How to Get Top Dollar For Your Private Sale

By , 8/27/2019

Selling your car can be very profitable, follow these tips to make the most out of your sale.

Selling your car on your own versus trading it in can earn you thousands more. However, lackluster ads and questionable photos can do you more harm than good. Here are a few simple tips to make sure you get the most out of your sale.

Now that we have established that selling your car on your own is the best way to get the most return on your investment, but how do you go about getting the most out of your sale? Use these car selling tips to make the most of your sales. 

Selling your old car comes down to old school tactics mixed with ingenuity and tenacity. Using the right methods could earn you thousands more than you would have gotten with a trade in and possibly earn you more than a similar car to yours listed on the same sites. 

Here are some quick tips to make sure you get the most out of your private sale.

Clean Your Car

Before you go out and get any photos, make sure you clean your car! While this seems like such a simple task, it often goes overlooked. Many people either get lazy or just want to “throw it up online and see what happens”. Don’t fall into that trap! It takes at most an hour or so to give your car a quick vacuum, clean out the McDonald’s bags in the back seat, and for the love of your chosen entity, please take those stickers of the window you let your kid put up. Don’t let them do that anyway! 

A simple cleaning can literally be worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Depending on how bad your car is, investing in a professional detailing might be a good idea. The return on the investment could be more than worth it. Organizing your vehicle is important as well. Take the air fresheners down, put the cords and chargers away in the glove box and take all the tchotchkes down from your dash. 

For the exterior, get a car wash. Please don’t show up to a meet up with dirt all over your car and bird poop dripping down the side window. Typically, when I first put my car up for sale I give her a good deep cleaning, wax and polish, and tire shine. Not all of us have the time to do this kind of work or the three-year-old that is as obsessed with cars as I am, and that is understandable. Going through a good car wash and choosing the highest level works as well. Get “The Works”. Investing in a detailing for the exterior would do wonders for your photos and that initial wow factor. Remember, first impressions are lasting. 

Make sure you do this before you take your photos. 

Take Good Photos

One of the most important parts of selling your car is taking high-quality photos. As the old homage goes, a picture says a thousand words, and this is more true with car sales than anywhere else. You can have the best description in the world, but if your photos are not great, people won’t see your great car. 

When taking photos, make sure you include every angle of the car. Take photos of all four corners, directly in the front, back, and both sides. Inside take a photo of all four seats with the door open, take a picture of the steering wheel, center council, and open trunk as well. That’s already at least 15 photos and covers the entire car. I will typically take photos of anything else important to the car. Brand new tires, important features, or things that you like about the car. Is there an important feature you like, or maybe a favorite angle of the car? Take a pic of it! If you like it, chances are other people will too. 

Using a high-quality camera in the right lighting will do wonders for your photos as well. The better the camera, the better the photo. Most newer smartphones will take good enough photos, but if you have a DSLR camera or one that takes great photos, by all means, use it. 

A good background is important as well. Surrounding your vehicle with broken down buildings or dilapidated roads will make your vehicle look worse. Similar to how surrounding yourself with successful people will help to make you more successful, surrounding your vehicle with a beautiful background will help make your car look more beautiful. 

A Good Description

A good description is almost as important as the photos. When posting your vehicle, be sure to include a description that includes all applicable information. To start, the basics. Year, make model, price, miles, engine, drivetrain, color, transmission, and type of car (sedan, hatch, SUV, etc). These basic pieces of information alone are often left out of a vehicle description and will turn away most buyers looking for specific information. 

After that, I always include other standout features. I typically stay away from listing things like seatbelts or four wheels as a feature, but special features like back up camera, heated seats, automatic climate control, premium sound system, infotainment systems, and things like that are great selling points and should be pointed out in the description. 

Always make sure you included your contact info! I see many ads on cars that forgot to add their contact info and now it's a useless ad! 

I also like to put a short description of the vehicle. Any other additional information you would like to include like maintenance history, special care you took, parts replaced, or anything along those lines. Anything that you may find interesting when searching for a car, someone else probably would too. 

Lastly, be honest. Don’t lie in your ad. If there is an issue with the vehicle, make it clear before the buyer shows up. Nothing will turn a buyer away faster than a lying salesman. 

Get a Tune Up

Now I’m not saying that you need to fix every problem on your car. Current problems could be part of the reason you are selling in the first place. However, if your vehicle is making a weird noise, squeaking when braking, or has some very simple issues that “just require a little work”, go ahead and take care of them before selling. It is much easier to tell a potential buyer “No issues” rather than listing out the seven things that could easily be fixed beforehand. 

Use Keywords

If you want to get your vehicle seen by more people, use relevant keywords or tags. People searching for specific types of cars will often not realize a different vehicle will fit their needs. Moreover, people that are searching for specific features such as “AWD Sedan”, “Hatchback car”, or “Third-Row SUV” might not see your vehicle if you aren’t using the proper tags. At the very bottom of your description add a “Tags” section and then list commonly searched words that apply to your vehicle. For example, for the Subaru Legacy that I am currently selling, I included tags such as AWD sedan, manual trans, Bluetooth, etc. These tags will help get more impressions on your car, and help get it in front of more people. 


Selling your car can sometimes prove harder than we think. Sifting through the random calls, keeping in contact with potential buyers and heading out to meetups can all add up to be a second job! But starting off on the right foot is going to get you top dollar for your car. 

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