Getting the Best Deal on a Used Car

When selling a used car to a private party, you must be ready to negotiate. To be sure that you get the best price with the least amount of work, follow these simple steps when negotiating the sale.

What is Your Vehicle Worth?

Before you even post the sale of your vehicle, you need to know its value. You can visit an appraisal site, like Kelley Blue Book, to determine the market value using details such as mileage, make, model, and condition.

You could also have it professionally appraised. CarMax offers services that give you a written appraisal of your vehicle. These services can arm you with the information to reasonably determine a price to work with.

Understanding the Market

Knowing what a particular car is selling for in your area is as important as the actual appraised vehicle.

Search a few websites like Craigslist, AutoTrader, or eBay to see what other sellers are asking for the same vehicle.

If you have a highly desirable car, you can check online enthusiast forums to get an idea of local pricing estimates.


Get your car ready to sell by removing personal property and giving it a thorough cleaning, inside and out. This is a simple step and will give you a more attractive product when negotiations begin.

You should also think about what you look for in a car purchase. Anticipate questions that a buyer may have and have answers ready. The less hesitation you show when responding to these questions will lend more believability to the potential buyer.


If your buyer is ready to deal, you need to be ready to sell. As mentioned earlier, have the car cleaned out and ready to go. Just as importantly, the paperwork needs to be in order.

As a seller, you should have the following documents ready to present to the buyer:

  • A clear title showing that you are the owner.
  • Current smog certificate or inspection report.
  • Copies of service records.
  • A recent vehicle history report.

Bottom Line

Set your expectations so you know when to hand over the keys or when to walk away from the negotiating table. You should predetermine the lowest price that you are willing to accept.

You also need to be realistic. Trying to hold out for an inflated price may leave you disappointed and without a sale. Know what you have, what you want, and be flexible enough to get it.