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6 tips for selling your car privately (The 6 P’s)

Selling your car privately can get you the highest price when compared to trading it into a dealership, but doing so doesn’t come without headaches. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide using the 6-P’s of Private Car Sale to help you make the process a little less painful.

  1. Pricing
  2. Paperwork
  3. Preparing your car
  4. Promoting
  5. Prospective buyer interactions
  6. Payment & Post-sale


One important step to take before selling your car is to determine if now is the right time to sell. If, for example, you have an outstanding car loan balance, you should first check to see how this compares to the market price of your car.

Loan Balance. If the current market value of your car is $14,000 but you still have $17,000 owing on it, you will need to pay off the $17,000 before selling the car to another private purchaser. In this simple case, you will lose over $3,000 from the sale of your car. You may find it more advantageous to keep the car for longer until more of the loan balance is paid off before selling. The further along you are to paying off your vehicle, the higher the chance that you car will be worth more than the loan balance you owe.

What’s my car worth? The best way to quickly and easily determine your car’s  current market value is to use one of several  free  online estimation resources such as Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or Canadian Black Book (CBB). Online estimator tools typically provide you with 3 estimates: 

Dealer Trade-in Price – What the Dealer would pay you. Usually the lowest value of the three

Market Price (Dealer) – What the Dealer will sell your car for. The highest of these values

Market Price (Private Sale) – What you should expect to sell your car for privately.

The Private Sale price is often slightly lower than the Dealer selling price as consumer confidence is higher when buying from a Dealer.

Additionally, you can also do some research based on similar vehicles (Make, Model, Trim, Options) at online marketplaces such as AutoTrader or Kijiji. Be sure to select vehicles within your geographic region (<100KM) and notice the price difference between private and dealer listings.

It is important to note that the prices you see are the initial listing price, and not the final transaction price. Typically the final transaction price is roughly 5-10% lower than the listed price for the average car as a result of negotiation, so keep this in mind when setting an expectation for yourself.


UVIP. When selling privately in Ontario, you are required to order a Used Vehicle Information Package from Service Ontario that you must pass on to the buyer at the time of purchase. This package includes valuable information about your vehicle that provides buyers with added transparency on the vehicle, such as Vehicle History and Lien Information. It also has a simple Bill of Sale section that allows you to record the sale price, date, and buyer/seller signatures.

There are other documents that you will need to in order to sell your car such as the Vehicle Registration Permit (aka vehicle ownership).  To learn more about the documents you will need to give a buyer, as well as what you should keep for yourself, it is worth the time to visit Service Ontario for a concise overview.

It is common that potential buyers will ask for your vehicle maintenance history and Carfax report. For vehicle maintenance history, any receipts you have proving that you have maintained your vehicle as per manufacturer’s recommended intervals should be sufficient. It is almost guaranteed that someone will ask you for a Carfax report, so we definitely recommend you order one in advance so that you have it readily available. The more transparency you share on the car, the more trust that you can build with your potential buyers, which ultimately increases your chance of selling your car at the price you want.


Cleaning. If you haven’t cleaned your car since the time you’ve bought it, now is the time to do so! Having a clean car allows potential buyers to see your car in the best possible way and can make or break a deal. If you want to do it yourself with great results, you can follow these pro-tips for an exterior cleaning.

For the interior, hiring a professional to do the work is a good option, especially if the car requires significant cleaning or deodorizing. One tip to determine if it needs some extra cleaning is to ask your friend or a family member that doesn’t usually travel in the car to sit in it and give you an honest opinion.

Repairs. Aside from a deep clean, you may want to consider repairing certain items. Some repairs will be worth the money, while others will not significantly increase the value of your car. This is similar to renovations made to your home. Kitchens and Washrooms will get the most return, while repairing your 5 year old washing machine will probably not add much value. Here are some items to consider before selling your car.

Photos. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take high quality photos. This is the first impression that people will get when viewing your listing online. The key is to take a variety of clear photos at different interior and exterior angles. Make sure that the environment is well lit and that there are no people or other vehicles in the background. Instead of a sunny day, a cloudy day actually works out well as it minimizes glare and shadows. Here are some additional tips for taking expert looking photos.


Where to promote your car? A for sale sign on your dash could work if your car is parked in a high traffic area, but to maximize the demand for your car, we suggest for you to list at online marketplaces such as AutoTraderKijiji, or Facebook Marketplace. Also share the word via the social media platform(s) of your choice with your friends.

Be Detailed in your Listing. To ensure you attract the most potential buyers, a detailed listing with relevant information will be important. This will also reduce the amount times that you will be contacted to provide more information. Basic information that we suggests to include are: Vehicle Make, Model, Model Year, Trim, Options, and the general Vehicle Condition. For added transparency, include information such as Maintenance History, Past Accidents, a link to your Carfax report, Transferable Protection Products/Warranties, and Accessories such as Winter Tires.


Communication. Most of your time selling your car will be spent interacting with potential buyers. The more means of communication you provide, the easier it is for them to reach you. Most marketplaces will hide your email address unless you explicitly share it in your response to people inquiring. Expect to receive many calls from both dealers and private sellers who are making low-ball offers. Don’t be discouraged! This is normal and if you are uncomfortable with disclosing your number, you can limit the calls by not showing your phone number on your listing. At the end of the day, if a buyer is really interested, they will contact you through whichever means are available.

Test Drive. Most buyers will want to test drive your car before purchasing it. Before the test drive think about having a friend or family member with you for safety. Ask to see the buyer’s driver’s license and consider taking a picture for your records. You should also meet at a safe location during the day near a high traffic area where people can see you. Here are some additional safety tips to consider when conducting test drives and selling your car privately.

Inspection. Some buyers may also want to take the vehicle to a mechanic for a Pre-Purchase Inspection for added confidence.

Safety Standard Certificate is also required in Ontario before the new owner can put purchase license plates and drive the vehicle. Usually the seller will include a Safety Certificate as part of the selling price of the vehicle. The cost of the inspection can range between $100-200 but it is well worth the investment as certified vehicles will undoubtedly sell for more money vs. an uncertified vehicle. Any inspection station in Ontario that is licensed by the Ministry of Transportation can provide you with a Safety Standard Certificate. Registered locations will have this sign in their window.


Payment. Once you have negotiated the final selling price, it is time to verify the buyer’s payment. The safest method is through Bank Transfers or Certified Cheques that can be verified by your local bank. Here are some additional tips for preventing fraud.

Ownership Transfer. Once you have received the funds, complete and sign the “Application for Vehicle Transfer” section on the back of your vehicle registration permit and give it to the buyer. They will need this to transfer the ownership of the vehicle. If you have a Safety Standard Certificate, this is also the time to give it to the new owner.

Don’t Forget! Be sure to remove all your personal belongings from your car. Items that are usually missed include Garage Remotes, Toll Road Transponders, and CDs in the CD player (if your car still has one). Refer to your owners manual on how to delete all personal information from your vehicle’s navigation and phones systems (if applicable). Lastly, remove your license plates and contact your insurance company to remove your sold vehicle from your policy.

If you feel that all of this is too much work. Give Carity a try and use our free tool to get offers from hundreds of verified buyers. You can essentially skip all the steps above and get great offers for your car, hassle free!

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