How to Sell Your Car (Without All the Headaches You Experienced Buying It)

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how to sell a car

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The beloved truck I drove to high school and parked on campus in college was now being driven away from my house.

But I took solace in the fact that I now had $10,000 in $20 bills stacked on my dresser.

I had sold my first car, and I got a great price on it, too.

How to sell a car in 9 steps

If you’re wondering how to sell a car yourself, keep in mind it requires about as much work as buying a car.

Maybe you’re selling your car to help pay off your student loans faster — or just moving to a city that doesn’t require four wheels.

No matter your motivation, here are nine steps to selling the car you no longer want or need.

1. Organize your records

First things first: Track down the paperwork from when you first bought your car (like the title). Also, look for any records relating to the car’s accident history and maintenance. They might be underneath the manual in your glove box.

Although your prospective buyers would be impressed by a meticulously kept logbook of receipts for oil and tire changes, you can document your car’s age in other ways.

For one, you could purchase a vehicle history report from a company like Carfax, which will set you back $39.99. For another, you could pay your mechanic about $100 for an inspection. Typically, the buyer would foot the bill for the inspection, but you might opt to handle it yourself if you’re unsure about your car’s condition.

Arming yourself with both reports could gain you leverage in negotiations down the line.

2. Assess the value

There are many car value calculators online, but your buyer will likely be most familiar with Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Use the automotive research company’s tool to put a dollar figure on your car’s potential resale price.

As you’re using the tool, select your car’s “options” or features — alloy wheels, for example — to ensure you receive an accurate estimate.

KBB will pump out values for a trade-in, at the dealer, and in a private-party sale. You might want to increase these numbers to account for extras you bought separately, such as a camper shell for your truck or a rain cover for your coupe.

In its estimation, KBB considers what your car model has sold for in other sales. But be sure to do additional research on car-selling websites like Autotrader to see what the market says about the value of your car. Be careful when comparing prices with a dealership, though. Their prices account for fees, warranties, and return or exchange policies.

3. Consider making upgrades

Now that you have a ballpark estimate of your car’s worth, you might consider ways to increase it. This is the same consideration homeowners give to renovating just before listing their homes on the market.

As a car owner, anticipate the average person’s complaints. If fabric stains might repel a potential buyer, do some DIY cleaning to bring back that new-car scent.

The same goes for your car’s parts. I learned this lesson when I was trying to sell my car in 2014. The buyer complained that my windshield wipers were falling apart and asked for a significant discount as a result.

This occurs more often with tires. Buyers often expect a $300 to $700 discount on tires with low tread, according to KBB. You could easily throw on a $30 to $40 used tire to avoid the haggling.

4. Set your sticker price

When you first look into how to sell a car, knowing how to set your price is probably the most important step.

Before blindly picking a number that sounds good, keep your KBB value and your car’s extras in mind. If you’re in a rush to sell, for example, you might price your car below what others are asking for on the market. You could include “OBO” — short for “or best offer” — or “must go” next to your sale price.

If you’re willing to wait for the right buyer, you can set a firm price above KBB value. That gives you some wiggle room for the inevitable haggling you’ll do. Plus, you’ll want to leave open the possibility that someone might surprise you by offering your full asking price.

Keep in mind that you might have to alter your price depending on seasonal variables. I was forced to drop the asking price for my family’s gas-guzzling Chevrolet Suburban when oil prices increased locally in 2009. Similarly, your old convertible might not be in high demand in December.

5. Post it online and off

Truth is, selling a car can be tedious. But you might make the process easier by listing your car in multiple places, online and off. Aside from working with a dealer, here are some ways to sell your car:

  • Put a for-sale sign on your passenger-side window and park it near foot traffic
  • Post it on websites like Autotrader or peer-to-peer sites like Zipflip
  • List it on secondhand websites like Craigslist and eBay
  • Share news of the sale on social media platforms like Facebook
  • Request an estimate from a company that offers cash for cars
  • Purchase a classified in a specialty magazine or your local newspaper

When posting your car online, include high-quality pictures of it in natural light. As with selling unwanted stuff on Craigslist, you’ll want to include images from different angles and perspectives. Good car photos show details of the interior, exterior, and even under the hood.

Besides imagery, include the right information to help you answer potential questions from buyers. Including the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), for example, allows interested parties to buy a vehicle history report. Also, include details about:

  • Why you’re selling the car
  • Other features it has to offer
  • Its overall condition and maintenance history
  • Reasoning behind the price

6. Contact dealers, too

Even if you have your mind set on selling the car yourself, see what dealerships are willing to offer. You can do this by calling up local dealers or using tools like KBB’s that connect you with dealers directly.

By selling to a dealer, you’ll generally earn 15 to 25 percent less than you would by handling the transaction yourself, according to KBB. Still, it’s wise to exhaust your options in case you have trouble getting interest from private parties.

7. Be a salesperson

To sell a car, you’ll need to be a little bit of a salesperson. Just make sure you do it safely.

Unless you’re selling on a platform that offers secure messaging, you might consider creating a separate email address to field inquiries about your car. This offers you a little more protection, plus an easy way to stay organized. But if your inbox suddenly is flooded with emails from interested parties, you might want to rethink your price.

When fielding inquiries, be prepared to answer questions about your car’s transmission, fuel efficiency, and tire tread (to name a few). Even if you’re not a car person, you should have these answers ready.

Also, be prepared for potential drivers wanting a test drive. Reserve this privilege for serious buyers, and put yourself in safe situations. You might have a friend with you or meet potential buyers in the parking lot of your local DMV.

When you’re face to face with a potential buyer, don’t simply rattle off the features of your car. Ask them about what they’re looking for and then explain how the car meets those needs.

8. Negotiate, if necessary

If you set a fair price for your car based on its value, negotiating should be the easy part. You already know how much you’re willing to bend to make a sale.

When your buyer asks to knock down the list price, put the onus on them. See if they can explain why they think your car isn’t so valuable. For example, the buyer of my truck initially offered $9,000 — or $1,500 less than my asking price. When I asked why, he pointed to the shabby wiper blades (which could be fixed cheaply) and the life of the tires (which I had accounted for in my valuation).

If you receive an offer like this, ask for time to think it over. In my case, I told my buyer I’d consider his $9,000 offer. But the next day, I rejected it because I didn’t agree with his reasoning for the lower price. A week later, he came back with $10,000 in cash.

Besides agreeing on numbers, ensure you’re comfortable with the form of payment. Don’t hand over the keys before cash has either hit your bank account or left theirs. Cashier’s checks, which are guaranteed by banks, are your safest bet.

9. Prepare the paperwork

Once the negotiations are complete, you’ll need to transfer ownership of your car. Every state has different rules for this process, and you can find yours via the DMV’s helpful map.

You’ll likely be required to:

  • Complete a bill of sale
  • Sign the title over to the new owner
  • Fill out a liability release form, if your state DMV requires it
  • Hand over your warranty documents (if applicable) and maintenance records

The DMV also recommends redacting any personal information on your documents to avoid identity theft.

Be prepared when it’s time to sell a car

Selling a car is a lot of work. It’s a big financial decision that could help you close out a debt, jump into investing, or even upgrade your mode of transportation.

Don’t just rush off to the junkyard advertising cash for cars. Follow these steps to turn the largest possible profit — and take it all the way to the bank.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit, email us at, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.179% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.570% APR to 6.980% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. SoFi rate ranges are current as of September 14, 2018 and are subject to change without notice. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.570% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.740% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (

4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.57%-8.17% (2.57%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.57% – 6.98%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.22%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.51% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.57% – 8.17%6Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.