Good Deal: How To Properly Sell Your Rig Without Issues

SELL4X4LEADART_1_edited-1Sooner or later, we all turn our gaze to our vehicles and think, “I’d like something else.” Garage space and spousal spats notwithstanding, to bring a new rig on, the old one has to go. The issue then becomes one of how to do so properly–taking the right pictures, typing the right description, meeting the right buyer, and most importantly, making sure that cold, hard cash trades hands without a hitch.


Yours truly donated his 2000 Toyota 4Runner for the purposes of this article (no, it’s not for sale).

Many of us have had experience with how the process goes, and if we know anything, it’s that there are a million ways it can go south and very few ways that it can go well. If you’ve done it before or want to get a few helpful pointers for your maiden voyage into selling a vehicle, we here at Off Road Xtreme have brought our collective experience to bear on how best to handle these situations.

In this piece, we’ll be going over how to prepare your vehicle, where and how to list it, how to set up the trade-off, and what to do after the dust settles. If all goes well, you’ll have mucho dinero and a cold beer in hand as you reflect on a successful sale.

IMG_8753Step 1: The Setup

Taking your property to market dictates that you have a price in mind for what you’re planning to sell. As is often the case with four-wheelers in the hands of off-roading folk, there’s been a litany of mods, upgrades, or otherwise non-stock items bolted, welded, and affixed to a vehicle. You should take the time beforehand to determine if your next rig will be able to host any of the outgoing one’s parts, and decide if you’d rather leave them on to enhance the original’s value, or take them away to reinstall on the next one.

Next To Godliness

With so much to choose from out there, the options can be difficult to narrow down. Here are a few suggestions to take care of the bare essentials at clean-up time.

Degreaser: Fast 505 is a great option to go for. It works on just about any part of a vehicle, from tires to engine bay to body panels, and doesn’t leave any residue or streaking after usage. Spray it on, let it sit for a few minutes, scrub, and rinse off; it’s that simple. We found it for sale at home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Adhesive Remover: Goo Gone is where it’s at. It’s a little on the pricey side and can be a little unwieldy in large amounts, but it does the job as advertised. Great for any decals, bumper stickers, and other stick-on stuff you want to get rid of.

Glass: Windex is a prime selection. You can buy it just about anywhere, it’s inexpensive, and it doesn’t leave streaks when used properly. It also works just fine for basic interior cleaning on vinyl and plastic surfaces. And to go the extra mile, using a clay bar will work wonders to restore sheen and clarity.

Interior: Melamine sponges work great on hard plastic including the dashboard, steering wheel, console, and so on. Be warned that it does wear on paint if used aggressively enough. Ozium does the trick for pure, obliterating smell removal when left to sit inside the car overnight, and it doesn’t leave an aroma of its own.

Once you’ve reached a decision on that point, it’s time to bust out the cleaning crew. A visit to any auto parts store will show you right away that there’s no shortage of cleaning products to choose from. Degreasers, brake cleaner, adhesive removers, glass cleaner and more dot the shelves, and each have their pros and cons. Check out the sidebar to the right for a few good options worth considering.
Having armed yourself for battle against dirt and grime, you’re ready to get started. Ensure that the car has cooled off enough to where you feel comfortable getting underneath (more on that later). Starting from the roof, use high-pressure water to coat the car and rinse off the loose stuff: leaves, pine needles, dust, and so on.
With that task finished, grab a rag (or better yet, a washing mitt) and get the suds going in a bucket. Dish soap and warm tap water are all that’s needed for this phase. Dead bugs and bird crap are the sorts of crud that get cleaned off here. Be a little more enthusiastic when it comes to scrubbing, as you want the stuff gone, but be careful or you could scratch the surface.
For water spots, detail sprays like you’d find from Meguiar’s or Driven Racing Oil brands take care of the problem. If you’ve taken the vehicle mudding recently, hose it off–all of it! Make sure to get on your back and get underneath the undercarriage. There’s mud all over, and you know it. Rinse off as much of it as you can see, starting from whichever end is most declined and pointed toward a gutter.
Hose the remains away from underneath so you don’t drive over it after the cleaning is complete. Depending on your level of care and concern, the engine bay will present issues of its own. A good idea would be to disconnect the battery terminal cables and cover up any pathways to the intake before starting. Hit it with some high-pressure water, spray down degreaser and let it do its magic. Scrub where necessary and rinse. Be wary that making the engine bay appear immaculate and spotless will cause many a prospective buyer to feel uncomfortable, so make it look good, but don’t make it look perfect.

Grab some towels and dry everything off after washing. If you notice trouble areas, use degreaser or glass cleaner to handle little stains here and there.

HTS028Step 2: The Search

With your rig sitting pretty, there’s no better time for a Kodak moment than right now. Bust out your camera or smartphone and start snapping pics of everything you want featured: the front interior, back seat(s), trunk area or bed, quarter panels, badging, roof, hood, bumpers, wheels and tires, and engine bay.


