Selling a car: Tips for selling a used car

Selling your car is a big deal for many. Sure, because often enough it’s about a lot of money. And very few people who offer their used cars for sale are experienced salespeople. There are a lot of stories circulating that can unsettle you – about car advertisements that go stale without any inquiries on the used car exchanges or about dealers who badmouth vehicles and want to buy them at outrageously low prices.


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But nobody should be put off by that, because with a few tricks, anyone can correctly assess their car and sell it at a good price. Whether the used car is best sold privately or at a dealer, or how to set the right price – AUTO BILD gives these and other tips on the subject of “selling a car”.

Private or dealer, how to sell?

Private sale: Selling a used car privately offers the seller a number of advantages: He can determine the price and the conditions himself. However, you also need a little patience for the sale on your own, because depending on the price segment the car is in, it can take a little time until a buyer is found. In order to sell the used car, the way usually leads to an advertisement – either on the Internet in used car exchanges or in the newspaper. If you like, you can also advertise your car in topic-related Internet forums or groups on social media. Here you will often find lovers who appreciate a certain model.
car purchase

In the case of small quirks, it is best to go on the offensive. In this way, the buyer realizes that there is nothing to hide.

A note in the car draws the attention of passers-by. An appointment for a viewing and test drive is then arranged with seriously interested parties – preferably with a trustworthy companion. A contract can be drawn up beforehand in which it is stipulated that the test driver is liable for damage and pays for any deductible and downgrading in the car insurance. Have your driver’s license shown in advance. If you agree, the private car sale should be recorded in writing in a purchase contract. Appropriate templates are available on the Internet (e.g. from the ADAC). Attention: Make sure that legal warranty is excluded.

Purchase or trade-in by dealer: If the car needs to be sold quickly, buying it through a dealer is the best choice. The price when buying is usually below the amount that could be achieved with a private sale, but the facts are quickly on the table, the seller does not have to deal with many inquiries or test drives. Nevertheless, a bit of time should also be invested here: Obtaining various offers can pay off. The prices that dealers pay for a car often vary greatly. The buyer is a professional who can assess the condition of the used car very quickly. Based on small defects, he will try to push the price down. In advance, you should therefore think carefully about where your own pain threshold lies.

It is also helpful to know the exact condition of the car (e.g. by checking a used car beforehand), so that no additional weaknesses can be “talked into” about. If you want to buy a new car as soon as you sell the old one, it might be worth trading in. The dealership where the new car is bought accepts the used car as a down payment. Here the dealers usually have a little more leeway than with classic purchases, since they also gain a new customer by trading in.

In general: Don’t sell to anyone! Become suspicious if the buyer accepts the price but rejects the other terms. Don’t respond to such “special requests”. If the buyer even becomes aggressive, cancel the purchase immediately.

Pay attention to this when selling privately

• Don’t sign anything the buyer brings! Only your own contract is signed. If the buyer puts pressure and wants a quick signature, cancel the sale. The seller sets the rules.
• Down payments are taboo! Exception: The rest is paid in cash upon collection. Never hand over a car if the purchase price has not yet been paid in full.
• Cash is king! Only those who hand over the purchase price in cash will receive keys and papers. Never accept promissory notes, wire transfers, credit cards, partial or installment payments.
• Hand over car only de-registered! Otherwise there is a risk of trouble if the buyer does not re-register the car as agreed. As long as the car is in your own name, you pay taxes, insurance and fines yourself. Even if the handover time is recorded in writing in the purchase contract.
• Report sale immediately! The registration office and the insurance company need to know that the car has been sold. Fax the purchase contract to both of them or send it by e-mail!

Set the right price for a used car

The most important thing when selling a car is of course the price. And in order to be able to assess exactly what the car is worth, sellers should contact each other beforehand get a rough overview of the market situation. Used car exchanges on the Internet, for example, can help here. Simply enter the data of the car to be sold there and you will get the results. If you look around a little, you will quickly get a feeling for how much you can still ask for your used car. But: The prices quoted in the advertisements usually form the basis for negotiations. In the rarest of cases, the car is sold at this price.
car purchase
Only accept cash when paying. Only final sale when the purchase price has been paid in full.

