If you’re thinking it’s time to sell your vehicle, there are two routes you can take: trade it in, or sell privately. Most car owners opt to trade in their vehicles and avoid the time commitment and hassle of selling privately, but the convenience will cost you. The difference between the average trade-in price and selling it privately is easily 15% [BestRide, 2019], which is significant when you’re talking about a car that’s worth thousands of dollars.

Selling privately isn’t as convenient, but with a little effort, it can be very worthwhile. This guide will help you each step of the way, from calculating the worth of your car, to posting ads and finalizing the sale.

Find out your vehicle’s worth

The first step to estimating your car’s worth is to look at the prices of similar cars on the market. Pay attention to mileage, which will affect the car’s value and asking price. You can also use a free appraisal service like CARFAX to calculate your car’s value, though you should still investigate what similar cars are being sold for.

Gather the paperwork

Before finalizing the sale of your car, there are a couple of documents you need in order to comply with provincial regulations in British Columbia:

  • Your insurance and original vehicle registration. The insurance and registration are actually two parts of the same document (APV250). You need both parts.
  • A Transfer/Tax Form (APV9T). You can get a paper copy from any Autoplan broker to transfer a vehicle. Due to COVID-19, the Transfer/Tax Form (APV9T) is temporarily available for download.

It’s also a good idea to collect the receipts for any work you’ve done on your car. A service record, along with a Vehicle History Report, will help you prove your vehicle is worth the asking price to potential buyers.

See a mechanic

Whether a vehicle legally requires a safety check prior to selling depends on your province. In B.C., a vehicle being sold from one resident to another doesn’t require an inspection beforehand. That said, taking it to a qualified technician for a safety check will help you price your vehicle more accurately.

Spruce up your car

If a buyer is serious enough to come see your vehicle in person, the presentation of the car will likely make or break the sale. People will judge your car on its appearance, so make sure it’s as clean and tidy as possible.

Cleaning checklist:

  • Wash the outside of your car, making sure your tires are clean too
  • Thoroughly vacuum the inside
  • Remove all unnecessary personal items from the car
  • Wipe down the inside of your windshield and windows with glass cleaner
  • Clean the dust off all surfaces

If you want the appearance of your car to impress potential buyers, the steps above are the minimum. If you want to go the extra mile, BestRide has some great tips for getting your car in pristine shape.

Advertise

Once you’ve nailed down an asking price and your car is in selling shape, it’s time to advertise. With so many websites for buying and selling cars nowadays, there are plenty of places to post your ad. In fact, Canadian car shoppers spend 63% of their vehicle research time online, and 42% of them visit a listing site first. Some popular free posting websites and platforms are Craigslist, Kijiji, UsedVancouver, AutoTrader and Facebook Marketplace.

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Tell your friends, family and neighbours that your car is for sale, and consider posting an ad on social media if you have it. Placing a For Sale sign on the front and/or back windshield of your vehicle is another opportunity to advertise.

Information to include in your ad:

  • The car’s year, make and model
  • The mileage, colour and condition
  • Any after-market features
  • A great set of exterior photos showing off your vehicle from multiple angles. Take them on a sunny day with good lighting
  • A great set of interior photos showing off the front and rear seats, dashboard, trunk and engine
  • The price of the car. Buyers will try to negotiate, so you might consider making the asking price slightly higher than the price you’d like to get for it. Including these terms in your ad will help you communicate how eager you are to sell:
    • OBO — Stands for “or best offer” and indicates that you’re open to lower offers
    • Asking price — This is less urgent than OBO but also indicates that you’re open to negotiation
    • Firm — This tells buyers that you’re not willing to negotiate and you aren’t in a hurry to sell
    • Must sell! — This is pretty self-explanatory. It tells buyers that you’re more concerned with getting rid of the car in a hurry than the price

Showing your car

Selling a vehicle shouldn’t be complicated. To avoid dealing with difficult people, trust your intuition and wait for another buyer if the person seems difficult or makes you uneasy. Always screen potential buyers by phone before arranging an in-person meeting. If you prefer not to show your car at home, meet at the parking lot of a shopping centre or another public place.

Knowing what questions to expect from buyers and answering them honestly will save everyone’s time. Just like you’re evaluating them, remember that the buyer will be assessing you for any red flags that might deter them from wanting to buy your car.

Serious buyers will probably want to take the car for a test drive. Before meeting them in person, tell them you will need to see their driver’s license. Not only will this give you peace of mind when you’re in the car with them, it will also hinder those with ulterior motives from moving forward with the sale. Before the test drive, take a photo of the buyer’s license plate and text it to a friend along with your location before getting in the car with them.

Buyers will want to ensure the car is mechanically sound before finalizing the sale. If you have a recent inspection report from a mechanic, you can show them, but they will probably want to have it checked out by their own mechanic anyway.

Finalize the sale

When it comes to transferring payment, cash and bank draft are the safest and most common ways, though instant cashless forms of payment like PayPal are growing in popularity. Never accept personal cheques.

There are a few steps you must follow to transfer vehicle ownership. We give an overview below, but recommend referring to ICBC for the most detailed and up-to-date information:

  • Remove your license plates
  • Remove insurance and registration
  • Carefully tear off the bottom vehicle registration portion
  • Give the registration to the buyer with your signature
  • After receiving payment, fill out and sign the Transfer/Tax Form (APV9T)
  • Take the registration and Transfer/Tax Form to an Autoplan broker
  • Cancel your insurance or transfer to the new owner