Car Selling Tips

The secret to getting the best price for your car.

If you’re in the market to upgrade your car, you probably already know that one of the hardest parts is selling your old car. Depending on the make, model, transmission, price and location of your car, you might be waiting a while for the right buyer to take it for a test drive.

Even if your old car is the cream of the crop in the used car market, getting a better sale price for your set of wheels is never a bad thing.

Before listing your car

Before you think of letting a potential driver take your car for a test drive, there are some obvious steps to take to get it up to scratch.

  • Clean your car - Remove all loose items and rubbish in your car, vacuum your interior, and give your car a wash. Most buyers are very particular about the car they’re looking at, so you’ll want to make sure even hidden away areas are cleaned, such as your boot, door sills, and underneath the hood. The fragrance of the car is also important. Don’t overpower your buyers with a deodoriser, but pay special attention to the car if you’re a smoker. Ensure you stop smoking in your car in the weeks before sale.
  • Check the fluids and tyre air pressure - Any buyers with even a little knowledge about cars will want to make sure the car is topped up with clean oil and water, and that your tyres are pumped up to specification. Failing to do so shows potential buyers you don’t care about your car, and can be deterrent for those looking to buy it.
  • Consider having it detailed - A great way to ensure your car is sparkling come test drive time is to take it to a professional detailer. Ask friends and family for recommendations if you’re unsure. You could spend $100 - $300 or even beyond for a good service, but your car will be in showroom condition.
  • Get your paperwork together - Make sure you have your log books, along with any receipts or records of services you’ve had carried out. If you have a history report for your car it’s also a great time to find it so that prospective buyers can take a look.

Setting a price

Deciding on a price for your car is an important step in the sales process. Ideally you’d want to select a price which isn’t too low or too high. When a car is too cheap buyers might look for faults which could be the reason for the discount, and when it’s too high, you’ll scare the majority of buyers away.

There are two great resources for helping you decide on what price you should sell your car for:

  • Existing advertisements - Search for your car on websites like Carsales, Trading Post, eBay and Drive. Try to find cars with similar kilometers, transmission types and badges and see what prices they’re going for. This will help you establish a maximum and minimum price.
  • Car valuation databases - Resources like Red Book are great for finding out the values of cars, both new and used.

Once you’ve done your research, decide on a price and then add a few hundred dollars on top of it so you can discount it down if possible - everyone likes a bargain.

Posting your advertisement

If you had a good look at car advertisements similar to your own when figuring out a price, you would’ve hopefully have seen how their advertisements were written, and have one or two good examples to base your own off.

The golden rule of a car advertisement is to be clear, upfront and concise. Withholding information buyers expect, such as a car’s mileage, will just make them exit your advertisement and go to the next.

Talk about the most important things buyers want to know: how many kilometres your car has, it’s badge, how much warranty and registration it has left, and any information about you that buyers might find beneficial, such as your reason for selling, if you regularly garage the car and if you’re a non-smoker.

Mention if the car has low kilometres for its age, and any extra features buyers might enjoy.

Be upfront about any repairs you’ve needed to carry out on the car, or those which need to still be carried out. If you have a great service record, mention it.

Don’t unnecessarily waffle and avoid using too much technical jargon and exclamation marks. Your overall aim is to present an accurate advertisement of the car so that buyers know exactly what they’re buying.

There’s a bit of an art to writing an appealing car advertisement, but remember the photos you pair with your advertisement will do the real talking.


The most important photos you need to take of your car are the ‘three-quarter’ shots. These are basically two shots: one of the front three-quarters of your car, and one of the back three-quarters.

In addition to this, buyers will want to see at least two shots of the interior (a shot which shows the front and rear seats), engine bay, and shots of both the front and back of the car.

Car photo tips

  • For full shots of the exterior of the car, make sure the car is within the frame of the photo
  • Make sure you can clearly see the car in each photo
  • Ensure the lighting is sufficient in the photos, avoid taking photos at night unless it’s a photo which you feel showcases the car in a great way. Early mornings and late afternoons can be great times to take photographs.

Letting a buyer take your car for a test drive

Once you have an interested buyer, they’ll want to test drive the car. It’s important to know two things about test drives in Australia: fines and traffic infringements are the responsibility of the driver, but damage costs are usually the responsibility of the car owner.

Remember to also get a copy of their driver’s licence and other contact details before going for a drive. Some thieves use test drives as ploys to steal cars, so this can safeguard you against this. It’ll also make it easier for you to get payment in the event they cause damage.

Next steps

Once you’ve got an interested buyer, you’ve both agreed on a price and the sale is complete, you’ll have to fill out the relevant forms from your state transport authority to make sure the car is now in the new owner’s name. This can prevent you from taking responsibility for anything related to the car which occurs after the sale.

Be on the look out for scams from buyers who seem too good to be true, such as those offering more than the asking price, or those contacting you via email telling you they wish to buy the car from overseas. These are known scams.

Once you’ve sold your old car it’s time to enter the car market again, but this time as a buyer. If you’ve already found the car you’re interested in, compare car loans today and find the right option for you.

Compare car loans today

Picture: Shutterstock

Matt Corke

Matt is a publisher of personal finance content at

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