trading in a 2009 Hyundai Elantra (for example) nets you a $5,400 credit at the dealer, but puts $6,800 in your pocket if you sell the car yourself. Overall you’ll save several hundred dollars, even if you need to rent a car for a few days before you buy your next set of wheels.

Use the Wrong Price

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Tips for selling your car

    Many people don’t realize there is more than one blue book — using the right price from the right book makes a big difference. The well-known NADA Guide lists retail prices for dealers and banks but isn’t a good source when selling your own car. Use a site like Kelley Blue Book to find the private party value (the term for selling your car directly to another person). Enter in your zip code, select your car’s options and estimate its condition to determine fair market value.

    Forgetting the Paperwork


    Before you list your car, get all of the paperwork together. Make sure you know where the title is and get two copies of a bill of sale (one for you, one for the buyer). These are often available for free at your local DMV office; if you use a blank template, make sure it’s valid for your state. Keeping a copy of the bill of sale is important for two reasons: first, it helps protect you from liability if the buyer is in an accident before they transfer the title into their name. Second, the “as-is, where-is” clause reiterates that you aren’t including any warranty or making any promises about the condition of the car.  Ultimately, it’s up to the buyer to inspect the car for mechanical issues before they buy.

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    Take a Check

    Tips for selling your car

      Scams with cashier’s checks have been in the news for years. If you aren’t familiar with this rip-off, it goes like this: You get an email from someone that’s living in another town or out of the country or otherwise unavailable. They want to buy your car sight unseen and send you a cashier’s check for the full asking price. It sounds too good to be true because it is — resist the temptation of this seemingly quick sale. But even if a buyer meets you in person, it’s generally not a good idea to accept a cashier’s check (which may be forged) or a personal check (which can have the payment stopped after they drive away). It’s best to take cash only. If you feel uncomfortable driving around with thousands of dollars in your pocket, have the buyer meet you at your bank to finalize the sale.

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      Last Updated on March 4, 2019

      How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

      How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

      Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

      I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

      Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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      Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

      Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

      Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

      I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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      I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

      If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

      Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

      The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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      Using Credit Cards with Rewards

      Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

      You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

      I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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      So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

      What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

      Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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