How to Sell Your Car for the Most Money: A Guide For First-Time Sellers

It’s easy to undervalue your car if you’re not equipped with the right knowledge. In this guide, we’ll be covering 12 tips for selling your used car for the most money.

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Carpages Staff

How to Sell Your Car for the Most Money: 12 Practical Tips

Perhaps you’ve finally decided to upgrade your old beater car? Or maybe you're unable to keep up with the maintenance cost of your luxury vehicle? Whether you’re upgrading or downgrading, if you’re looking to sell your car, you’ll always want the most bang for your buck. 

But between deciding on a price, preparing the paperwork, and negotiating the sale, selling your car can quickly prove to be an overwhelming experience. If you’re not careful you could end up vastly undervaluing your vehicle in a rush to get rid of it.

In this short guide, we’ll show you how to get the most money with these 12 practical tips.

Determining The Worth of Your Car

To get started, you'll need to know how much your car could be worth. The simplest way to do this would be to go on sites like The Canadian Black Book or Carfax Car Value Range and get an online appraisal of your vehicle. The Canadian Black Book is the go-to place for new car and used car prices, while Carfax is a site that offers vehicle history reports and general resources on buying and selling cars.

Both sites will ask for information like your car's make, model, year, and mileage, as well as your postal code so you can get more accurate results based on the average auto rates in your area.

Conduct Market Research to Understand Possible Car Prices

Another way to determine the worth of your current car is by researching how much cars of similar make, model, year, and mileage sell for in your area. You can do this by going on popular online car classifieds to assess how other sellers value similar vehicles. 

Some alternative places to research possible car prices are social media platforms and forums. Facebook Marketplace has become a popular place for people to sell their used goods, so you might be able to find cars for sale on the platform. You can also find communities for automotive enthusiasts of specific brands and models on Reddit or Facebook Groups to see if there is additional information about car pricing.

When conducting market research, make sure to factor in any upgrades or modifications you've done to your car, which can increase its overall value. This includes things like sound systems, new tires, infotainment and GPS systems, and even leather seats. Don't forget to factor in things that could decrease your car's value too, such as any incidences of road accidents or flooding.

Pro tip: Always search for cars in your area, as demand may vary per region.

Deciding Between Private or Dealer Sale

There are two ways to go about selling your car: via a trade-in at a dealership or a private sale. Usually, a used car's trade-in value is significantly lower than its private sale price, since selling your car to a dealership means you're turning it over "as is". The dealership takes care of everything from cleaning and repairs to acquiring all the necessary certifications. On the other hand, a private sale allows you more control over your asking price. You get to dictate how much your car is worth (within reasonable limits, of course) but you also have to do all the legwork, including marketing and negotiating a sale.

Essentially, a trade-in most likely won't let you get the most money out of your car, but it'll save you a lot of hassle. 

Preparing Documentation and Paperwork

If you've decided to push through with a private sale, your next step is to prep the paperwork. You'll need:

  • The Vehicle History Report. This is a report you can obtain from Carfax which details everything your buyer needs to know about your car. The report includes the car's mileage and age, title history, accident history, service and repair history, existing liens, recalls, and any structural damage incurred by the vehicle.
  • Maintenance and Repair Documentation. When you buy a new car, make sure to keep a record of everything from oil changes, tire replacements, tune-ups, parts replacements, and the like. Keep all the receipts in a folder and make sure to organize everything by date.
  • Proof of Title. Finally, if you financed your car via a personal loan, make sure you have a letter of clearance and proof of title in your name. This proves to buyers that you don't have an existing lien against your car and that it can't be repossessed by any financial institution in the future.

While all of this might seem like an unnecessary hassle and perhaps a waste of money, just remember that with everything laid out on paper, it's easier for you to justify your preferred price to your potential buyers. Plus, it makes your car more attractive to sellers since it shows that you've got nothing to hide.

Obtain Car Certification

In most provinces, you can't put a license plate on a vehicle without a safety standard certificate. The certificate is proof that the car has met the minimum safety standards imposed by the province, and that it is fit to drive. Each province has its own process, so be sure to check out and comply with the procedure for your area.

While you can still put a car for sale even without certification, it would be harder to sell it at a premium rate. This is because most used car buyers expect to be able to use their cars right off the curb and don't want to have to go through the trouble of heading out to their local inspection station.

Complete Mechanical Work and Repairs

When it comes to buying a used car, no one wants a “lemon.” A lemon is a used car that looks fine on the surface but turns out to have some type of mechanical issue that costs an arm and a leg to fix up – that is, if it works at all. You don’t want to be known as the scammer who sold a lemon. So even if your car is in decent shape, it's still a good idea to have it checked out by a mechanic before you sell it.