Top left: a dose of Fast 505 on the tires works against the caked-on grease and grit. Top right: scrubbing the cleaner on agitates the crap for the next step. Bottom: high-pressure water rinses everything off to a near-perfect shine.

Try to put yourself in the mind of buyer for this step. One way to look at it is that anything you leave out will be filled in by the prospective buyer, and those thoughts tend toward the negative. For example, taking pictures of only one side will leave the buyer to think that the opposite side is in bad shape, even when it’s not.

Next, pick which method will net you the right kind of buyer. This being the age of the internet means that your best and fastest route will be to go online. The choices are many, but we’ll focus on three of them to illustrate some pros and cons: Craigslist, eBay Motors, and Auto Trader.

Left: Some leftover adhesive from a removed sticker is taken care of with Goo Gone. Right: Goo Gone will streak wherever it's used, so Windex does the job of leaving the glass looking great.

Craigslist has blossomed a great deal since its start in 1995. As a way for selling automobiles, its prevalence cannot be understated. At the very least, it’s a good place to start for gauging interest and offers from the outside (albeit local) world. On the plus side, Craigslist lets you post on multiple cities and regions free of charge, can handle up to 24 images per post, and will stay live online for 45 days before being automatically deleted. On the negative side, it tends to attract some folks out there who lowball or troll sellers, and can lead to awkward encounters between both parties.


eBay Motors lets sellers determine the type of listing they want to pursue: Buy It Now, auction, or reserve listing.

EBay Motors, on the other hand, works much differently. Users can set their vehicle for sale as an auction with or without a reserve, a Buy It Now price, OBO (Or Best Offer), or sometimes all three. Depending on your parameters, you can select to have the car be shipped across the country or around the world, or specify “Local Pickup Only” too.

Pros include financial security through PayPal (which releases funds after both parties are satisfied) and Second Chance offers, which allow the seller to make an offer to bidders if the vehicle didn’t go past a reserve. Cons include fees assessed by both eBay and PayPal, which will eat into your profit margin, as well as a timer maximum of only 30 days.


AutoTrader front-loads its charges, letting sellers determine which type of charged listing they want to use. Prices range from $25-100.

Finally, there’s Auto Trader. Having been in business for longer than both eBay Motors and Craigslist, it carries with it an air of professionalism and mutual respect to both buyers and sellers. A post can be made to “run ’til it sells,” have an AutoCheck (think Carfax) report tied to it for others to view, and even have it run on the Kelley Blue Book website as well.

Pros include a variety of options to improve the odds of a sale, as well as exposure to millions of prospective buyers through multiple websites. Cons include significant up-front costs for posts and add-ons to promote your vehicle over others. Time invested in making a successful listing may also be a turn-off for some.

Step 3: The Sale


Picking a public location next to a freeway or highway is recommended, since it will allow buyers to test out how the vehicle performs at speed.

Now comes the fun part: the sale. Whether by text, phone, or email, you’ve established contact with a buyer and he wants to see what you’ve got. So what now?


During negotiation, point out the strengths of your vehicle and seek to make the seller understand your viewpoint. Have a threshold you won’t go below, and if it doesn’t work out, there will always be another buyer.

Find a day that works for you both and allows for maximum sunshine. Look at the weather forecast for the day planned and nail down the time you’d like to start the inspection–the earlier, the better.

As far as location goes, that’s up to you and the buyer. If they’re far away and the vehicle can be driven or hauled out, it’s courteous to drive to a halfway point to meet them. You should always err on the side of caution and select a spot that’s public with several witnesses. Additionally, it should be close to a highway or freeway where it can be test-driven.

When you meet the buyer in person, be as cordial and helpful as possible. Point out the strengths of your vehicle and answer any and all questions to the best of your knowledge. Your worst mistake would be to lie or mislead the buyer, since it goes against the Golden Rule and seriously–you don’t want to be considered a jackass or worse, taken to court.


Honesty and helpfulness go a long way toward making the sale happen.

During the test drive, the buyer is nothing if not alert. Every little creak, groan, tick, or otherwise irritant can and will be detected by the buyer. Do your best to explain what the issue is or may be, but don’t sell your rig short; the buyer came this far to check it out, and he wants it. Maintain the positives of the vehicle and press on.

Hopefully, you’ve specified that you want cold, hard cash for the vehicle. Verify that it’s all there and then begin the paperwork: title transfer and some sort of buyer’s agreement, the latter of which states the vehicle is being sold as-is and liability is being released to the buyer. Don’t forget to shake hands and hand him the keys!

Step 4: The Celebration

Congratulations on a successful sale. You did every bit of it professionally and courteously, and you can go home not just with cash, but a clean conscience as well.

Using what you’ve learned from making a car sale, you now know what you want when it comes time for the next truck or SUV you purchase. And as with all things, maintain courage, competence, and ethics when dealing with people; it’s what they deserve, and what you look for in a transaction.


About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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