How to Sell My Car: 18 Mistakes You've Got to Avoid when Selling Your Car

by: updated on August 7, 2018

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Want to sell your car and put more money in your wallet at the same time?
Yep, we know you do and Blastifieds will help you. Learn these 18 mistakes to avoid that can cost you up to $4,000 in profit (or 22%) rather than simply trading in your car!

When it comes to selling your car, YOU NEED BUYERS!
And buyers typically will only come if you've done some sort of advertising. How far do you have to go? Well, you don't have to go to the extreme that this guy went through to sell his girlfriend's car... he was originally asking just $499 (total cost there, not monthly) for his 1996 Honda Accord.

After making his commercial, the final bid price topped $5,100. Check out this masterpiece video...

What? Commercials that can be fun to watch?!?

In today's post we've pulled together the 18 Mistakes You'll Want to Avoid When Selling Your Car. In it, we want to show you how you can get a nice $4,000 profit (or 22% increase) on what you could be missing out on.

Spend 2-3 hours doing a little research and touching your car up and you could be raking in profits equating to $1,500-$2,000 / hour.

Before you get started reading and watching our Ultimate Guide and videos, be sure to quickly grab our 'Top 5 Tips For Selling Your Car - Infographic' right now... because you'll want to save yourself tons of time and make a bigger profit on selling your car.


Mistake #1: Heading over to the car dealership right away to see what they'd give you as a trade-in.
Before you head over to Google to start researching where you should advertise your car for sale, remember... Google has indexed BILLIONS of webpages. They have tons of advertisers EAGER for YOUR business.

Those advertisers are vying for YOUR attention and want you to click their ad.

They want to be first to get YOU in their door to offer a trade-in quote. You gotta remember, they're trying to beat out their competition to get you in their door first and while you're there, maybe you'll have just enough time to browse their selection of cars for sale to tempt you to buy from them.

That gives them double the business! You get a quote for selling your car to them PLUS you might end up buying your next car from them... That's what we call Double-Dipping!

Google Results for How to sell my car Searching for "how to sell my car" in Google displays results for dealerships like CarMAX and CarLots (that have BIG advertising budgets). They NEED YOU, probably more than you need them...

But let me tell you, doing a little bit of research before you ever go into a dealership to see your trade-in value, will go a LONG WAY.

Want to know the best part?
You'll learn below, just what you should do prior to ever going to a dealership, so that you have a good estimate of what they're going to offer you for your car.

And that my friend, is why you're here…

Mistake #2 - Not giving your car a thorough washing.

When you sell your car, help it look like a million dollars.
A good car wash gets your car ready to sell and tells potential buyers that you take care of your car.

Okay, so before you go all crazy and start posting an ad online (oh yeah, we recommend posting a free ad on Blastifieds - that's us, by the way), we’ve got to get your car presentable to a buyer.

So, what's the bottom line?
Well, nobody wants to come and sit in someone else's filth, so that's why you'll want your car to look like it's in tip-top shape. Plus, your car will be competing against used cars from dealerships and you'll need to entice potential buyers to your ad, instead of theirs.

Competition with Used Car Dealerships
You're competing against ads from other Private Parties as well as dealerships, so your car is going to need to stand out.

To get your car presentable, it needs to look clean. If you don't have the supplies on hand at home, jump on over to Google and search for your closest car wash. Here's a quick link to a Google Search for "Car Washes Nearby".

Mistake #3 - Forgetting about the interior of your car.
Vacuuming goes a long way...


A buyer is going to prefer seeing a car that has been well-maintained and clean inside. With that said, Car Wash businesses have some of the best vacuums available. Be sure to take a little extra time and spend $1-$2 on getting that layer of dirt and sand removed from your car's floorboards, too.

That dirt will easily show up in your photos and we don’t want that, especially since you're competing against any nearby dealerships that have probably detailed their car.

