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Ask Joanne

How to sell your car privately Add to ...

I'm planning to sell my car this summer. I'm not mechanically inclined and I don't have a lot of money to spend to spruce it up, but what simple things can I do to make sure I get the best price? - Lise in Gatineau, Que.

Unlike sprucing up your home for a sale, you're not going to pull this off with staged lighting and a coat of neutral paint. Whether or not you have money to burn, you should only have work done for which you'll receive at least an even return on your dollar. If your sunroof is broken, knock $500 off the asking price rather than pay a higher amount to have it fixed.

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As with many other things in life, first impressions count. A clean car is essential. Besides curb appeal, it conveys the message that you've cared for your vehicle. (Because you have, haven't you?) Sit in the driver's seat. Visualize what the potential buyer will want to see. Is your steering wheel sticky from last week's road snack? Is there a questionable stain on the seat cushion from yesterday's hot chocolate lid malfunction? Clean everything.

Spend time scrubbing your engine bay, though, and it may appear as if you're trying to hide something. If you do decide to venture under the hood, don't go overboard.

The condition of your vehicle is important, but pricing, marketing and skillful negotiation also play a role in receiving fair value in a sale.

"Using an online channel to sell your vehicle is a great idea. It's unbiased on your gender or personality; it's all about the quality of the information you put out - how good your ad is, how well your ad is written and the details and the photos you've put in, and how you price your car," says Isabel Tremblay, a manager at Trader Corp. Canada, which operates AutoTrader sites nationally.

To help establish a competitive price, check the inventory on local automotive classified sites to get an idea of what your model-year is worth. Take into account the mileage, options and condition of your vehicle. Hopefully you've maintained your car regularly and have the records to match. Don't forget to factor in any recent major repairs or new parts. Perhaps you even have a transferable extended warranty. Consider everything, and add some wiggle room for negotiation. We all enjoy feeling as though we're getting a deal, and the purchase of a vehicle is no exception.

Next you'll need some negotiating basics, especially if you're uninitiated in the world of sales.

"Don't be too aggressive. Be open and honest, and as collaborative and co-operative as possible with the potential buyer, because it is an important decision, and one many people don't take lightly. A vehicle is probably the second-biggest purchase after a house, so understand that there is a lot going on emotionally," says Tremblay.

Have a firm idea of the minimum price you'll accept. Rather than appear uncertain, be confident when you're closing the deal. If a potential buyer makes an offer that doesn't meet your minimum desired value, politely yet firmly let them know why you expect a better price (i.e. the low mileage or condition of your vehicle). Don't be desperate to sell, rather, make it clear that you're willing to hold out for a better offer.

Once you've taken care of the cleaning, pricing, marketing, and negotiating, enjoy the advantage of a private vehicle sale - the "dealer's cut" is yours to keep.

E-Mail Ask Joanne at globedrive@globeandmail.com

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