Selling your car? Follow these tips

Before you can treat yourself to a brand new ride or make good on your intention to buy a sensible, reliable vehicle that fits you needs, you first have to sell the car you currently have. Even if it seems like a triviality, you shouldn't approach this step lightly. After all, failing to sell your existing car in a reasonable amount of time – or for the price you were hoping for or expecting – can seriously hamper your plans to buy a new vehicle.

Keep in mind that you'll need to put as much work into selling your car as you will shopping for and buying the next one. Regardless of whether you choose to sell it independently or attempt to trade it in through a dealer, you'll need to consider many factors – financial, automotive and otherwise – if you want the best result.

Don't expect to sell a convertible quickly if it looks like this outside. Don't expect to sell a convertible quickly if it looks like this outside.

Timing is everything
You may not think of cars as a seasonal item, but the reality is that they are. At the very least, the time of year you choose to sell your car may impact the response that you get. For example, according to Edmunds, convertibles and sports cars are purchased almost exclusively during the spring and summer – you can imagine how hard it would be to sell an open-topped car when the temperature outside is below freezing.

Keep it local
While it's true that listing your car online can potentially attract a much larger number of prospective buyers, the risk may not be worth the potential benefit. Kelley Blue Book noted that sellers who deal with out-of-state buyers run the risk of fraudulent activities, such as bad checks. In an ideal scenario, you should accompany your buyer to his or her bank and receive the cashier's check along with them. That way you can be completely assured that you'll receive the payment on time. This may be necessary in some cases, as some banks will want to visually appraise the car before authorizing the withdrawal.

Have the paperwork ready to go
It's likely that your own upcoming car purchase hinges on the sale of your current car. That said, you'll want to reduce the amount of time the transaction takes to complete as much as possible. When you list your car, take the opportunity to get the paperwork together. Keep it in a folder so you can keep track of it. That way, you'll be able to sell the car on the spot if the right situation arises. The Department of Motor Vehicles suggested a list of documents to assemble when selling your car, which includes:

  • Vehicle title
  • Maintenance records
  • Bill of sale
  • Release of liability
  • Warranty documents
  • As-is documentation.

"You may not be advertising aggressively enough."

It stands to reason that if you want to sell your car, you need to make sure people know it's available to buy. Advertising your car can be tricky, especially if you aren't used to selling things independently. Fortunately, there are a number of websites and classifieds specifically geared toward people trying to sell things – and some that are just for those selling automobiles. Sites like Autotrader and are popular boards that let you post your car for a small fee. Don't overlook more general avenues though, such as Craigslist and even eBay. If your car has been on the market for some time and you find you aren't getting the response you had hoped for, the problem may be that you aren't advertising aggressively enough. This is where selling through a dealer can be helpful, as they will take care of the whole process for you up front.

If you have a used car you'd like to sell, or are shopping for a pre-owned vehicle of your own, head to NJ State Auto Auction. You'll find hundreds of Carfax-certified cars on the lot, and a helpful in-house finance department to help you get approved for a loan.