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Tips and Advice to Sell Your Car Efficiently
by Travis Bowie

How to Sell Your CarWomen now purchase more than 50 percent of all new vehicles, 48 percent of all used vehicles and influence 80 percent of all sales. But as more and more women are out buying cars, the logic goes that the vehicles they are replacing must be sold. The process of selling a used car can be a daunting task for men and women alike. The questions start rolling through your head: How much is the old car worth? Do I trade it in to the dealer when I buy a new car? Or do I sell it myself? If I sell it myself, what's the most effective way? Will I have to paint my asking price in soap on the windows and leave it at the local mini-mall?

Over the last several years the Internet has emerged as a staunch ally to women shopping the market for a new vehicle. The breadth of online research tools and growing availability of "no haggle" price quotes have helped turn more women into savvy auto shoppers than ever before. And just as the Internet has helped prepare women to buy new cars, there are plenty of online tools available to help manage the selling half of the equation as well.

Online automotive classified listings are growing in popularity. According to a recent JD Power study, "Internet classifieds will likely surpass the traditional published classifieds within the next few years." The main reason they're becoming so popular is because they offer more sophisticated options and are generally less expensive than traditional printed classified listings.

The best way to start is to arm yourself with information. Begin by determining how much your old car is worth. Online used car guides like those available at Yahoo! Autos are a good place to start. You'll need to be prepared with some basic information about your car's make and model, mileage and a general idea of its current condition. Based on those basic details you can quickly and easily secure accurate estimates for how much a dealer in your area is likely to offer on a trade-in, or how much you might expect to make by selling the car yourself.

You'll quickly realize that trading your car into a dealer won't bank you as much cash. Dealers are in business to make money. They buy used cars wholesale, invest a fair amount polishing them up and prepping them for resale, and they expect to turn a profit. Buy low and sell high. That's the name of the game.

Of course, there is more to it than just money. Trading your car in to a dealer will probably save some time and at least some degree of effort. If you're not as concerned about how much money you get back on your old car, and you need to get it out of the driveway as quickly as possible, trading it in might be the right thing to do.

To get the best deal on a trade-in, you'll want to remember a couple things: Out of sight, out of mind — Focus on minimizing the problems you can see. Broken windows, scratched paint, exterior and interior blemishes, etc. Don't worry as much about changing the oil, getting an expensive tune-up or changing the spark plugs. Dealers almost always do these things on their own. They will most likely try and talk down your asking price based on what you both can see. The better the car looks, the better off you'll be.

Be prepared — Know what you old car is worth, know how much you want to get for it, and stand firm. Before you go in, set a baseline in your mind that you're not willing to break. If the deal isn't right, go somewhere else.

So maybe you looked at the numbers, want to make some extra money, and you've decided to sell the car yourself. There are a lot more options available to individual sellers than there used to be. Listing your car in the local paper or posting those oh-so-stylish black and orange "For Sale" signs in the window can prove effective, but those tactics are becoming a bit dated.

Online classified listings at Yahoo! Autos offer more sophisticated options that are almost always more cost-effective and can reach a broader audience. But even before you start advertising, there are several things you can do that will help ensure that in the end, you get the best deal.

Flatter your car — First impressions are important and the way your car looks will be the first thing any potential buyer will notice. Give it a good scrubbing inside and out. Spend some time polishing with a good car wax and run through the inside with a vacuum. Clean the armrests, the ashtrays, all the nooks and crannies, and even the trunk. Stale French fries lodged between the seat cushions might not be a fair indicator of the car's condition - but it's quite a turnoff nonetheless.

Keep the motor clean — Consider hosing off the engine with a degreasing agent.

Perform a general maintenance check — Change the oil and make sure all other fluids are topped off. Make sure the tire pressure is at the level outlined in the owner's manual.

Change the spark plugs — Many buyers request to pull a spark plug to check for deposits of oil, and to assess the condition of the engine. And if they don't ask, pull the new sparkplugs for them.

Get all your paperwork in order — Prepare a folder containing a list of all maintenance records, the owner's manual, registration and title. The more organized you appear, the more confident a potential buyer will be that you've taken good care of the car.

So now the car is shined up, the paperwork is in order and you're ready to sell. Here are some important tips that will help you move your old car quickly and effectively.

Consider selling online — At Yahoo! Autos, a Basic ad costs $14.95 for 21 days and allow sellers to post a color picture of their vehicle and gives them access to detailed ad statistics and reporting. Featured ads cost $24.95 and provide sellers at least two months of run time, an additional URL and email response links, featured placement and a thumbnail photo in the search results.

Show it off — If you choose the online route, or even if you decide to pay to run a photo in a printed classified listing, photograph your meticulously cleaned car with a flattering backdrop. Shooting it in an appealing location near a coastline, some mountains or in front of some greenery will look more impressive than standing next to a dumpster.

Monitor your listing — If you've listed online, then you'll probably have the ability to track how many people are viewing your car and clicking for more information. If nobody is clicking on your listing, you might want to consider changing the asking price or modifying the description. If you've listed in the paper, double-check the text of the ad. Typos are not at all uncommon.

Set up a meeting — Once people start responding to the ad, you'll want to carefully consider the best way to meet with them in person. Most people won't buy the car based on a picture alone and will likely want to kick the tires. For your own personal safety, ask the potential buyer to meet in a public location like a nearby super market parking lot. Don't invite strangers over to your house.

Bring a friend — Bring another person along to the meeting if possible. There is always safety in numbers and you'll probably feel more confident with a friend nearby when it comes to any negotiations.

Protect yourself — If they want to go on a test drive, ask to hang on to their driver's license. If they don't have one, they shouldn't be driving around in your car.

Get paid! — If they like the car and agree to a purchase, request cash or cahier's check. Don't accept a payment plan or personal check. Don't agree to accompany the buyer to "get the money." If the buyer is inclined to buy the vehicle an agreement can be struck to return to the same location at another date to make the exchange.

The market for selling used vehicles is very competitive and getting the best deal can be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. So do your homework and be prepared, because educated sellers are usually the most successful ones.

--Travis Bowie is the producer of Yahoo! Autos and is an expert in product management, business operations and classified listings management.