Another reason for having your car inspected? You'll be able to catch any kind of damage, dent, or issue that might give potential buyers fair reason to negotiate for a lower price.

Deep Clean Your Car

They say that beauty is only skin deep, but in the case of used cars, what’s on the surface can tell a lot about what goes on under the hood. A dirty, poorly-maintained car can signal a red flag to buyers that you're not big on maintenance and take poor care of the car. You want your car to look as good as new to get the best value out of it.

Some buyers can be very particular about a car's look and even smell. So make sure you do a deep clean before putting your vehicle up for sale. You can either do this yourself or hire someone to do it. If you're up to the task, here's how you can deep clean your car:

  • Wash the entire car, cleaning both interior and exterior.
  • Clear your car of any trash and crumbs. Grab a handheld vacuum and get into every nook and cranny you can.
  • Wipe down surfaces with automotive wipes and remove any dust or dirt. Then, apply a protectant to keep rubber surfaces from cracks and fading.
  • Go over scratches, dents, and rust spots if you are familiar with doing so, or take your car to a detailer if you want the job done professionally.

Take Great Photos

Humans are visual creatures. Online, we respond to photos and videos more than we respond to a write-up. You don't have to be a professional photographer nor do you have to own an expensive camera to take good photos of your car. All you need is a smartphone with a high-resolution camera and the right kind of lighting. 

Natural light is always better than artificial, so be sure to take your car out of the garage. But don't take photos at noon when the sun is harsh and glare-y. Instead, wait for the "golden hour" or the time just before sunset to get a bright, soft glow in your photos. Make sure you’re also capturing pictures of your car in a clean, spacious location. You want the focus to be on your car and not it’s surroundings or setting. 

Finally, take as many pictures as you can, being sure to capture that car at virtually every angle. The term "less is more" doesn't apply here! And if you’re up for it, capture a simple walkaround video of your car by panning around the exterior and interior to point out any special feature.

Advertise Online

Gone are the days of posting ads in the papers. These days, the best place to sell your car is online.

You can post in auto classifieds sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace. Just be aware that listing on these sites comes with some risks, since you don't really know who it is that you'll be dealing with.

When you’re posting your car ad online, be sure to craft a comprehensive and easy-to-understand write up that details all essential information. Remember to be honest and accurate. Make sure to include the following details about your car:

  • Year
  • Make and Model
  • Mileage
  • Transmission type (manual or automatic)
  • Colour
  • Number of doors
  • Power output 
  • Fuel Type (petrol or diesel)
  • Fuel economy
  • Vehicle upgrades
  • Whether you’re the original owner
  • Number of Accidents

Negotiating the Best Price

So you've posted your ad and you're waiting for responses. Now is the best time to practice your negotiation skills. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for this process is by knowing your minimum, or the lowest possible value you're willing to take for your car.

You should also learn to expect hagglers. Rarely will you find someone willing to purchase your used vehicle for the price you've posted on the listing. With that being said, always list a higher asking price than you expect to get. That way, if anyone tries to negotiate, you can hit them with your actual preferred selling price and try to keep the negotiations above your minimum.

Finalizing the Sale

If you've done all of the above, pretty soon, you'll find yourself scheduling meet-ups with prospective buyers. They'll likely want to discuss the sale in person, inspect the vehicle for themselves, bring along a mechanic, and take the vehicle out for a test drive. You'll want to protect yourself from bad actors and scammers, so be sure to do the following upon meeting up:

  • Meet in a public place. Don't ask buyers to come to your house. If possible, meet at a parking lot somewhere with relatively low traffic.
  • Bring a friend. Just in case your seller turns out to have some type of ulterior motive, it's good to have one more pair of eyes to watch out for any shady behaviour.
  • Take down personal info before the test drive. To keep anyone from driving off with your vehicle, be sure to ask if you can take a photo of their driver's license or any kind of ID.

Best Time Of The Year To Sell Your Car

One important factor people tend to overlook when they sell their vehicle is the time of the year. Generally speaking, the best times of the year to sell a vehicle are spring and summer. Why? People are busy during the colder months, with families going back to school in the fall and the holidays through the winter.


There's a commonly held belief that a vehicle depreciates the moment it leaves the lot. Cars are depreciating assets, and we can't expect to sell them for nearly the same amount we got them brand new. But there are ways to make the most of your car's value!

Keep your vehicle in good shape, collect maintenance and repair records, and be upfront and honest about its value. Of course, it pays to learn how to take a great photo, advertise online, and negotiate a deal too.