Market observer Schwacke, for example, provides further information. A vehicle valuation is carried out here for EUR 7.90, which also takes special equipment into account. The TÜV assesses the car even more precisely. However, this assessment also costs significantly more money. If the ad is followed by a real rush, this can be an indication that the price is too low. Conversely, if no one answers after a long time, the asking price may be exaggerated.

The optics are crucial

In order to sell the car successfully and at a good price, the optics are particularly important. Because before the equipment lists, service booklet and technical data, prospective buyers first see the car from the outside. The following applies: A car that makes a well-kept impression will arouse more interest than a used one that is dirty on the outside and crumbly on the inside. That’s why it should be washed again and polished if necessary before the first test drives. Pay attention to detail when cleaning: buyers will also inspect the tires and rims as well as the condition under the hood.
The interior should also be vacuumed and cleaned. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can have the interior cleaned by the conditioner for around 100 euros. Clear out storage compartments and trunk – everything that doesn’t belong in the car is thrown out. But beware: too much of a good thing can have negative effects. An engine wash might give the impression that suspicious traces of oil have been removed.

Small investments pay off

If you do minor repairs before you put the used car up for sale, you can often get a better price. A few paint damages or dents are quickly repaired, but improve the optics considerably. Ozone treatment can help with stubborn odors in the interior (e.g. nicotine), the costs for this are between 70 and 100 euros. If the main inspection is due in the next few months, the inspection can be brought forward. The buyer does not have to worry about being asked to make costly repairs by the TÜV shortly after purchasing the car.

Alternatively, a certificate from TÜV or Dekra creates trust. Depending on the inspection agency, the used car check costs between 60 and 120 euros and also takes the wind out of the sails of those who say bad things. Also important: check the oil and cooling water levels as well as the wiper water, check the tire pressure and check the functionality of the lighting. If something is wrong here, it quickly gives the impression that the car has been neglected.

Good presentation is half the battle

Once the used car has been pimped up and checked out, successful sales are ultimately just a question of presentation. Of course, the same principle applies here as in all other areas: whoever has something to sell advertises it. The car should be described comprehensively with all details – but above all honestly (!). In addition to all the equipment features and special features, defects are also listed. This creates trust with the potential buyer even before the first meeting. And – with private advertisements: pictures are the be-all and end-all. Without photos, the chances of selling decrease rapidly. But even with bad photos, only a few interested parties will contact you.

car purchase

Good photos increase the sales chances many times over. So invest some time here.

For example, anyone who wants to sell their convertible in the summer but shows it in the snow in the photos gives the impression that the car has been for sale since winter. So the pictures should speak the right language, in short: If you want to get rid of your garage car, it is snapped in front of the garage. The buyer sees: It was nice and dry. The completed service booklet is photographed. The buyer sees: the car is well maintained.

There is a small dent on the rear shown in the photos. The buyer sees: nobody has anything to hide here. At the same time, the interested party can already assess that the “small scratch on the driver’s door” is not as bad in reality as it sounds in the advertisement. If you want to further increase your sales opportunities and attract more attention, you can make a YouTube video, for example.

What documents are required for the sale?

When selling, the car should be handed over with all the accompanying documents. This not only includes the registration certificate parts I and II (vehicle registration and registration document) and all keys, but also the test certificate from the last main inspection and the service booklet. Any warranty certificates, maintenance or repair invoices should not be missing either. If something has been changed on the car, the respective acceptance reports and registration certificates must also be handed over.

Tips at a glance

• The most important thing when selling a car is the price. Sellers should therefore get a comprehensive picture of the current market situation in order not to sell below value, but also to avoid a dissuasively high amount.
• Small investments in a good polish, interior cleaning or small touch-ups pay off. A higher price can be asked for a well-maintained car and there are more interested parties.
• Buying a used car is a matter of trust, so one of the most important goals is to gain the buyer’s trust. The best way to do this is with transparency. Therefore: admit weaknesses and shortcomings openly. The best way to substantiate the condition of the car is with a professional appraisal.
• While haggling and negotiating is part of the used car business, if a potential buyer pushes them or talks about the car being worse than it is, that can be reason enough not to accept the deal.
• Don’t do without a sales contract even when selling privately. As long as the purchase price has not been paid (in cash!), under no circumstances hand over the car. Only sell deregistered and inform authorities and insurance immediately.

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