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Tips on How to Sell your Car Online

Sell Your Car Online (Long)

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Over the last several years I have sold 5 cars using an online buyer. Each time I have sold a vehicle I have learned something new that I wish I would have known the previous time. I have used multiple services and from my experience, there are definitive ways to make sure that you come out with the best experience.

In this article, I’m going to spell out all the tips you will need to sell your car for the highest price possible online. The process is easy, exceptionally quick, and could have you walking away with a check in hand within a couple of hours.

How to Sell your Car Online

Selling your car online in the modern era is very quick. You will want to make sure you have the following information quickly accessible:

    • Model, Year and Non-Standard Features.
    • VIN Number.
    • Pictures of the Drivers Licenses (Front and Back) of all who are on the Title.
    • Information about the condition of the Vehicle.
    • Payoff amount if you currently have a lien on the Vehicle.

Having all this information readily available once you start the process is important because things will move fast. Likely you will be given an offer within a few minutes of starting and will be given a narrow window to accept or decline an offer.

Once you are armed with the required information its now time to start garnering some quotes for your vehicle. I recommend starting with a service that will buy from you directly and plans to sell it directly from their inventory. This type of company cuts out the middlemen.

An example of a car buyer that cuts out the middlemen is Carvana, Vroom and Carmigo.

These services are quick to give you a quote on your vehicle. Once you have checked these sites there is another option that takes a little bit more time and hassle but may offer a better price.

This service is Kelly Blue Book’s Instant Cash Offer. Just input your information like the other services and your information will be farmed out to local car dealerships in the area. Unfortunately, once you hand over your phone number you will start receiving calls literally in a few minutes.

One big advantage of this method is that you will be put into contact with real humans. At this point you should be armed with other quotes from the automated services and may be able to negotiate a higher price. Keep in mind that dealerships negotiate day in and day out.

They are experts. You are not. So whatever price you are told over the phone may change once you arrive. When they see the vehicle they will try to nickle and dime you downward in price. Stick to your guns… the online quotes usually have no negotiation and they don’t care about the details.

I’ll cover how to successfully mitigate dealership shenanigans below. If you decide to go with a one of the purely online companies such as Carvana and Vroom there is no negotiating, and the process can be exceedingly simple.

Tip #1: Check Offers from Multiple Sites

Sell Your Car Online Quickly

One thing I can not stress enough is to check with multiple sites. Pricing and quotes for individual cars has a lot to do with what each car service has already in inventory  either directly or with its partners (yes, this includes Kelly Blue Book’s Instant Cash Offer).

For the first several cars I sold I stuck exclusively with KBB. However, for this last car I started checking with other sites and the discrepancies are tremendous. In fact, for my most recent sale, I was able to sell a car I had just purchased several months ago new for about $5,000 more than I paid for it.

I made a profit off a new car! That’s highly unusual and, admittedly, a result of the current used car market being on fire.  What was interesting was that KBB’s max private sale price was several thousand less than what I was offered immediately by Carvana.

Checking multiples sites paid off handsomely for me. Don’t skip this step… it’s easy and only takes a few minutes to get multiple offers. Make sure you check with KBB last since this step will result in a massive number of phone calls from local dealerships.

Tip #2: Know Your Car’s Features

Knowing your car’s features seems like no-brainer but I mess this one up every single time.

When it comes to identifying each package I have on the vehicle, I come up almost completely handed. Do I have the premium tires or the ultimate premium tires? Do I have heated seats or the upgraded winter package?

I would have expected this information to be rolled up into the VIN somehow… but it most certainly is not.

Luckily, I have always kept the window sticker of every car I have purchased. Additionally, if you can remotely connect to your vehicle with an app on your phone you will likely find the information you need. Ensuring that you select all the packages and after-market upgrades your vehicle has is an important step to unlocking the fully value.

After all, if you don’t tell potential buyers what’s on the car, then they won’t know about it to pay for it.

Alternatively, be careful! Don’t guess if you have a feature only to find out that your vehicle doesn’t have it. This may result in a quote becoming invalid or worse yet: being accused of fraud. Know your vehicle. Have the options that are installed readily available when answering the questionnaire.

