I was asked by a friend how to sell my used car and responded with a smile that was both loaded with skepticism and experience.
Having been in the world of professional detailing for the past 25+ years, I get to observe the world of car care and car selling from an entirely different vantage point than most people.
Selling your used car is something I see many people attempt to do, but go about it with little to no strategy and understanding of how the process takes place in the real world.
My experience has shown that most people lack enough industry experience regarding a process that is difficult at best, and completely frustrating and discouraging at worst.
"Just as most people accept the need to put some "curb appeal" into their home before they sell it. The same holds true with selling your used car. The problem is many people lack the understanding of the best way to go about this."
With that said, let me lay out the actual steps and then I will teach you a strategy for each step of this process.
Step 1) Wash and vacuum car
You don't have to over think this. I recommend you simply find the least expensive local car wash and have the grunt work done for you. Go with the cheapest car wash service available. All you are trying to do here is remove the chunks from the car and a quick vacuum job so you can put your time and energy into the more important steps of this process.
Step 2) Detail engine
This will not be for everyone. It is easier to do than you think, but most people will be intimidated by the thought of doing it. But most people will want to pop the hood and have a look at your engine at a minimum. And yes, a clean engine strongly suggests you have taken care of your car and makes for great presentation. You can get a can of Gunk engine degreaser and follow the directions on the label. It is surprisingly effective and surprisingly easy. It is what I used to use back when I was a teenager selling my first car. The Gunk engine dressing will add some shine to your engine and will really make your engine pop after you have degreased it.
Gunk Engine Degreaser
Gunk Engine Dressing
Step 3) Remove all personal belongings and de-personalize your car.
This means to literally remove everything that you either want to keep, or that needs to be thrown away. Check all compartments including trunk, glove box, center console, sun visors, storage compartments you may have forgotten even existed in the back.
This also means to remove any hanging placards from the rear view mirror, parking passes, stickers from inside or outside of windows or from the car paint.
Step 4) Spray tire dressing into the wheel wells.
This will not make sense to most of you, but by simply spraying the inside of your wheel wells, it will make them look dark and black so as to disguise the dull, faded wheel wells. An easy and temporary way to enhance the overall appearance of your car.
Nothing fancy here, just any form of tire dressing you may already have around the garage. Or you can use the Armor All link just below that can be used on the wheel wells and the tires at the end of this "sell my used car" checklist.
Step 5) Use Magic Eraser to remove any scuffs on the inside/outside of your car.
There is a reason this white little sponges are called magic. They are truly amazing at cleaning away dirt and transfer an virtually any hard surface. From the outside of your car where you will have endless little scuff's of dirt that traditional washing and waxing will not remove. Use to remove the build-up of finger nail scratches usually found just behind the door handle pulls of each door. Go around and see if you don't find tiny bumper scratches and scuffs that this little white tool can quickly remove with either tap water or your choice in an all-purpose cleaner.
On the inside of your car use to remove the scuffs on the door sill/kick plates usually put there by your feet as you get in and out of your car. Go lightly at first as these amazing sponges will eventually abrade any material if you rub long and hard enough. But you are in control and you will be amazed at the effectiveness of these little sponges.
Step 6) Apply spray wax and wax your car
I recommend a spray wax for this part as this the easiest form of wax to use and all we are looking for here is a little visual enhancement to your cars paint. And once again, don't over think this. This product from Armor all will do the trick and you can reapply very quickly before each time you want to show the car and can even be used as a waterless car washing if you don't allow the dirt to become too excessive in between showings.
Step 7) Clean windows inside and out
Don't underestimate the power of super clean windows both inside and out. Many people will allow there windows to go without cleaning for months and months. The haze that builds up is a real turn off for people.
Step 8) Dress tires
You all ready have the tire dressing for this from above. Now you just need to apply it to your tires to really make them pop and shine.
Step 9) Advertise your car
From AutoTrader.com to Craigslist, these are the two I go to first. When I use AutoTrader, I elect to pay for the upgrade that will keep my posting live until it sells. You never know what the market is going to be like, or what demand your car will have. You don't want to have to keep paying money over and over to renew your ad if it doesn't sell in a short time. Every situation will be different, but I have had cars listed for months until that one right person happens along and buys up my car.
Step 10) Write a compelling ad for your used car
This is where you need to get creative. Put yourself in the buyers shoes and read your ad out loud or to someone else. See if they feel compelled to "make the call" based the ad you have constructed. The goal in this moment is to at least spark some interest in a person so they are willing to make that call and start a conversation with you about your car.
Step 11) Negotiate with strategy when people respond to your ad
Once you actually have someone call about your used car, now you want to become engaging with them on the phone. The strategy here is to make a compelling case as to why they should come have a look at your car. Once again, be creative and welcoming. Nobody likes doing business with a person with zero personality. Unless you are giving your car away, you need to be compelling at ever step of the way.
Step 12) Negotiate with strategy when people come to look.
Once a person shows up, this is where you really turn the personality on and you show them the engine (if you actually took the time to detail it). You highlight any features or areas of the car of special note that you think will separate your car from the competition in a good way.