How to Sell Your Car, Truck, or SUV for Top Dollar in NC

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by Jack Brewer

Updated

If you’re thinking of selling a vehicle in North Carolina, you’re in luck.

Car sales were estimated to be up 97% in April 2021 as compared to 2020 which means that you should be able to attract a buyer in no time.

But if you’re curious about how to sell a car in NC, keep reading as we dive into what you’ll need and tips for getting the best price.

What Paperwork is Needed to Sell a Vehicle?

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To set yourself up for an easy sales process, you’re going to need to get all of your paperwork together ahead of time.

The most important will be the title, which will be transferred over to the new owner of your car and is required for every vehicle sale in NC.

If you don’t have the title to your car, it’s not impossible to sell but it will be more difficult. Contact the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles as they may be able to get you a copy of the title.

While not necessary, if you have any records for work that’s been done to your car be sure to bring it with you. If you’re selling it privately, this can help the new owner understand the care that’s been taken to keep the car running smoothly.

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If you’re trading it in or selling to a dealership, you may be able to get a better price if you have records showing the car is viable for resale.

How to Determine Your Vehicle’s Market Value

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The sale price of your vehicle will be based on a few different variables, like if it’s an in-demand model. Currently light trucks are the most popular vehicle purchased so if you’re looking to sell a pickup truck you should have no problem unloading it to a new buyer.

But trucks aren’t the only type of vehicle selling at top dollar. The Honda Accord is the most popular car sold in North Carolina and keeps its resale value out of state, too.

If you’re selling neither of these, then check out the Kelly Blue Book. This is a fairly standard guide to the going rate for most makes and models of automobiles.

In addition, check the current listings on sites like cars.com to see what others are pricing cars like yours.

Vehicles that are in good cosmetic condition will get a much better price than ones with dents or signs of rust. If your car has seen better days, it’s best to price it lower than the going rate so that you can move it quickly.

The same goes for any mechanical or structural issues, like frame damage. Many dealers will take your vehicle no matter the condition, but the value they’ll give will be based on whether they can resell it, or if it has to go off to auction.

Preparing Your Vehicle to Make Top Dollar

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Selling a used car is the same as selling anything: you need to make the product attractive enough for the buyer to make them excited to own it.

Show off the vehicle’s good side by washing it and waxing before taking pictures or sending it off to the dealer. Vacuum the inside and wipe down the dashboard before showing it to potential buyers.

You’ll get a better price for a shiny, clean car than you would a dirt-covered junker. Cleaning a vehicle before selling could be the difference of up to several thousand dollars.

If the car is still in working condition, try your best to get it ready for a potential test drive. Fill the tires, make sure there’s a little gas in the tank, check the fluids, and test the battery.

A buyer will be more inclined to purchase your car if it’s in working condition and can be taken for a drive around the block.

Best Ways to Sell Your Vehicle in NC

There are a few different ways you can sell off your car, but the best method will depend on the condition and how long you’re willing to wait for the right buyer.

  • Sell it to a dealer. Some dealerships like CarMax will buy your car straight out, while others will only buy it if you’re trading it in for a new car or truck.
  • Sell it privately. Put an ad on Craigslist, cars.com, and Facebook Marketplace to attract as many potential buyers as possible.
  • Sell it to your mechanic. Sometimes mechanics will fix up used cars and sell them in their lots. Since they’ve done all the work on your vehicle, they should have a good understanding of the condition and value.
  • Sell it at auction. Auctions are usually for those in the vehicle industry only, but a few public auctions are around.
  • Sell it to a junkyard. While you might not get top dollar, if you want to unload the car as quickly as possible, this could be an excellent way to go. Selling a car to a junkyard is especially useful when selling an automobile that’s no longer in working condition.

How to Market Your Vehicle to Attract Buyers

Unless you’re selling your vehicle to a collector or mechanic, buyers will want to buy a car that they can hop into and get on the road. For your car to sell quickly, you’re going to need to make it as attractive as possible.

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Keep the car in running condition and as clean as you can. Wash it before taking pictures and before a buyer comes to take a look at it.

Be thorough and upfront about details so that buyers feel like they know the vehicle won’t break down three days after buying it.

You can also list a few mechanics nearby so they can take the vehicle for a thorough once over. Many buyers will prefer to take it to their own mechanic, but offering options shows your trustworthiness and makes them feel more comfortable buying from you.

More buyers are now utilizing credit cards instead of cash or checks in their daily lives. While it’s not required, if you can accept credit cards, Venmo, PayPal, or Zelle, you’ll attract a wider audience who aren’t comfortable carrying a few thousand in cash around.

