Five Sneaky Ways To Save Hundreds When Selling Your Car

by Hank Coleman

How to save when selling your carRecently I sold my beloved BMW and am currently looking for a new car to replace it. I took my car to one of those places with signs out front that say, “buy, sell, or trade”. So, I sold it to them. I had them make me an offer, and the offer was fair. It was also several hundred dollars more than what I had expected to receive.

But, that got me thinking. Could I have gotten more for my car? Could I have saved myself some money by preparing for the sale earlier? How far are you willing to go to save a few hundred dollars?

Here are a few ways that you can squeeze out a little more profit in your pocket when you are selling your car.

Delay Some Non-Critical Maintenance

Now I am not saying to drive around in a car that is unsafe and about to fall apart. Don’t drive a car shouldn’t be on the road because you are waiting to get some critical maintenance done to save a few bucks.

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But, I would recommend timing your routine car maintenance so that you sell your car before you have to complete the maintenance. For example, an oil change for a late model BMW is over $125.

If you delayed changing that oil until you sold your car, that is money that you didn’t spend and money that stays in your pocket. Do you need new tires? Have you been putting off getting a tune up or your air conditioner looked at for the summer? These can be simple things to put off to keep more money for yourself and save. Of course, you could also find yourself having to concede money for whoever you sell your car to for the needed repairs if they are significant and obvious.

Show Up With An Empty Gas Tank

With a lot of cars and the price of gasoline nowadays, you can actually save a lot of money by showing up on fumes to the car lot when you want to trade in or sell your used car. For example, if gas is $4 per gallon and you have a 20 gallon tank, you just saved yourself $80 in gas.

Some of us also have a gas guzzler that can cost even more than $80 to fill up. This is a simple way to save a good size chunk of change when you are selling your car.

Get A Car Wash And Clean The Inside

You would be surprised by how many people drive onto the car lot with a dirty car. It only takes a few minutes of your time and less than a roll of quarters to get a good car wash and vacuum. It is, without a doubt, money well spent. You have to think about the first impression that you are making with your car when you show it to a potential buyer.

This time we are not talking about delaying paying for a cost. We are talking about spending a little bit of money to earn a higher amount when you sell your car. Are there scuff marks on the seats, left over cereal from your kids, etc.? Cleaning the car or even paying for a detail can help you earn a larger price when you sell.

The old saying is often true that you have to sometimes spend money to make money. This is definitely the case when you are selling your car and want to receive the most amount of money possible for your car and time getting it ready.

Fix The Obvious Things Before You Go

Another thing that you want to do is to fix simple issues that a dealer or potential buyer will see right away. Certain automobile insurance companies can fix cosmetic issues for a minor deductible.

To get an idea of an insurance company that covers these cosmetic issues, check out these automobile insurance quotes from the Hartford. Fixing the obvious issues with your car such as needing new windshield wipers can help you make a great first impression and can help you receive the most amount for your trade in.

Sell Your Car Right Before Your Loan Payment

If you can sell your car right before your car loan payment is due, then that money you were going to spend can stay in your pocket right where it belongs. This is one of the easiest ways to save money when you sell your car.

Like when you are paying your rent, you pay your car loan for the next month. So, if you pay your loan payment on the first of the money, you are paying for the rest of the month (the four months following).

Have you ever sold a car either to a dealership or in a private sale to someone else? Have you tried to save a few bucks here or there? How did you do it? How did you get top dollar for your car when you sold? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and a graduate certificate in personal financial planning. Email him directly at Hank[at]

Hank Coleman has written 549 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John S @ Frugal Rules

Great tips. I’d alsoo add, that if you’re trading in against the “new” car purchase to not negotiate the trade in until after you negotiate the purchase price of your car. We sold our old Jeep a few years ago through a private sale. We made sure it was clean and emphasized the added things we put in to it.


Hank Coleman

That’s a great point, John. I was once told a great example of the car buying process. It is like a balloon in three sections: your trade in, the new car price, and financing. If you are not careful, the car dealership will squeeze the balloon at one point to give you a good deal on the car price and then making their profit up on another portion of the balloon that blows up bigger when the other section was squeezed.


Sean @ One Smart Dollar

Before we sold our car a few months ago I took it and got it detailed. I think that instantly added more than the $100 spent to the value. We also sold it to the first person to come and look at it.


Hank Coleman

It is definitely worth it in my opinion. Money well spent!


Money Beagle

Last time we sold a car we didn’t have a loan payment because it was already paid off. Don’t forget to aim for that 🙂


Hank Coleman

That definitely gives you some negotiating power when you do not need the dealership to pay off your old car loan note.



Always get a Carmax appraisal on your current vehicle. Even if you don’t plan to sell your car to Carmax knowing what Carmax is appraising it for is a good starting point in terms of negotiating the selling price with another dealer. I always make it known that I’ve had a Carmax appraisal done. With that groundwork in place I’ve always managed to get an offer from another dealer at least $1,000 above the Carmax offer.

Also, if you are planning to shop for a new car in a large urban area make sure you use the zip code of that area to obtain Truecar pricing. If you use your current zip code as opposed to the zip code of the area you plan to purchase the vehicle in, Truecar may show you a price several hundred if not several thousand dollars higher.


Christian L.

I sold my car that had been totaled. I got rear-ended and because of the age and mileage of my car, the insurance company deemed it totaled even though everything was A-OK mechanically.

I needed it for a road trip that weekend, so I kept it. But when I sold it, I got the difference between what the insurance company offered me to keep it and the offer to give it to them immediately.

-Christian L. @ Smart Military Money


Hank Coleman

That’s an interesting story. So, maybe you can even add the price of a rental car that you did not have to rent into the total amount of money that you saved selling your car…or, more accurately, delaying the sale of your car.


Elizabeth @ Simple Finance

My car desperately needed new tires, but we knew we were about to trade it in – and when we did, those tires were BALD! But there was no way I was going to shell out $500 for tires on a car I wasn’t going to be driving for much longer!


Randolph Hoover

Well, most likely get the maintenance done. Get the damages fixed and telling the truth will work. It’ll give you a good reputation as a person too if you sold a quality product.


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