How to Safely Sell Your Car During the Coronavirus Crisis

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If you peruse the CarGurus website, you’ll discover that we’ve addressed selling your car exhaustively, from getting rid of a leased vehicle to avoiding scams and picking the right asking price. All of that advice is still applicable, but the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 virus requires you to take a few extra steps and approach the entire process with an abundance of caution. In the end, you and the buyer will walk away satisfied with the deal and, more importantly, you'll know you've taken the necessary steps to try and stay healthy.

Preparing Your Car for Sale

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on nearly every aspect of daily life, but we can happily say that it hasn’t changed the basics behind getting your car ready for sale. You’ll still need to gather all of your necessary paperwork and—if you have them—maintenance documents, determine the appropriate asking price, calculate any loan payoff due to your lender (if applicable), and, of course, scrub every inch of the car so you can list it with eye-popping photos that will help you get top dollar from a potential buyer.

Here’s where the COVID-19 enters the picture. While all of your washing and waxing have made your vehicle appear nearly new, there may be areas that are contaminated by the virus. Perhaps one of your passengers was asymptomatic and touched the door handle thinking there was no cause for concern, or maybe you filled the backseat with some boxes that had been handled by someone infected with the coronavirus. Regardless, to protect yourself and others, you’ll need to go beyond cleaning and dive into disinfecting. We’ve covered that process in detail, but the main point is this: every surface, ranging from the steering wheel and radio knobs to the carpets and seatbelt buckles, should be viewed as a host for COVID-19. With sanitizing wipes and sprays (and a bit of time), you can do your part to stay healthy and stop the spread.

Selling Your Car Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

Among the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines for slowing the transmission of COVID-19 is what we’ve all come to know as social or physical distancing. Simply put, everyone needs to have 6 feet of personal space. That’s not an easy rule to follow for car sellers and buyers. But, as proven time and time again in recent weeks, we can certainly adapt.

Thankfully, most sellers opt to list their car for sale online and answer questions or schedule test drives via email, text, or phone. Some may even adopt the increasing popular option of communicating with a video chat service. The problem comes when it’s time for buyer and seller to come together and possibly work out a deal. Though admittedly a little awkward, here’s a guide on selling your car safely during the crisis:

  • Agree to meet at or near your home. Normally, we’d suggest meeting at a neutral location or, even better, at your bank, but most of us are under state order to avoid unnecessary travel, and many banks are closed except to drive-up customers. If you’d prefer to not meet at your home, consider a location nearby so you can walk back, avoiding the need for a ride in an Uber or friend’s car. And, do not allow the buyer into your house to use the bathroom, get out of the weather, or for any other reason.
  • Wear a mask and gloves and request anyone coming to view the vehicle do the same. It’s easy enough to maintain a 6-foot distance while talking about the car with a potential buyer, but COVID-19 is easily transmitted. Even if neither party is infected with the coronavirus, it’s better to be overly cautious and avoid the risk. We don’t advise joining the buyer for a test drive, but, if you do, this extra protection is a must.
  • When exchanging keys or paperwork, consider placing the item on or in the car and step away to maintain 6 feet of distance.
  • Do not shake hands at any point—to say hello or good-bye, or to finalize a deal. For some of us, that goes against our nature, though it’s necessary to avoid potentially spreading the virus.
  • Accept payment through an online service like CarGurus Pay. Cash is a germ-haven even in the best of times, and now it can be especially hazardous to your health if its contaminated with COVID-19. A certified bank check is another option. For any items that are handled, whether it's cash or a key or a pen used to sign a bill of sale, be sure to wear gloves.
  • If the potential buyer turns into more of a tire kicker and your car doesn’t sell, repeat the disinfecting process before showing the car again since, according to a study carried out by the New England Journal of Medicine, the coronavirus can survive on steel and plastic surfaces for up to 3 days.
  • Dispose of all sanitizing wipes, personal protection equipment (masks, gloves), and any other single-use products. Remove and wash your clothes.

The Bottom Line

Much has changed since the introduction of COVID-19, yet there remains a strong market for used vehicles of all types. Getting top dollar for your car or truck is quite doable, though it now needs to be done with precautions that will keep sellers, buyers, and the rest of us as safe as possible.

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