How To Pick the Right Price When Selling Your Car

by Matt Smith

Selling your used car privately can earn you more money than trading it in—as much as $1,200 more. But once you’ve decided to sell it yourself, you might ask yourself, “how much is my car worth?” Luckily, there are now plenty of car value tools available to help you determine a fair price for your car, as well as some key tips and tricks to ensure you find a buyer quickly.

Consider Selling 100% Online

CG Sell 100% Online

CarGurus can help you sell your car in minutes by leveraging our network of thousands of dealerships to source a top-dollar instant cash offer. Selling 100% online strips the hassle out of car sales. Other websites like CarMax, Carvana, Vroom, and Kelley Blue Book also offer instant cash offers, but none leverage quite the same technology as CarGurus. Because our car prices are being supplied via thousands of dealerships bidding, you’re more likely to find a better valuation than if you were to speak with only local dealerships about the car’s trade-in value. If your current vehicle is in need of replacement, your first stop should be the CarGurus “Sell My Car” page; enter your VIN or license plate number, confirm some details, and get a price. After we’ve come to pick up the car, you can expect to see payment within one to three business days. Easy-peasey.

If you’d like to list your old car for sale to a private party, CarGurus can help with that, too. Finding a prospective buyer starts with determining the right listing price. We’ve got a few tips to point you in the right direction.

Research the Market

The first step to competitively pricing your car is understanding how others have priced their vehicles. For many, that means checking its “book value.” But, when you sell a car on CarGurus, you’ll be greeted with a handy pricing tool that values vehicles on a number of data points, including present market conditions, providing the most accurate private party value. Enter a few details and you’ll get a suggested price immediately. If you adjust the listing price for your vehicle, the tool will tell you if it’s a great, good, or fair deal—and it will even alert you if you’re asking too much.

As a rule of thumb, shoppers see listings priced in the “good deal” range twice as often as cars marked as “fair deals”—and they see “great deals” four times as often. You may be tempted to price your car higher, but keep in mind that “overpriced” listings are seen only half as often as fairly priced cars.

Be sure to keep an eye on the market so your vehicle is always listed at an appropriate price. The closer your price straddles the line between “good deal” and “fair deal,” the more likely it is to get bumped into the latter bracket as other competitively priced cars enter the market.

Use Pricing Psychology

Everyone wants to make the most money possible when selling their car. And, while understanding your car’s Instant Market Value is a critical element, there’s nothing wrong with leveraging a little pricing psychology to maximize your car’s worth, too.

Ever notice how shops will list items for sale with prices ending in $.95 or $.99? This is so shoppers will mentally register these goods as costing a dollar less than they actually are, when in reality, they’ve been discounted only a few cents. This concept applies to cars, too. Thinking about listing your car for $14,000? Choosing $13,900 can make it look much more attractive to potential buyers while costing you very little in the long run. You’ll be setting up test drives before you know it.

Think Like a Shopper

When people search for answers on Google, they rarely travel deep into the search results. Most searchers won’t go beyond the first page. Similarly, if your car is listed with too high a price, it’s less likely to be seen. Few shoppers will venture past the “fair” deals on CarGurus. So, if you’re selling a very common car—one that will compete with many listings—pricing your car as a good or great deal is critical.

Also, recognize that everyone views vehicles from their own unique point of view. It’s human nature to value one’s own possessions more than other people’s items, and that might mean your instincts have you thinking your used car should be priced more like a new car. General condition is undoubtedly important (you wouldn’t pay full market value for a car in less-than-stellar condition), but specific details may not hold their value. Even if you feel strongly about the car’s condition and optional features, or if you absolutely love the car’s paint color, buyers might not feel the same way. Don’t expect a shopper to pay a premium over the market value because your car has the options you prefer.

The Bottom Line

Your asking price is an important part of successfully listing a vehicle and completing a car sale. As a motivated seller, you should strive to price your cars objectively and use a data-driven approach when assessing the value of your car—remember that buyers won’t attach sentimental value to a car, and they may not assign as much used-car value to options or the paint as much as the original dealership did when it was a new car. Using the tools available (like CarGurus Instant Market Value) and applying a little pricing psychology can go a long way toward selling a car quickly—and can make you more money than you’d receive trading it in!

Related Topics

How To Sell Your Car Online
How To Sell a Car You Haven’t Paid Off Yet
The Truth About Trade-Ins

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When it comes to cars, Matt's curiosity extends well beyond the powertrain. From Ford to Porsche, he's as interested in the history behind the machine as he is in the view behind the wheel. Matt has been working on the journalism side of the auto industry since 2014. As CarGurus’ Deputy Editor, he creates and oversees the site’s written and video content.

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