How to Sell Your Vehicle

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I recently sold my truck. I put it on the market on a Friday, and by Tuesday it was sold. It was a newish truck (2014) with a lot of nice features, including a towing package, but I’m convinced some of the things I did helped it sell so fast. Today I’m going to share tips to help you sell your vehicle quickly and for the most money.

(Note: Many of these tips could also help you if you’re selling a travel trailer, 5th wheel or motor home.)

This is what my truck looked like right before I sold it.

Clean, Clean, Clean

Your first job when it comes to selling your vehicle is to clean it from top to bottom, inside and out.

The interior of my truck was covered in dog hair and New Mexico dust. I vacuumed the floor and seats and attacked all cloth surfaces with duct tape to pick up the hair. I wiped down all the surfaces that weren’t cloth (dash, instrument panels, inside of doors, seat belt hardware, steering wheel, etc.) with soapy water. I scrubbed the seats by hand using hot water with a little soap in it dispensed from an old spray bottle, and a scrub brush (actually a shower/bath brush bought at a thrift store). I soaked up the water with microfiber towels. Finally, I wiped down all surfaces that weren’t cloth with Armor All, which really improved the looks.

It may seem like my cleanup was no big deal, but it was really a massive undertaking. The process of cleaning the truck took hours and hours ad hours, and I used toothpicks, cotton swabs, and a toothbrush to get into every crack and crevice. Yes, the interior of my truck was very dirty, so it took a lot of work to get it very clean. I wanted potential buyers to see the vehicle’s interior at its very best, so I cleaned it meticulously.

I didn’t end my cleaning with the truck’s interior. I also popped the hood and cleaned out the engine compartment. First, my friend who was helping me used an engine degreaser. (Follow instructions on the can and be sure to cover anything electrical. You can watch YouTube videos on the subject to increase your confidence if necessary.) After the parts under the hood were degreased and everything dried, I used Armor All to clean the plastic parts in the engine compartment. All the cleaning improved the looks of all the components under the hood.

My final step was cleaning the exterior of the truck. Before I went to the carwash, I scrubbed the rims and used Armor All to brighten the plastic they were made from. At the carwash I scrubbed the outside of the truck and gave the undercarriage a lot of attention. Especially if you’ve driven in muddy conditions, you want to be sure to get the underside of the vehicle as clean as possible.

After washing the truck, I wiped it down with microfiber towels to prevent streaking and spotting. I made sure to clean both side view mirrors and to wipe down the outside of the windows. I also used a special Armor All product on the tires to clean and protect them.

These are the Armor All products I used on my truck.

(Note: I am not sponsored by Armor All. The company is not compensating me in any way. Heck, they don’t even know I’m saying nice things about their products. I’m just telling you what worked for me.)

Once I returned home, I climbed into the bed of the truck and scrubbed mud residue (a light orange film) left from the Northern New Mexico clay. It came off easily when I used the scrub brush, although the high pressure water from the hose at the car wash hadn’t budged it.

Finally (and we’re talking after weeks of work), the truck was clean inside and out. I hope your vehicle isn’t as dirty as mine was when you start your cleaning process.

Change the Oil

If your vehicle is due for an oil change, I believe getting one done (or doing it yourself if you can) will help you sell your vehicle. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on a vehicle you’re about to sell, but having fresh oil and a new oil filter in your vehicle makes it attractive to potential buyers in two ways. First, it shows you’re on top of maintenance issues. If you’ve had the oil changed now, it’s a good indication (although of course no guarantee) that you’ve been maintaining the vehicle all along. Second, a potential buyer may choose to buy a vehicle that doesn’t need this maintenance over one that needs some work before hitting the open road. Some buyers will pay for the convenience of you doing the work so they don’t have to.

I had an oil change done on my truck right before I sold it. I had a new air filter put in too, for all the same reasons.

Install New Tires

New tires can be a big investment, so it’s understandable if you can’t afford to replace the tires before selling your vehicle. However, if the vehicle needs new tires and you can afford to replace them, you should consider doing so. Like a fresh oil change, new tires say you maintain the vehicle. It also saves the buyer a trip to the tire shop and the out-of-pocket expense. Of course, you add in the cost of the tires when you decide on the bottom line price of the vehicle you’re selling.

My truck had tires with under 3,000 miles on them when I sold it. I bought the tires before a road trip from New Mexico to Oklahoma and back in September of 2020. The old tires were badly worn and unsafe for a long trip pulling a travel trailer. I knew if I replaced the tires, I could recoup the money when I sold the truck. My impulse was to buy the least expensive tires available, but I ended up getting slightly more expensive all terrain tires knowing they would be more appealing to someone buying a 4 wheel drive truck.

Offer Receipts

Ideally, you’ve saved your receipts from or kept a log of repairs and routine maintenance performed on our vehicle. By presenting receipts to potential buyers, you show that maintenance was done when you say it was. Even if you do your own maintenance and repairs, you can show that you purchased oil and oil filters, air filters, etc. at appropriate times.

