How to Sell a Used Car

Beautiful Life

Selling a Used Car

I had donated to charity or sold my used cars to friends in the past.  Three weeks ago, it was my first time to sell my used car via the Internet.  I like to share my experience.  Please take it with a grain of salt.

#1. Setup an Excel spreadsheet to list possible sale prices from various sources

A seller wants to sell an item at maximum price.  I checked with various published car-info sources such as Kelley Blue Book (, for average selling prices for my used car, checked with for asking prices of comparable model and year in my neighborhood, and friends to gauge their interests.  In order to sell my used car, it would be helpful to know what would be an attractive price range to a used-car buyer.  For my 14-years old Acura, the prices are summarized in the following table.

Price SourcesCategoryTrade-inPrivateDealer Sale
Kelley Blue BookGood$1595$2630N/A
Craigslist.orgGood/CleanN/A$2200 - $6000N/A
Junk YardN/A$700N/A
Friends AGood/CleanN/A$700N/A
Friends B - mechanicsGood/CleanN/A$1700N/A

A recurring question is: "what is the optimum price to sell?" or "what is the optimum price to buy?"

  1. I would think that these days a typical used-car buyer would check Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book as a start to have good sense of what would be a "right" price range.  A car seller can ask for a unreasonably high price, but there would be likely no demand.  
  2. Next to check is  What is the supply and demand of the similar model and year in my neighborhood market during the last 3 months?  Like shopping for a house, if there are many similar models of used cars available in my neighborhood,  I may need to list my car at a little below-market price to sell it.
  3. Next to check with friends who have expressed interest.  My Auto-mechanic friend was willing to offer $1700 maximum. My other Auto-mechanic friend was willing to offer only $700, because his offer was based on the 180,000 mileage of my car, regardless of the make and model of the used car.

#2.  What values does my used car offer?

I think ... an ideal used car to a buyer would be a trouble-free, nice-looking exterior and interior car with attractive horsepower, easy steering, excellent brakes and tire quality, most importantly without engine and transmission issues.  For example, my car is blanco red which is rare among Acura Coupe in a used market.

#3. Known issues and any time-sensitive costs to waiting to sell?
  • Earlier tune-up revealed an engine gasket would need to be replaced, about $500 including parts and labor.
  • $100 DMV vehicle registration renewal fee was about to be due in two weeks
  • I only had the time to let buyer try out and sell the car on Saturday. (DMV are closed on Sunday)
  • I was about to travel out of United States for the next two weeks.

#4. Free-listing on
  • Considering Factors #1-#3 above, my asking price was $2500. I planned to be honest about the engine gasket replacement need.
  • Created a new Gmail account to dedicate for exchanging emails with potential car buyers. (This email account was deactivated after the car was sold)
  • Entered a subject with relevant keywords, such as the car make, model and year with asking price, to allow Google and Craigslist search to find it
  • Posted the best-looking recent photo of my car.  Yeah, after a $30 interior and exterior car wash.
can't believe the car is 14 years old ...
  • In the listing description, asked interested buyers to contact via email.  
  • In subsequent email exchanges, I would be ready to provide my cell phone number to arrange a meeting time and location, NOT my home address.  I prefer to provide a free US/Canada disposable phone number, for example, from Pinger iOS (with free 60 minutes), or Pinger Android, with free voicemail service.

#5. Price negotiation and Payment Arrangement

I posted the sell listing on on Friday afternoon.  Within a couple hours, email requests started coming in.
  • When the interested buyer was an auto-mechanic, they always first said my asking price was too high and threw me the lower value listed by  I crossed out auto mechanic calls quite quickly, because they try to make a profit by re-selling the car later.
  • One of the first interested buyer was a father living from 2-hours driving away.  He indicated that he was buying it for his college-bound daughters.  I was honest to him about the engine gasket issue.  He did not complain anything about the price or the car.  He sounded genuine; I lowered the price to $2300.  We decided to meet on Saturday morning to test drive my car.
  • We applied car title transfer at the nearest AAA office which opens on Saturday for AAA member.  (I am a member of AAA car-service, not insurance)
  • Payment should be in cash or money order.  We went to a local WellsFargo bank to verify the cash bills were authentic.  They ran the check for free.
  • As soon as the car title was transferred, I contacted my auto insurance company to remove the car from coverage.  I already released my liability to the car because of a form signed at AAA office.
I posted the selling ads in on Friday, sold the car on Saturday morning, started a new insurance for my SUV on Saturday, and travelled to Taiwan with the peace of mind on the following Thursday night for one week.  Looking back, I might be able to sell the car at several hundred dollars more if I spent more efforts and time.  But the low price probably got the attention of the Dad.  I preferred to help out someone.  I was able to avoid paying the $100 vehicle registration renewal fee.  And I am still in jet-lag mode after returning from Taiwan, catching up work and gathering with friends.

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