The time it takes to sell a car privately can range from a few hours to never, with countless factors influencing how long the process takes. However, it should be possible to sell a vehicle to a private buyer in anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks if the seller starts out with the right price and expectations.
Unloading vs. Sellling a Car
To quickly change a car you own into cash, a local dealer will pay the trade-in value of the car without requiring you to buy a new vehicle. With this method you can sell the car in a few hours, or possibly a full day if you take the car to several dealers for offers. To get more for the car than a dealer will pay requires you to sell the car on your own. You may be able to sell it over a weekend by parking the car near a high-traffic area with a For Sale sign in the window. As you increase the amount you want for your car, you should expect it to take longer to sell.
Roadblocks to Selling
Several factors can stretch out the time it takes to privately sell a vehicle. Owning an undesirable car can be a significant barrier to a quick sale. An unpopular model with high miles will not draw many potential buyers, no matter how great of a car the vehicle is in the eyes of the owner. Pricing a car too high will keep away potential buyers. A seller needs to be realistic concerning the value of her car. In addition, a car with an existing loan will be a negative to buyers. The extra steps necessary to pay off the loan to get the title can send a buyer in search of a different car to buy.
Improving the Desirability of the Car
The seller can't change the model or miles on a car, but there are things that can be done to make the car sell more quickly. Highlight the positive factors such as it having had only one owner, comprehensive maintenance records, or the fact that a high-cost component has been replaced. Wash the car and take the junk out of the trunk, glove box and under the seat. If a smog check is required to register the car, get one done in advance. The goal is to increase the possibility that a buyer will tell himself that the car is an easy purchase of dependable transportation.
Setting a Price
The online car price guides provide useful and fairly accurate price information about all models of used cars. Of the prices give, the seller should use the range from the trade-in value to the private party price as a starting point. A popular model with low miles can be priced somewhat above the private party price and potential buyers will come to look and negotiate. The lower the price is set in the starting range, the more likely it is to get calls and looks at the car and to quickly get a buyer with cash in hand.
Spreading the Word
To sell a car quickly, it is important to get the word out. For a popular model in good shape, For Sale signs in the window with a phone number can draw a lot of cars. Online ads should have several pictures of good quality and an accurate description of the vehicle. If the phone does not start ringing within a day or two with questions about the vehicle, the seller has missed the mark on the description and most likely the pricing. A car marketed correctly will sell within a couple of weeks. If not, it is very possible it will not sell until something changes, such as a much lower price.
Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.