Do Your Homework Before Setting a Price

I found setting a price for my truck extremely stressful. Of course, I wanted to get as much money for it as possible, but I also wanted to sell it quickly. Price it too low and I’d cheat myself out of useful dollars. Price it too hight, and I’d sit on the truck for weeks or even months.

I used several free online tools to help me set my price. The gold standard of pricing guides is the good old Kelley Blue Book. (Who else remembers when we had to go to the library to find a vehicle’s Blue Book value? Now you can do your research any place you have an internet connection.) Other online pricing tools include NADA Guides, Edmunds, Bumper, Autotrader, and a host of others.

Be aware that some pricing guides are meant for consumers and some are targeted to used car dealers. Be sure that during negotiations, you and the potential buyer are using the same pricing guide.

Some people (like me) are of the mind that everyone buying a vehicle expects to be able to negotiate down from the asking price. Other people (like The Man) believe the seller should set the price and stick firmly to it. Either way is fine, but decide what method you’re going to use before you set your price. If you do plan to allow for negotiation, set your rock bottom price, the lowest amount of money you must get for your vehicle. If the buyer offers anything less than this amount, be ready to walk away.

For tips on how to negotiate when selling your vehicle see the Autotrader article “How to Negotiate a Used Car Sale.”

Be Realistic

Anyone selling a vehicle wants to get as much money for it as possible, but be realistic when you set a price. Is the vehicle really in excellent condition? According to the How Stuff Works article “How Kelley Blue Book Works” by Ed Grabianowski,

 Less than 5 percent of all used vehicles fall into this [excellent] category.

The aforementioned article also says most consumer owned vehicles fall into the “good” category. Be sure to pick the right condition category for your vehicle so you can set an appropriate price.

If you overprice your vehicle, it’s going to sit around longer, and you’ll probably have to spend more time and energy answering questions about it and showing it to potential buyers. An artist friend of mine once told me you can price art to keep or you can price art to sell. The same theory applies to selling a used vehicle. If the price you set is realistic, you’ll move the vehicle more quickly.

Also, remember that the price setting tools you have at your disposal are also available to any potential buyers. If you wildly inflate the price of your vehicle, buyers who’ve done their homework will know.

Write a Good Ad

I did some research before I started writing an ad to sell my truck. One tip I saw in many articles about private car sales was to give the reason you’re selling the vehicle. Here’s the reason I gave for selling my truck: Selling because I no longer need to pull a travel trailer.

Here are some other reasons you might be selling your vehicle:

Selling because my family has grown and I need a vehicle with more seating.

Selling because my kids have left home and I don’t need such a big vehicle.

Selling because I need a work truck.

Selling because my midlife crisis requires that I drive a sports car.

Try to find a positive reason for selling the vehicle that conveys that the vehicle is perfectly fine, but you want or need something different. Avoid reasons like the truck is a gas guzzler or the motorhome is difficult to park. You don’t want to put any doubt or negativity into a potential buyer’s mind.

Another tip I got from the articles I read was to include something in the ad that makes the potential buyer imagine themselves in your vehicle. I said my truck was comfortable to drive and ride in, even on long road trips. In the mind of potential buyers, I changed my truck from a simple a work truck into a vacation machine.

Be sure to include all the basics in your ad. As a buyer, I’ve been astounded by the ads I’ve read that left out essential information. At the very least, be sure to include make, model, body style, model year, number of miles the vehicle has been driven, size of engine, type of transmission, type of fuel used, price, and whether or not you have the title.

You don’t have to stop there! Potential buyers want to know what your vehicle has to offer, so include lots of information. If your ad has no word limit, give potential buyers as many details as possible. If your vehicle has any of the following features, be sure to mention them: power steering, power/ABS brakes, power windows, power locks, cruise control, stereo/CD player, DVD player and video screens, Bluetooth capabilities, alarm system, controls on steering wheel, tilt steering wheel, power seats, back up camera, a hitch and other towing features, cold A/C, 4 wheel drive. If the interior is clean, smoke and/or pet free, and cloth seats aren’t ripped, mention those things. If your vehicle has recently passed an emissions inspection, mention that too.

The ad is also the place to let potential buyers know if the vehicle has new tires (include the mileage on the tires), a fresh oil change, new brakes, new battery, etc.

While you don’t want to discourage anyone from looking at your vehicle, you don’t want it to seem too good to be true either. In my ad, I let folks know the bed of the truck was work worn and there were some scratches and dings to the body. Of course if your vehicle has problems, you might want to disclose that information in the ad. If you know what the problem is and how to fix it, you might want to share that information as well. In an ad for a conversion van I read recently, the seller disclosed that one of the front power seats had quit working, then said what part was needed to remedy the problem, gave the price for the part, and assured potential byers that is was an easy fix.

