How to Sell Your Car Yourself

You can trade in your old car in order to get rid of it and get money on it for the down payment on your next car. That’s not the most profitable way to dispose of your car. If you want to get the largest amount of money from it, you should try to sell your car yourself.

It can seem a bit of challenge, especially if you’re a student. After all, trading in a car really is easy. But you can get hundreds more if you sell a car yourself rather than trade it in. After all, the dealer fully expects to make a profit when he goes to sell your car, and he will largely extract that from you at the trade-in.

The dealer will accept a trade-in from you at the wholesale price. He’ll then sell the car to a buyer for the retail price and keep the difference for himself. That means that he’ll buy low from you on the trade in, and sell high to someone else.

Related: What To Look For In A Cheap Car

You can prevent this from happening – taking the full price of the car for yourself – if you sell it yourself. If you do, here are ways you can go about it…

Get the car ready for sale

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The first thing you want to do is establish a reasonable value for your car. You can do this easily with online car valuation sites, such as A site like this will allow you to see both the wholesale value of your car – what a dealer will give you on a trade-in – and the retail value, or what the car can reasonably be sold for.

If the difference is small, you may decide to go to trade-in route. But if it is significant, you can sell the car yourself and keep the full price for your next purchase.

Once you have the value established on the car, the next step will be to clean it up and get it ready for sale. This will obviously include a good wash and wax, which will mostly take time and a bit of elbow grease on your part.

You might also want to bring the car to a mechanic to get any obvious mechanical issues taken care of. A simple tune-up can help your car to run a lot better. It’s amazing how much the performance of the car improves just by doing a routine maintenance job such as changing the spark plugs.

Window signs

Once the car is cleaned up and ready for sale, your job will be to begin marketing the car. That starts by putting “for sale” signs in the car windows.

You should have one sign in the rear window, and one in each of the backseat windows on both sides. The bigger the signs the better, as long as they don’t obstruct your view. You should also make sure that the signs can be easily read. This may mean writing the information in block capitals rather than in script. You may want to consider writing in bold colors so that the signs can be easily read from a moving vehicle.

Include only the most basic information on the car – trying to cram too much onto a for sale sign will make it crowded and illegible. Include the year, make and model of the car, and either the price or the mileage (but not both – you don’t want to include too many numbers). The biggest and most important numbers on the sign will be your contact phone number.

Keep the signs in the windows at all times, and park in very obvious public areas as often as possible.


You can advertise the car in several places either for free or at very low cost. Start with your campus newspaper, but also check out advertising in the local area newspaper. Craigslist or Kijiji is another excellent place to advertise your car for sale. It is a virtual online classified ad publication that is read by thousands of people.

There are also some ways to advertise your car more directly. Make up a simple 8.5 x 11 flyer with basic information about the car, as well as a photo or two of the vehicle. Once again, your phone number should be clearly displayed. Placed flyers in local grocery stores, churches, laundromats and anywhere on your campus where you’re permitted to do so.  Another place might be the university bus stop. People ususally get sick of taking the bus and they may be looking to get a used car.

Related: Car vs Public Transportation – The Great Student Dilemma

The social media

Still one more advertising source you may want to try is any social media sites that you participate in. For example, you may want to put a weekly notice on Facebook that your car is for sale. You can have them click through to a Craiglist/Kijiji ad, or simply provide basic information in your Facebook update.

This can be an effective way to market your car if you have a lot of Facebook friends in your immediate geographic location. University students in particular are often looking for secondhand cars, so Facebook and other social media sites are natural places to let people know about it.

As you can see, you can market your car for very little money. And the higher amount that you’ll get for selling yourself, rather than trading it in to a dealer, will go right into your bank account and be available for the next car you buy. At a minimum, you should try to sell your car yourself, and only go the dealer trade-in route if you are unsuccessful in your efforts.

Have you ever tried to sell your own car yourself? Do you have advice for others who might do the same thing?

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10 years ago

Brian sold his car himself on Craigslist and we helped my parents do the same when they needed to sell their van.

10 years ago
Reply to  CF

Did you manage to get more than what the dealer offered you?

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