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After many miles together, it’s time to put the family truckster up for sale. Selling a vehicle on your own can be a challenge, but following these simple steps can help you get the most money for your vehicle and avoid the pitfalls of DIY sales.

Assemble the Proper Documents

First, you’ll want to get documentation together to prove you own the vehicle. This includes the vehicle title and original bill of sale. Be sure you have a copy of the current registration record as well as any VIN verifications you have had done on the vehicle.

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If you still have the vehicle’s Monroney (the window sticker) from the initial sale, add that to the pile as well. Having the Monroney available will help you accurately come up with a list of features your vehicle is equipped with.

Next, it’s time to build the service history of your vehicle. If you haven’t kept all of your service receipts, but you had all services done at one location, like the dealership, see if they can print you a service history. Also, get a copy of the vehicle’s history from a service like Carfax or AutoCheck.

In states that require a vehicle inspection prior to registration, it may be helpful to have inspection records on hand for any potential buyer. If you don’t have those available, scheduling an inspection and having that most recent record on hand may expedite a sale.

Spruce Up Your Ride

Once all your documentation is in place, it’s time to do your own inspection and replace things that are easily and cheaply fixed to up the value of your automobile. Check to ensure headlamps and taillights are in working order, including the bright lights and brake lights. Make sure the rearview mirror isn’t coming away from the windshield. Work out minor dents and spot-fix paint chips and scratches.

You may even want to have a professional perform basic maintenance like a tire rotation and alignment or an oil change. This is also a good time to top off your fluid levels and replace windscreen wipers.

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Whether you decide to do it yourself or spring for the full treatment from a local car wash, you’ll want to be sure it's as clean as possible inside and out. If you have a stain on the interior, do your best to spot treat it and get it out. It may be helpful to use a can of compressed air to get dander out of the crevices, which even the best car wash can miss cleaning.

Photograph Your Car

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To capture your car best from every angle, do your photo-shoot when the sun is not directly overhead. Shooting late in the afternoon or early in the morning will help you avoid window and chrome glare in your photographs. 

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Be sure to take pictures of all the essential features of your vehicle, including the odometer. Also, you’ll want pictures that clearly identify any flaws your vehicle has, like scratches in the paint, holes in the interior seating material, and stains on the floor mats. If a potential buyer wants to see the severity of the flaw, you’ll be able to quickly send a photo to them.

Determine You Car's Value

When you want to get cash for your car, you want to get the most possible out of the buyer. To determine what your car is worth, use online resources to competitively shop (our used car pricing tool is a good start). Plug in the make and model of the vehicle you’re looking to sell and search for what others are asking for theirs. Prices may vary by region of the country, so be sure to look for listings close to home. EBay’s Advanced Search option allows you to research completed sales for your make and model, which can get you closer to understanding what actual transaction prices are.

List Your Car

Websites offer multiple approaches to helping you sell your used car. Get to know them and find which ones are the best fit for you. Here are the details on some of the more popular listing sites:

  • Cars.com – Using your vehicle’s VIN, photos, and a quick description of its condition, buyers can get fast online offers for their vehicle directly from dealers. Or, sellers can choose an in-person appraisal at a local dealer. This site also offers a number of listing options if you want to open your vehicle’s sale to the public.
  • TrueCar – Sell your car via the TrueCar mobile app. Upload the information buyers want to see and get an offer from a TrueCar Certified Dealer.
  • Craigslist – This website offers a free classified listing of a vehicle, complete with the ability to show off your vehicle in a number of photographs.
  • AutoBlog – Using an AOL account, log in to create a free classified listing with up to 12 photographs. You can also use their site to compare listings of cars and trucks that may be similar to your vehicle.
  • Autotrader – Describe your vehicle, upload up to 27 photos, and use a pricing tool that can help you determine your asking price. The site also offers a visitor counter, so you can see how many people are seeing your listing. Listing prices start at $25.

Once your car is listed, the waiting game begins. Most sites say to expect an offer in one to two days, but don’t be surprised if you start getting inquiries for additional information within a few hours, especially from dealerships.

[Read How to Sell an Upside Down Car]

Meet the Buyer

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There are many pitfalls to selling a vehicle online, but most are easily avoidable by being aware and using common sense. Remember to consider your safety first.

If you receive an offer from an individual who is interested in seeing your vehicle in person before committing to a sale, arrange to meet in a public space, like the parking lot of a police or fire department.

[Read Should You Sell Your Car?]

Though you have negotiated a price and are ready to formally turn over your vehicle, do not cancel the online classified you have posted. There is always a chance a buyer will back out at the last minute. Cancel those listings once you have received payment and formally turned over the title and keys to the vehicle.

Exchange Payment

Beware of how an individual is offering to pay for a vehicle. Craigslist cautions against many types of transactions, warning that a seller should never extend payment to anyone they haven’t met in person and never accept wire funds or cashier's checks. Cash is king.

When you have agreed on a price and are exchanging payment for the vehicle, it is a good idea to have a third party present and to do the exchange in a public space. Many police departments offer their parking lots as a safe selling space and can arrange for an officer to witness a sale for buyer and seller protection.

Make up a bill of sale if you are selling your vehicle to an individual. There are several templates available online. A bill of sale should include the vehicle’s VIN and each party’s contact information. Ensure that both parties have a signed copy.

After you’ve turned over the title and keys to your car, you’re going to need a way to get home. Don’t forget to arrange a ride.