Don't neglect the sticky spots...
Also, cars have a tendency to get "sticky" spots in certain areas inside, like the console, door handles, where the kids sit, etc. Grab a handful of handwipes on your next visit to Chic-fil-a; they will do wonders.

When the time is ready, you can post a Blastifieds ad in two minutes, Free!
Sell my car - Get me started now!

Mistake #4 - Neglecting your tires and rims.
Next, once you head back home, we’ll want to be sure to Armor All and clean up the dashboard and interior. Do you want to have fun cleaning your wheels? Try that tire foam cleaner; it works great! Finally, make sure those rims look great too by using a cloth to get any remaining brake dust off.

Car wash - tire foam spray
Tire foam cleaner might just be the most fun way to get those car wheels nice, clean, and shiny.

Mistake #5 - Not taking several photos, including portrait-style and landscape-style of your car.
Okay, now your car is about ready to start taking photos. It's important to take lots of photos; do not skimp. Feel free to use your iPhone or other smartphone too, as they are great for up-close picture taking and have a crisp, hi-resolution to them.

Here's a great iPhone Tip for taking pictures in landscape-mode. iMore - iPhone Tips.

iPhone Tip - taking pictures of your car
Want an iPhone picture-taking trick? When using Horizontal / Landscape mode, use the volume button to take your snap.

Now, while taking your photos, make sure to take half of your photos in portrait-style (i.e., vertical) and then flip your phone and take the other half in landscape-style (i.e., horizontal).

Why take half of your photos in landscape-mode and the other half in portrait-mode, you ask?
Well, because it will save you time when it comes to which online advertising service you plan to use (whether it be Blastifieds, Craigslist, ebay, AutoTrader, or Cars.com). Having different variations of the same photos (both in landscape-mode and portrait-mode) will make it easier for you when it comes time to upload the photos, as each advertising website has slightly different photo specifications.

Landscape Mode vs. Portrait Mode photos
Different advertising websites available recommend different picture styles. For example, Landscape/ Horizontal mode works best on Blastifieds.

For example, if you took all of your photos with your smartphone in the vertical / portrait-mode and you then upload the photos to your preferred online service, you would find that all of your photos got stretched and look funny if that online service requires horizontal / landscape style.

Mistake #6 - Not coming up with a list of all the "extras" or features of your car.
While taking photos of your car, try thinking about all of the “extras” that came with your car when you first bought it. Carrying a notepad around to jot down these ideas will help you when you start creating your online ad.

Mistake #7 - Not researching the Trade-in Value and Private Party Value of your car.
Next up, we’re going to use the Kelley Blue Book website to determine what your car is worth (both trade-in value and Private Party value). You’ll want to have your notepad handy here too, since the Kelley Blue Book website will ask you for details about your car (such as number of doors, whether it's a sedan or coupe, the engine size, power windows/ locks, etc.) and these details will be great to include in the online ad you're planning to create (like right here on Blastifieds).

Kelley Blue Book helps determine car value
Use a tool like Kelley Blue Book to help determine the value of your car, before you start advertising it.

Okay, so if you don't already, make sure you have the Kelley Blue Book website open in a second window. This exercise will take 5-10 minutes, but is well worth it.

For example, if we wanted to sell a 2014 Ford Mustang ourselves, it would be important to find out the trade-in value and the Private Party value.

Ford Mustang Trade-in Value vs Private Party Value
Notice the Trade-in Value ($18,335) vs. the Private Party Sales Value ($22,344); yielding a $4,000 or 22% difference.

Looking at the Kelley Blue Book graphic above, that could yield us $4,000 more (or a 22% increase) over simply trading the Mustang in at a dealership.

Now go ahead... perform this same exercise on your own car, enter your car’s Year, Make, and Model and select Trade-in Value. If your car is still in great shape, select either Excellent or Very Good shape.

As you can see, information is power and Kelly Blue Book provides a very accurate, estimated price range of what you could sell your car for or trade it in for. Just remember, if you go straight into a dealership looking for a trade-in, they’re probably going to low-ball you on their first few offers… that’s just what they do; they’re a business.