Don’t guess hoping that you will have the opportunity to fix it later. Many of the car buying services attempt to get you a quote as quickly as possible resulting in the inability to rectify seemingly simple mistakes.

Tip #3: Who the Buyer is Matters

Understanding the layers of buyers and sellers in between you and the final destination of the car you are selling matters.

For instance, on a Van I sold several years ago through KBB, I ended up receiving a phone call from the dealership that had sold it from me.

I assumed they knew they were where I had purchased it years prior. They were clueless. When I told the ‘independent buyer,’ that I had purchased it from her dealership she actually raised her offer to above what KBB had listed.

From her vantage point, buying a used car where the dealership was in the original chain of custody was advantageous and represented a lower risk of acquisition… and I made more money because of that fact.

Additionally, selling your car to the place where it will be sold could lower the number of ‘middlemen.’ Selling to a dealership that is intending to auction it off may result in a lower bid for your vehicle.

So how do you know where your vehicle is going to be sold?

If you utilize KBB’s service, you will be put into contact with multiple local dealerships. Talk to these people. They are the experts on the value of your vehicle. See where they intend to sell it. If they tell you that they are looking to auction it off that may tip you off to the fact that you can get a higher offer with an online service without middlemen.

Tip #4: Make Sure you Have Both Keys

No matter what quote you get for your vehicle I am willing to bet you were asked how many keys you have to the vehicle. Most cars come with 2 and most buyers of vehicles expect to get at least 2. If you have 2 then make sure you have both.

The number of keys you have absolutely impacts the price of the vehicle.

Not only does it cost money to replace a key, it could also be a liability if someone else has a key you lost. Someone could steal the car… or perhaps the fact someone else has the key implies that they don’t know about the transaction.

If you think you lost the key… make sure. It will pay for your time to find it and make sure it is available at the time of getting your quote.

Tip #5: Be Willing to Walk Away

Just like buying and selling anything, being able to walk away from the negotiating table… even if it’s in your bedroom on your laptop… is a necessity. Don’t get bogged down in the need to sell your vehicle to a specific company.

There are loads of places that will buy your car. Local dealerships through KBB will likely have several willing to buy it nearly sight unseen. Other services such as Carvana are able to take advantage of price discrepancies nationwide. If a particular service is not willing to offer what you want without hassle then look somewhere else.

Selling a car does not necessarily require the same type of back and forth as when you purchased it… but if you go to a mom and pop dealership then you will want to definitely attempt to negotiate. Being ready for a negotiation means being willing to walk away.

If you aren’t willing to walk away from an offer the dealership will be able to wait you out. They will be able to tell. They do this type of thing every single day and know when someone can’t bear the thought of leaving without cash in hand.

Don’t put your self in a bad negotiating position… be willing to walk away!

Tip #6: Consider Taxes

Sales Tax on a Car Trade In

If you are looking to just sell your vehicle with no intent on replacing it then skip this tip. If you are even thinking about replacing the vehicle with another then you need to stop and consider the implication of taxes on the sales transaction.

Usually, if you trade your vehicle in you can save money by only paying sales tax on the difference on the sales prices.

For example, if your trade in is worth $25,000 and you buy a vehicle for $31,000 you would likely only have to pay taxes on the $6,000 difference.

If you sell your vehicle in a different location than where you buy your next one then you may find yourself having to pay sales tax on the entire new amount.


By checking multiple sites, knowing your car’s features and who you are selling to along with making sure you are absolutely willing to walk away you will be setting yourself up for ultimate success.

The used car market has changed drastically over the last couple of years and thanks to Silicon Valley, it has changed much to the benefit of individual folks such as you and me.

I hope you enjoyed this article! If you have any other tips on selling your car online please let me know down in the comments section below.

Guy Money

As a formally trained Data Scientist I find excitement in writing about Personal Finance and how to view it through a lens filtered by data. I am excited about helping others build financial moats while at the same time helping to make the world a more livable and friendly place.

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