Selling a Car in NC to Someone Out of State

Selling a car out of state can be done, but it requires a few extra steps for your protection.

  1. Accept only cash or cash equivalents like cashier’s checks, Venmo, Zelle, or PayPal. You can take a cashier’s check to your local bank to ensure it’s good if you’re not sure.
  2. Get photocopies of their driver’s license and insurance card. You’ll want to have these on file in case something goes wrong. Some sellers will also want a copy of a utility bill or other document with the buyer’s current address, though this isn’t a requirement.
  3. Once you have those, take your buyer to the closest DMV to issue temporary plates and tags. This works for out-of-state buyers and locals. If your buyer isn’t coming to pick up the car but is instead having it shipped, you can skip this step. Just make sure you’ve removed your license plates before shipping it off.
  4. Create a bill of sale for your records. This can be a copy of the title with their signature or just a simple receipt. Make sure you list the buyer’s name and address, the date of sale, amount, and payment method, then have them sign the receipt. You can make them a copy, but make sure you keep the original.

How to Finalize the Sale & Next Steps

Once you’ve found a buyer, it’s time to transfer the vehicle over to their possession.

It’s a relatively simple process to do, though it may take a few days to complete. Nonetheless, the state of North Carolina makes this very easy:

  1. If it’s a private sale, go with the buyer to a notary. If you sell to a dealership, they’ll most likely have notary services there.
  2. Go with the buyer to the DMV. This is only if it’s a private sale. The DMV will issue temporary plates and tags so the vehicle can be driven legally.
  3. Remove your license plates. These will need to be returned to the NCDMV. You can drop them off at any license plate agency or mail them directly to the main Registration office in Raleigh.
  4. Once the State of North Carolina receives your plates, they’ll send you a confirmation letter. You’ll need this for your insurance agency to show that you’re no longer liable for the car. Expect to receive this in about one week.
  5. Contact your insurance company and remove the vehicle from your policy. Once they receive the DMV confirmation letter from you, you should see your policy updated. This could take up to 72 hours, especially if it’s over the weekend, so try not to sell it right before your policy is up for renewal.

How to Get the Most Money Selling a Car in NC

So now that you’re ready to get your car listed for sale let’s talk about how to maximize your profit. Luckily, you can take a few easy steps that ensure you get the best price possible.

  • If you can wait for the most opportune times of year to sell. Thanks to tax refunds and kids going back to school, April and August are great months for car sales.
  • Keep the car clean and in running condition. If you plan to keep the car sitting in your driveway until it’s sold, then make sure everything is in working order when a buyer comes knocking. Put yourself in their shoes: would you be more inclined to buy a nice-looking used car or one that looks like it’s been through a road rally?
  • Try to sell privately. While it may be easier to go to a dealer, keep in mind that the dealer needs to make a buck, too. They’ll either resell your car or send it off to auction, but either way, they’ll want to make a profit. Because of this, dealers aren’t often interested in paying top dollar for vehicles, even if they’re trade-ins. You have a better chance of getting a higher price by selling to a private buyer because you’re selling it directly to the driver and not a middleman.
  • List it low enough that it attracts buyers but high enough that you have some wiggle room. Some buyers will want to negotiate the price, so decide what the lowest price you’ll accept will be and add a few hundred bucks. You may just get someone who wants the whole thing over with and won’t haggle. If you do get a potential buyer who wants to get a “deal,” then at least you’re still making the target price you’ve originally set; anything extra is gravy.
  • Put some thought into the ad. If you’re selling it online, then try to give as much detail as possible. Put down the mileage and any upgrades or improvements done. Take as many pictures as you can fit into the listing that includes all sides of the car, the interior, odometer, and engine. Mention if you have maintenance records, too.
  • Put your vehicle in the best light, literally. When taking photos, make sure that your pics are clear and in a good light. Try taking pictures when there’s a little cloud cover to help diffuse sunlight so that your vehicle looks good. Avoid taking shots at noon when the sun is at its highest point. Noon sunshine can cast a harsh light in pictures and make it hard for people reading your ad to get a good look at the car.

Conclusion

Selling a car is an easy enough process once you get the steps nailed down.

As long as your paperwork is in order and you’ve taken steps to make your vehicle as attractive as possible, you should have no issue attracting a buyer.

Give a few of our tips a try, and let us know how they work for you.

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About the Author

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Jack Brewer is passionate about all things personal finance, and enjoys testing out new side hustles and investing strategies.