Every market has buyers and sellers. As economic conditions change, the market will sometimes favor the buyer and sometimes the seller. Because of the oversupply of homes listed for sale, the housing market is currently benefiting the buyer, but that's not the case in every market.
TUTORIAL: The Industry Handbook: Automobiles
If you're planning to sell your used car, the market is currently putting you in the driver's seat when you sit down at the negotiating table. The New York Times reports that the value of used cars two to five years old has gone up as much as 20% in just one year. A fuel efficient compact car that would have fetched $8,798 in 2010 is now catching bids of as much as $10,500, but those prices are dependent on a variety of factors. Here's what you can do to make sure your used car is ready to catch the highest offer. (For related reading, see Top Tips For Cheaper, Better Car Insurance.)
This may seem a little obvious, but this shouldn't be a typical trip through the gas station car wash. Spend the $150 to have it professionally detailed so it looks like it did when you first purchased it.
Make It Look Like His or Hers
A perspective buyer wants the car to look like his or hers, not yours. Remove all of those personal knick knacks that add a little bit of you to your vehicle. (For more advice on purchasing a car, see Car Shopping: New Or Used?)
Fix the Body
Small dents probably won't be too expensive to fix and you'll probably get a large portion of the money back when you sell it. The difference between "excellent" and "good" is substantial when somebody is assigning value to your car.
Do the Maintenance
Before you sell it, make sure all maintenance is up to date and have the dates of when the work was completed. Don't get it all done the day you take it to the dealer to sell. You want to show the perspective buyer that you have taken care of your car.
Have any repair or maintenance receipts ready to show the perspective buyer. People are naturally skeptical when purchasing a car, so revealing what has gone wrong with it goes a long way in establishing trust. Remember that your buyer can find a used car anywhere. A potential buyer's experience with you will be a large driver in his or her decision to purchase. (For related reading, see The True Cost of Owning A Car.)
If you go to one of the trusted sites that gives you a value for your car, know that these are estimates. Be willing to take a little less and feel like you got a fair deal, but know your bottom line and stick to it. The less you're willing to deal the longer you'll hold on to your car.
The Bottom Line
Used car prices are up, but only for those who have taken care of their car. If you're planning to sell your car soon, do it now. Experts say that prices are up but they won't stay that way for long.