Having a good Private Party estimated price and accompanying trade-in value from KBB.com helps you go into a dealership with key information in your hip pocket.

Here's a useful video by Nationwide Insurance that helps pull everything together.

Ryan Guina, from CashMoneyLife.com actually makes a pretty convincing argument regarding the tax savings for trade-ins in certain circumstances, instead of selling your car via Private Party.

Tax benefits of trading in your car
Source - Ryan Guina of CashMoneyLife.com.

In his example, he explains that when buying a car from a dealership, you’ll have to pay taxes on the full amount of that car. In Ryan's case above, that would be a $30,000 price tag + $2,100 taxes - $16,000 (for selling your car yourself) = $16,100.

Remember though, his example is based off of only making $1,000 more on your Private Sale vs. your trade-in amount. Most likely you will earn far more than that...

If you instead traded in your old car to the dealership, that trade-in value would be subtracted from your overall price (so $30,000 - $15,000 trade-in) leaving you with only having to pay taxes on $15,000, which would be $1,050 total in taxes (so $16,050 overall for the car).

Mistake #8 - Only advertising your car in one place.
Next, it’s time to figure out where you will advertise your car online. There are several paid options, such as AutoTrader.com or Cars.com (which will cost you anywhere from $25-$100 for an ad). Many dealerships advertise in both the AutoTrader and Cars.com. There’s also eBay Motors, where you can setup an auction for your car.

Craigslist - sell my car
Craigslist has been around for a long time and is a great way to garner initial interest in your car.

Mistake #9 - Not leveraging some of the FREE options for advertising online available too.
There are several free options to advertise the sale of your car, too. First, the biggest of them all is Craigslist. They garner 60+ million visits each month, even though that number has decreased a bit lately, due to no longer allowing Dating ads.

Another free option available is Backpage.com. However, since first writing this post, Backpage's service has been seized by the U.S. government for shady services.

Finally, there's Blastifieds (which is us!). Blastifieds is an up and coming classifieds-style website that offers free listings, as well as Featured Upgrade listings. We’re similar to a Craigslist, but have invested heavily into site design and usability.

First there were Craigslist and ebay for you to sell things online, but here's the newest alternative. Check out our Blastifieds YouTube cartoon!

Mistake #10: Not setting advertising goals, tracking your advertising results, or taking advantage of Social Amplification.
Blastifieds helps you track how many visitors have viewed your ad and even tracks where your visitors came from. So, if you have a Social Media account, you can help promote your Blastifieds ad via a quick post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You can then place a link from that post to your Blastifieds ad, which provides a nice dosage of "social amplification" and extra traffic to your ad.

Blastifieds Homepage Screen
Blastifieds homepage allows your ad to be showcased on our front page, to help you get more initial traffic.

We provide a quick way of gaining "Social Amplification". Once you have created a new Blastifieds Ad, there's a feature called "AdBlast". This helps boost traffic to your ad. By simply clicking the AdBlast button (as seen in the screenshot below), you will be able to quickly post to social media. You never know which of your friends or followers might be able to throw you an "assist" and help you sell that car of yours.

Boost your ad
Give your ad a little boost, by using the AdBlast feature found within Blastifieds.

Mistake #11: Not playing it safe and always meeting the buyer in a public place.
Just like any other service though, when you sell your car, be sure to meet in a public place, such as a grocery store parking lot or Police Station’s parking lot, as you can never be too safe.

Mistake #12: Not thinking like a Marketer! ...and determining a Keyword Phrase that potential buyers are searching for and including it in your Ad's Title or Headline.
This makes it easier for potential buyers to find your car through the search engines. For example, if you’re selling a 2014 Ford Mustang 5.0, be sure to include the Make and Model in your ad's title. Search engines rely on page titles to know what a webpage is about and your online ad is no different.

Include Keywords in your Ad Title
Include keywords in your ad title to help your ad appear in the search results.

