Guide to Selling Your Car Privately

Guide to selling a car privately through Motobyo

Whether it’s time for a new car or you just want to offload one that doesn’t see much action anymore, you’re probably wondering how selling a car privately works.

It’s actually not as complicated as most people assume. However, there is a little more work involved compared to just going to the dealer for a trade-in. Fortunately, selling a vehicle privately as opposed to trading it in usually results in more money for the seller – so that makes the little bit of extra time spent to sell it worthwhile.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to privately sell a car. That way, you’ll know what’s involved and what your options are so you can decide if it’s the right move for you.

Keep reading to learn more.

Selling Your Car Privately vs. Trade-In to a Dealer

If you’re thinking about selling your car privately, then you may also be thinking about taking it to the dealership and trading it in towards the purchase of another vehicle. If you are buying a new car, then this is an important decision to make.

To simplify this decision, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of trading your car in at the dealership:

  • Pro: It takes no effort on your part. This is because the dealer simply takes the car off your hands and handles the paperwork. That’s really the only pro.
  • Con: The offer will be lower. Car dealers are in business to turn a profit, especially on trade-in cars. They generally only offer less than what your car’s wholesale value would be, which is often far less than real market value.
pros and cons written in notebook

When you sell your car privately, you get to name your price according to its current market value and condition. Of course, you’ll be responsible for advertising the car and completing the paperwork, but that little bit of extra effort might just be worth it once you sell for possibly thousands of dollars more.

Guide to Selling Your Car Privately

If you decide that privately selling your car is the way to go, then you’ll need to follow these steps to get the job done:

Do Your Research

paperwork strewn about with man on laptop for research

The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out exactly how much your car is currently worth. Skip the generic online book values that give you a worthless opinion and get a real offer along with private party value guidance on the Motobyo platform. Motobyo has done all the research for you. We’ve evaluated the wholesale transactions and the retail sales data.  Our fancy pricing tool deciphers millions of real world transactions and delivers values to you that you can take action with.Once your pricing research is done, you’ll have a better idea of how to adequately price your car.

Our pricing tool takes into consideration your vehicle’s options, miles and condition and delivers pricing guidance that you can actually use. Knowing your car’s true value will help you avoid falling for lowball offers as it will help you decide what a fair value is.

Consider Your Selling Options

Gone are the days when you would take out an ad in the newspaper. Nowadays there are online options to help prospective buyers find your vehicle ad.

If you choose to sell your car on generic marketplace sites or social media platforms like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, you’ll need to be very careful. These sites were never designed to sell vehicles, so they offer very little assistance. There are also a lot of cybercriminals out there posing as potential buyers and you’ll have to be very diligent to weed out the scammers and not be taken advantage of. From fake certified checks to nonsense stories about  out of country buyers, you’ll definitely hear many stories if you advertise a car on these platforms.

consider your options written out

You could try a website that dealers advertise on like, Autotrader, Carguru, etc as well. The problem with these sites is that they cater to dealers who pay them for premium placement, so your ad rarely gets found. These sites advise private party sellers that the sale could take 75 days or more to sell and that timeframe doesn’t match many seller’s plans.

Alternatively, you could advertise your vehicle for sale on a site that is built for private party vehicle buyers and sellers to succeed. A site that knows exactly what paperwork is needed, what a fair value is for your vehicle, how to properly prepare a vehicle for sale, how to properly complete the sale and how to do all of this in seven days or less. There’s only one solution that does all of this for you, that’s Motobyo. The only platform dedicated to private party success.

Get Your Paperwork in Order

Now it’s time to talk about paperwork. Before you can legally sell your car, you’re going to need to locate certain documents and hammer out certain details, including the following:

certificate of car title

The Title of Your Car 

  • Also known as the pink slip, the title of your car gives you the legal power to sell it and transfer the ownership. Once the sale is made, you’ll need to sign the back of it as will the buyer.

A Vehicle History Report

  • While a vehicle history report isn’t a legal requirement, it is good practice for selling a car privately. This document details the reported life of your car, including major repairs and accidents as well as the number of owners, which helps put buyers’ minds at ease.
cartoon paperwork
dmv sign in a blue sky

Contact Your Local DMV

  • Each state has different laws and requirements regarding private car sales. You’ll need to check with your state’s department to get an accurate list of the paperwork required for transferring ownership of the vehicle. For example, you may need to provide a bill of sale for the transaction. 

You’ll also need to find out what to do with the license plates once your car is sold.

Check with Your Lender

  • If you have a lien on your car, you can still sell it. However, you’ll need to pay off the remainder of your car loan in order to do so. This is because your lender will likely have their name on the title until the loan is paid off. 
calendar for listing date

Your lender will also tell you what’s required for the sales process, which is important because each lender may have different requirements.

Have the Car Inspected

car inspection by mechanic blue jumpsuit

When it comes to selling your car privately, it’s important to have a vehicle that’s in proper working order and not in need of any repairs that could be considered safety concerns. You should arrange to have it inspected before listing the car and keep the records handy for potential buyers to examine. If you choose to sell on the Motobyo platform, don’t bother having it inspected on your own because we’ll help. Vehicle inspections performed by our partner shops are automatically uploaded to your online listing saving you time and questions from potential buyers.

Have the Car Washed or Detailed

You want your car to be presentable for both the photos you’ll be taking for the advertisement and for the buyer.

First impressions mean a lot, so having a shiny appearance and pleasant smell will help close the deal when the time is right.

Create Your Listing

Once you’ve decided upon the platform you’ll use to sell the car privately, and you have it ready to go, now is the time to put your vehicle out for all to see.

When you create your online listing, you’ll want to take high-quality photos of your car from all angles. Think about what you would want to see if you were looking at used cars online and what would appeal to you most.

For example, make sure each photo is well-lit so potential buyers can actually see everything. That way, there are no surprises if they come to see the car in person prior to making the purchase.

From there, you’ll also need to write a detailed description of the car. 

sport car driving towards mountains in the sunset

Include information about the make and model, trim level, year, features, mileage, and overall condition. Be sure to also include any special features, options and anything else that might be unique.

It’s also a good idea to mention the service history, any recent repairs and any needed cosmetic or mechanical repair work.

Ready to Sell with Motobyo?

The best way to sell a car privately is a no-brainer: List it on Motobyo!


Motobyo is the only used car marketplace dedicated to your success. We empower both buyers and sellers with the proper information, products and solutions that guarantee you success. We can give you a quick cash offer if you’re in a hurry or you can list our car online to receive offers from vetted cash buyers. What’s more, we can help with car loans, vehicle inspections, title transfers, car loans, and much more.

Sell your car for what it’s actually worth on the Motobyo platform today. We verify the identities of all parties and can guarantee that your car sells in 10 days or less!