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August 27, 2014 | auto

Prepare Your Car to Sell or Trade In

Tons of websites offer great advice for preparing your car for a sale or trade-in. If the goal is to get the best offer, you'll want to make sure your car is in tiptop shape!

Research the market to understand how to price your vehicle and how quickly you can expect to sell it. reports that family sedans are constantly in demand by those needing basic, affordable transportation, while collector cars generally take longer to sell and can be difficult to price. Online classifieds are a good starting place for your pricing research.

Price your car competitively.

Once you've researched the local online classifieds, then check the True Market Value, or check Kelly Blue Book ( for a comparison. Once you've decided how much you'd like to get for your car, price it slightly higher to allow room for negotiation.

Improve your car's "curb appeal". reports that most people decide whether to buy your car within the first few seconds of seeing it. Consider having a professional detailer work on your car, and make small repairs rather than selling "as is". Have your vehicle's maintenance records ready for prospective buyers, and run a report to prove you have clear title.

Decide where to advertise your car.

Consider options like Craigslist, classified ads in your local newspaper, putting a sign in your car window, and even eBay. Double-check your ad for accuracy. Once you've placed the ad, be sure you're available to take calls and return email inquiries promptly.

Craft an ad that gives the total picture.

In this scam, a vehicle is listed online, with the text giving a normal market rate of, say, $13,000, while the photo accompanying the ad displays a price of $4,000. The thief tells the potential buyer the price of the vehicle is $4,000, saying it was reduced for some plausible-sounding reason such as a recent layoff or death in the family, designed to elicit sympathy. The victim pays the reduced rate thinking it's a bargain, but then never receives the vehicle. This type of scam shows up frequently on

Prepare to show your car.

Are you uncomfortable having strangers come to your home? Arrange a neutral meeting place, like a grocery store parking lot. Be ready to show maintenance records or your mechanic's report. Finally, recommends you trust your intuition if you have doubts about a potential buyer.

Sharpen your negotiating skills.

Potential buyers will likely try to bargain. You may want to hold fast to your price at first. If your car doesn't sell, then consider meeting a potential buyer halfway. If the buyer says "take it or leave it", says the only way to know if they're serious is to turn down the offer, and take the risk that the buyer won't return.

Seal the deal.

Most sellers request payment in cash or by cashier's check. Once you have the money, make a note of the odometer reading and then transfer title to the new owner. In Texas, you must submit a vehicle transfer notification within 30 days to limit your liability. This can be done online. Don't forget to contact your insurance agent and cancel your insurance policy on the vehicle.