To VIN or Not to VIN

In my research on how to sell a used vehicle, I found conflicting ideas about whether one should or should not include the VIN (Vehicle Indentification Number) in advertisements.

Some authors said it is necessary to share the VIN in the ad so potential buyers can research your vehicle before making an offer. Other authors said do not put the VIN in an ad because to do so is to open yourself up to scams and fraud.

You’ll have to decide how you want to handle the situation. In my case, I decided not to share my truck’s VIN in the ads I posted. When I met potential buyers in person, I did offer the VIN to them so they could do additional research on their own.

Be Honest

I’m a believer that honest is the best policy. If a vehicle has a major problem, I think you should disclose the problem in the ad. If something that should work doesn’t (such as a window that won’t roll down, a cruise control that’s conked out, a CD player that doesn’t work, a seat that won’t move, etc.) I think you should share that information in the first email, text, or phone conversation with a potential buyer. A buyer may still want a vehicle even if it’s not in perfect condition (especially if the price is right), but if a buyer catches you in a lie, all trust will be lost. If you’re willing to try to hide little problems, the potential buyer will wonder what major issues you’re failing to talke about.

My policy is to answer all questions honestly. I also admit when I don’t know the answer. During the recent sale of my truck, I prefaced some answers with I’m not a mechanic, which I’m sure is obvious, but it reminded potential buyers that just because I thought something was true didn’t necessarily meant I was right.

Share Lots of Photos

I included photos of the following areas of my truck in the online ads: engine compartment, odometer, steering wheel, gauge panel, instrument panels with radio and heat/air conditioner controls, tires, tailgate, charge outlets, front seats, back seats in regular position, and back seats folded up.

Have you ever been shopping for a vehicle online and seen a promising ad only to find there are only one or two photos of the vehicle? It’s happened to me, and it’s hella frustrating, especially if the vehicle seems to be something I might want. If a picture is worth a thousand words, say as much as you can with photos.

I also included photos of the exterior of the truck, one of the front and one of each side. These photos showed there was no accident damage to the body of the vehicle, minimal scratches and dings, and no sun damage to the paint.

If you’re selling a converted van you should probably share photos of the bed, storage space, and any kitchen or bathroom areas. If you’re selling a motorhome, travel trailer, 5th wheel, toy hauler, etc., include photos of each area of the rig: bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, sitting area, storage space, and cab.

Imagine yourself behind the wheel…

One tip I read online said potential buyers should be able to imagine themselves driving your vehicle. You can help them do this by including photos taken from the driver’s point of view.

Put Ads in Lots of Places

Craigslist is the old standby for online car, truck, van, and RV selling. Facebook is a newer, but maybe more popular, online option for vehicle sales. You can list your vehicle on Facebook Marketplace and any number of local and regional groups dedicated to the buying and selling of motor vehicles and other items. Other online options include the Thrifty Nickel National Marketplace and Autotrader. You can use some of these options at no charge, while others do involve a fee.

If your community has an actual physical newspaper, consider placing your ad in one or two issues. Another place to consider placing ads is the newsletter of any specialty groups of which you are a member.

Are there bulletin boards in your town? (Think library, supermarket, laundromat, senior center, Tractor Supply.) Consider making a few paper copies of your ad and hanging them around town.

Answer Requests for Information Promptly

I’m sure you’re busy. However, when you’re trying to sell your vehicle, you should probably make selling it your top priority. When someone sends you a message asking about the vehicle, answer as soon as possible. Coming across as prompt and responsible is going to give the buyer a good feeling about you. If you respond to message in a timely manner, you probably changed your oil on time too. Besides, you wan to sell the vehicle ASAP, right? You’re not going to sell it if you your lack of response discourages people from looking at the vehicle in person.

Get a Report from a Mechanic

It’s not strictly necessary to have a mechanic look over a vehicle you want to sell, but it might be helpful. After examining the vehicle, the mechanic can tell you what work the vehicle needs to have done on it now or what it will need to have done soon. You can use this information to adjust your price or as evidence that the vehicle is a good deal for a potential buyer.

I did not have my truck checked by a mechanic before I put it on the market. However, the couple who bought the truck had their mechanic look it over before we sealed the deal. We used the information the mechanic offered to start our negotiations.

Get a Carfax Report

One more thing you can offer a potential buyer is a Carfax report giving details about your vehicle’s title, mileage, previous ownership, and accidents in which it was involved.

I did not spend the money on a Carfax report, but I did offer the truck’s VIN to the handful of people who looked at it so they could order a report of they wanted. If the truck had not sold so quickly, I probably would have paid for a Carfax report to use as a selling point .

So there you have it–everything I know about selling a vehicle based on my recent experience. I hope you find these tips helpful next time you to sell a car, truck, van, motorhome, 5th wheel , or travel trailer.

I took the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

4 Responses »

    • I’m glad I was able to give you some new ideas. I learned a lot in my research, so I thought I would share the info with others. I love to share info!

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