NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- If you've followed conventional personal finance advice, you know most experts advise against leasing a car. Leasing does have benefits (if you can buy the car at the end of the lease and sell the car for a profit), but financially speaking, buying a used car that's affordable and reliable makes the most sense. If your clunker needs to go and it's time to buy another car, selling your existing car is usually a nightmare.

From finding the right buyer to dealing with the title, many consumers simply trade in their old car to a dealership in exchange for a different one to avoid the lengthy and stressful process of selling their car privately. We asked experts to weigh in on how to sell your car on your own without any hiccups.
If the car you're selling was in a major accident, even before you owned it, a potential buyer is going to want to know -- and has a right to.

No glitches
You can't get the best price for your car if the engine isn't working properly or the wheels aren't aligned. The car must be in tip-top shape.

Michael Bor, founder and CEO of CarLotz, a for-sale-by-owner consignment service for used cars, suggests fixing all mechanical issues first: "If there are issues that you choose not to fix, at least get estimates for the repair so that you can educate the buyer on the magnitude of the problems."

Transparency is important -- you don't want to keep the buyer in the dark about potential mechanical flaws.

Don't sell a dirty car
If you can't see out of the windshield because the windows are too dirty, how can you expect the car to sell? Curb appeal is important, and although you may think prospective buyers will look past a dirty car, why take the risk? You should even consider waxing the car and completely vacuuming and polishing the inside.

Even though it's a used car, it should look, smell and feel new. Don't be surprised if you get a higher price when your car is immaculate.

Price matters
The asking price you set for your car is arguably the most important factor. If you price too low, you're missing out on profits. But if you price too high, you may never sell.

Bor offers the following insight on pricing: "Check out the Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds figures for your car as a guide. Next, look through Craigslist, AutoTrader and listings to see how similar cars are actually priced. As a private seller, buyers will expect a discount (10% to 15%) relative to dealer listings."

As with selling your home, conducting a "competitive market analysis" in which you see what other cars have sold for is incredibly important to determine the right price.

Word of mouth
The toughest part of selling your car on your own is, obviously, finding a buyer! The goal is to come up with an effective yet cheap marketing campaign. The best way is by word of mouth. Tell everyone you know that you are selling your car: friends, family, coworkers, your barber, the mailman -- everyone.

Next, you want to post an ad on sites such as Craigslist and eBay Local and remind your friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook constantly. You never know which one of your friends knows a friend who knows a friend who needs to buy a car.

Show off your car
It's crucial to show off the assets of your car. Does it have leather seats or 18-inch wheels? And most importantly, does it get good mileage?

"Take advantage of trends," suggests Andrew Schrage of "Currently, the hot trend is fuel efficiency. If you have a fuel-efficient car, or your MPGs are significantly higher than most cars, mention that! People are looking for long-term savings."

Maybe the car is a few years old, but it doesn't have too much mileage on it -- that's a plus. Be sure to highlight the selling points.

Take pictures
When posting pictures of your car online or in the newspaper, the photo quality must be top-notch. While you don't need to hire a professional photographer, make sure the lighting is sufficient and try taking pictures of your car with an appealing background (perhaps with trees or flowers). A picture of your car next to a trash bin does not portray the proper impression and could affect the price.

"Take 40 to 60 pictures of your car for marketing purposes," Bor adds. "Make sure to get eight exterior shots of all corners and sides, pictures of each wheel and tire, close-ups of any special features (navigation screen, sunroof, DVD player, satellite radio buttons, power seat buttons) and all the interior seats in their various configurations."

If the pictures don't make a convincing argument as to why someone should buy your car, it will be an uphill battle to get the vehicle sold.

In addition to having a clean car, you don't want the inside to have any odors. Especially if you've smoked in the car or have had pets inside, it's crucial to rid the car of all odors, which are a huge deterrent to buyers.

Bor recommends an ozone machine to remove odors. A car-detailing facility should provide this for a fee.

Be wary of air fresheners, as some consumers may not be fond of the scent.

Before you list your car, be sure to get it inspected. The tires, brakes, engine and lights should all be looked over by a mechanic. The car's fluids (starting with windshield wiper fluid) and oil must be at proper levels. The tires should be appropriately inflated.

This is yet another selling point -- the buyer will have more certainty about the condition of the car knowing it was just inspected. Plus, you'll save them the expense and hassle of having to get their own inspection, and can command a higher selling price, or at least sell your car faster.

Vehicle history
If you bought a used car and are selling it, there's a history that dates back long before you ever owned the car. That's why vehicle history reports help maintain transparency and allow prospective buyers to learn about the condition of the car.

If the car was in a major accident before, you want to know about it.

If you notice an error on the report, stay calm. "Don't let an issue on the vehicle history report surprise you," Bor warns. "Get the report, read it over, call the reporting companies to fix any errors that may exist and be prepared to answer any questions."

Respond quickly
If you get responses from the ads you post online or in the newspaper, make it your priority to respond as soon as possible.

"When buyers call or email, return their inquiries within minutes, not hours," Bor says. "Most buyers are looking at dozens of cars at the same time, and in many cases the first seller to return the call gets the sale."

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