Mistake #13: Not playing up your car's benefits. You want the buyer to REMEMBER your ad.
Within your ad’s description, really highlight several benefits of driving your car. If you have a power sunroof, talk about the "warm summer breeze that you feel as you look out at the stars or moon while you drive at night". Really play up your car’s benefits. A lot of sellers don't take advantage of this tip.

Mistake #14: Not following the Blastifieds "Double-Amplification" technique to getting a huge increase in traffic to your ad.

One technique to incorporate into your advertising strategy is what I call the Double-Amplification Trick. This technique has you advertising on a combination of at least two free services, such as creating a Blastifieds ad and then creating an identical Craigslist ad on Craigslist, which then points a link to your Blastifieds ad.

Why do this?
Since Craigslist does not offer you visitor traffic stats for your ad, it’s hard to tell just how well your ad is performing. But, if you first create your ad on Blastifieds (which takes 5 minutes) and then create the same ad on Craigslist (which takes 5 minutes), and be sure to include a link pointing to your Blastifieds ad as a way to contact you, you will then cut down on most of the typical Craigslist spam inquiries you'll receive.

PLUS, you'll be able to track the number of visitors via Blastifieds (a big bonus!!), which is something you cannot do by simply using Craigslist.

The Blastifieds "Double-Amplification Trick" really pays off...
Try our Double-Amplification trick now to sell your car.

Another added benefit of our Double-Amplification Trick is that every weekend, Blastifieds heavily promotes its Weekend Blasts - Online Circular (which starts each Friday). That page highlights the most popular deals for each category on Blastifieds. The ads that appear on the Weekend Blasts Circular are based off of the number of views, the number of offers, and how many votes an ad receives.

Receive more traffic by appearing on our weekly Weekend Blasts circular
'The Weekend Blasts' online circular starts each Friday, where we start the beginning of each weeked, called BlastFriday.

So if your ad makes our cut and appears on our Weekend Blasts Circular, be sure to let all of your followers know via your social profiles, by linking to our Weekend Blasts page.

Mistake #15: Not printing off a "spec sheet" for offline advertising purposes.
Another important item is to print off a “spec sheet”, which highlights all the details about your car. You can do this easily by opening your Blastifieds ad and then from your browser window, click File > Print (that's if you have a printer hooked up to your computer). Then you can tape your "spec sheet" on the inside of one of the windows in your car to advertise offline.

Mistake #16: Not treating every inquiry you receive as if that is the final buyer.
Now, once you start receiving offers or questions, it is important to respond to them all, as if they are the one who is going to buy your car. Remember, your ad is one of thousands online and that potential buyer has taken the time to reach out to you. Be sure to respond with the same respect. That’s why handling communications within a tool like Blastifieds is a big help.

A potential buyer can send you an offer and any questions straight from your Blastifieds ad. From there, you’ll get an email alert and you can login to Blastifieds to see all of the communications sent to you and be able to respond back to each. Once several offers come in for your car, you can then choose the one that is the best choice for you.

Mistake #17: Not going with your gut instinct when choosing the best offer for you.
The offer that you choose does not have to be the first one that came in (which seems like the norm for Craigslist) and it does not have to be the highest offer (which is the norm for eBay). Go with your gut choice on this one... it might just be that one of the buyers seemed extra nice and that's why you chose that person.

Mistake #18: Not taking down your ad, once you make the sale, to stop receiving additional inquiries.
Once your car is sold, make sure that you close out your Blastifieds ad (as well as any other ads you've created) so you don’t keep receiving inquiries. Closing out your ad on Blastifieds triggers a feedback survey to go out to you and the buyer. This allows you to rate your experience with the buyer and also is important to us here at Blastifieds, because it tells us how we are doing as a service and what we can start doing better.

Okay, that’s a wrap. Good luck with your sale! We want to hear back about how selling your car went and if you have any additional tips.

Leave me a comment to let me know which tip you plan to try first.