How to prepare your car for sale

Regardless of how you are selling your car, you want it to make a good first impression.

How your car looks, the advertisement and how you respond to buyers are all important factors in achieving a successful sale.


  • Consider having it professionally detailed
  • Get a service to ensure it runs smoothly
  • Safety certificates do not need to be obtained prior to offering a light vehicle for sale. Sellers can advertise online, at a motor dealership forecourt, in traditional print media, or the vehicle itself without a safety certificate. However, the seller still needs a safety certificate to dispose of the vehicle and transfer registration to the new owner. Note, it is not the buyer’s obligation to obtain the safety certificate.
  • Consider getting an independent pre-inspection by RACQ – it may give potential buyers greater confidence in the car
  • Make the car look presentable but don’t spend too much on minor cosmetic repairs
  • Be realistic about non-essential repairs. They could cost more than the value they would add to the sale.

Price your car

Pricing your car can be one of the most difficult parts of selling it. Get it wrong and you’ll either be inundated with calls from people looking for a bargain or you won’t get any calls.

Start by finding the price range of vehicles of the same make and model in similar condition to yours. A local newspaper is a good source.

If the vehicle is advertised by a dealer you will need to subtract the dealers profit margin, which can be anything from $1000 up. This will give you a ball-park figure.

Our RACQ Price Guide can assist you with pricing.

Start with a slightly higher price than you’ll accept to allow for negotiation. If you find that you don’t get any calls it’s possible that the price is too high and you need to consider reducing it.

When writing the ad to sell your car, take into account where the ad will appear – newspaper or online.

Newspapers and other hardcopy publications usually charge by the word or number of lines, so it’s important to give a clear picture in as few words as possible.

If online, you can sometimes be more generous with the number of words as there is more room. However, keep in mind that people scan when they read online so too much can work against you. Avoid phrases like “First to see will buy” as they add nothing and increase the cost of printed ads.

Details to include in your ad:

  • make, model and body style
  • build date (stamped on your car’s ID plate)
  • distance travelled
  • engine size
  • transmission type
  • condition
  • accessories, optional equipment & special features
  • air conditioning, CD, power steering, one owner, always-garaged etc
  • registration expiry (or if unregistered)
  • the asking price
  • your contact information

Also consider using a photograph of your vehicle.


Before placing your ad, prepare yourself to answer questions about the car and know what you want to say about it.

Buyers may want to know about:

  • the colour of the paint and interior trim
  • the kilometres travelled
  • any additional equipment/special features (CD, cruise control, sun roof etc)
  • condition
  • accident record
  • if the price is negotiable
  • your reason for selling

Be honest. It’s important to get them to come and look at the car but you’ll have no chance of selling it if it’s not what you described on the phone.

If possible try to get the prospective buyer’s name and phone number and the specific time they plan to come to inspect the car. Some people will say they are coming and don’t, but if you have their name and phone number you can reduce the inconvenience as much as possible.

Top tips for working with buyers

  • Don’t crowd a prospective buyer – sell the good points of the car but stand back and let them look the car over.
  • Be honest – if you know there is a major fault, tell buyers about it. You risk being sued for damages and breaching Trade Practices legislation if you do not.
  • Allow the car to be inspected by RACQ or the buyer’s mechanic – if you are hesitant it may look like you are hiding something.
  • Ensure your car’s insurance will cover other people test driving it.
  • Never let a stranger drive your car unless you accompany them.
  • Be aware of your personal safety when dealing with prospective buyers – if you don’t feel comfortable dealing with strangers on your own, get a friend or neighbour’s help and take them with you on the test drive.

It would be wise to request to see their license, just to be certain that they have one. They don’t have to show it to you, but you don’t have to let them drive your car either.

Leased or financed cars

If the car is leased or financed it will be listed on the Personal Property Security Register and will show up when the buyer conducts a check.

Consider how you are going to deal with this at sale time as a careful buyer won’t take your word that you’ll pay out the loan when you get their money.

Removing the vehicle from the register may rely on the proceeds of the sale and you need to have a strategy in place for dealing with this and addressing the buyer’s concerns. You may need to take legal advice about how best to proceed.

By this stage you should have a good idea of what your car is worth.

Be prepared to negotiate, but set a minimum price you will accept. Stick to it; don’t be bullied into giving your vehicle away.

Sometimes potential buyers will come up with a list of things wrong with the car either to justify why they don’t want to buy it or in an attempt to reduce the price. Listen to what they have to say, some of it may be valid, and there could be things you can fix to make the car a more attractive proposition to the next person if the sale falls through.

If the buyer has requested an inspection there may be things that come out of it that can be used as a bargaining tool, but be sure you cost any repairs before committing to have them done as part of the sale.

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.