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Flipping Cars for Beginners: Turn Your Love of Cars Into a Source of Income

Key Takeaways

  • Car flipping is ideal for car enthusiasts looking to profit from their passion.
  • Success in car flipping requires knowledge of local car sales laws and market trends.
  • Initial investment and risk management are key components of car flipping.
  • A good understanding of vehicle mechanics enhances the profitability and satisfaction of car flipping.

Two in five American adults have a side hustle, and while there’s plenty to choose from, most people have the most success with a side gig in a niche they have an interest in.

For most car enthusiasts, this is car flipping. You see, with a keen eye and the right skills, flipping cars can be quite lucrative. But to make a tidy profit, you’ll need a little more than an appreciation for cars.

Join us as we explore the world of flipping cars and learn everything you need to know to turn your car enthusiasm into a profitable source of income.

Car Flipping 101: Is It Just Car Reselling?

Flipping cars involves the sale of a used car with the express intention of making a profit. When flipping a vehicle, the car purchase and sale transactions are done by a private seller, not through a dealership.

While flipping cars is legal, most states limit how many cars you can sell within a year without a dealership license. This is because there’s a distinct difference between flipping and reselling used cars.

When selling a used car, you’re usually looking to dispose of the vehicle at a fair market value and thus only seek a smooth, hassle-free transaction. However, car flippers exclusively intend to make a profit.

As such, to flip a car, you’ll need to buy the vehicle at a low price, preferably below market value, and then sell it at a higher price after increasing its value through repairs or modifications.

The Pros and Cons of Car Flipping

As enticing as flipping cars is, like any business venture, it’s not without its risks. Let’s take a look at some of the key pros and cons of car flipping.

Pros of Flipping Cars

  • Quick Profits: If executed successfully, a car flip can earn you profits of between $500 to $2,000 or more, depending on variables such as demand and the car’s condition.
  • Mechanical Knowledge: Car enthusiasts enjoy the process of fixing up and learning about different aspects of the vehicle just as much as turning a profit. Car flipping provides the best of both these experiences.
  • Gainful Self-Employment: While car flipping can be an intensive venture, it allows you to experience the perks of being self-employed, including being able to set how much and when you work.
  • Job Satisfaction: Successfully flipping a car can be a source of great personal pride beyond the financial returns. It creates a sense of accomplishment thanks to the tangible returns—something most people don’t get from their regular jobs.

Cons of Flipping Cars

  • Unexpected Expenses: Sometimes, a flipped car can have hidden issues that end up increasing your initial cost and eating into your profit margin.
  • Holding Costs: With car flipping, the longer you have the car, the more money you lose on maintenance and cleaning. Finding a buyer can also be a hurdle that causes you to rack up holding costs.
  • Time-Consuming: Depending on the scope of repair or improvement, a flip can be a time-consuming activity, more so if you’re working alone to cut costs.

Brett’s Take: Thoughts From an Expert

Since I run the site Gigworker.com, I see side hustles of many shapes and forms every day. This is not one I see very often, and let me tell you why.

First, there’s the issue of regulatory compliance.

There are a ton of state-specific regulations regarding car sales. In many states, selling over a certain number of cars per year requires a dealer’s license. It’s important to understand and adhere to these legal requirements to avoid potential penalties.

Second, there’s the issue of financial risks and rewards.

While car flipping can be profitable, it also involves considerable financial risk. Before you even think about this side hustle, I recommend being financially prepared for the possibility of a deal going south and potentially losing the entire investment.

Third, make sure to understand vehicle mechanics.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having mechanical knowledge or at least a reliable network of mechanics. This can significantly impact the profitability of flipping cars, as it allows for cost-effective repairs and accurate assessment of a car’s condition.

Flipping cars can be highly lucrative, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Just be aware of the risks before starting out in this field.

What to Know Before You Invest in a Car Flipping Side Gig

For many car lovers, flipping cars is an excellent way to make a little extra money. However, before you put your hard-earned cash into it, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

1. Local Laws and Regulations on Selling Cars

Get to know your state’s laws around car selling because different states have regulations on the number of used cars you can sell without a dealer’s license.

In Connecticut and Kentucky, for example, selling cars for profit without a license is prohibited. But you can sell up to twelve cars a year without a dealer’s license in Vermont and Indiana.

Check with your state’s dealership licensing authority before starting your car flipping side gig to avoid any run-ins with the law. Alternatively, you can consider partnering up with a car dealer in your area.

If you’re flipping enough cars for a partnership to make sense, it’d be useful to have the extra help sorting out the paperwork like sales tax and other administrative tasks. Of course, you’d also have to divvy up your profits.

2. Start With a Modest Budget

The trick to a successful car flip is to buy undervalued cars and sell them at the highest possible price.

To ensure this, keep your purchasing budget low, and remember to account for the cost of an auto service and any repairs or improvements the car will need.

Remember to stick to your budget when shopping for a car. Keeping to your set budget will almost force you to look for better deals, which almost always result in higher profits.

For the best car deals, check platforms such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay Motors, newspaper classified ads, and auto auctions.

3. Get to Know Your Target Market

To resell a used car at a profit, you need to understand three key things:

  • How much the car is worth
  • What your particular market is like
  • How much car buyers are paying for similar cars

Thankfully, you can get this information through effective market research. This will give you an idea of the cars that are in demand in your area and the price buyers are paying for those vehicles.

Usually, the most popular cars change from summer through winter, while some regions have consistent top sellers due to industry or weather.

For example, you may find it harder to sell a convertible in Washington State compared to Florida. Consider calling around to different licensed dealers to ask about the most popular cars in your area.

Remember, you’ll likely earn the most profit if you buy and sell locally.

Carefully Examine Each Listing

When evaluating whether a car is worth flipping, there are some key details you should consider in your pre-purchase inspection, including:


As a rule, always look for low mileage at a low price. Cars with less than 100,000 miles on the odometer will fetch more since they’re less likely to have severe issues. This means you’ll spend less on repairs and ultimately more profit for you.


Ideally, you want a vehicle with minimal damage. A quick visual inspection of the car is enough to eliminate any cars that don’t meet this criterion.

However, before putting down any money, get a report using the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) on platforms like SafeCar.gov and car maintenance apps like Carfax and AutoCheck to get the vehicle’s history.

These reports will show you the vehicle’s registration status, if it’s been in any accidents, and whether there are any liens on it.

Clean Interior

A car’s interior can tell you a lot about its condition. For one, you should always check that there’s no mold or weird smells in there. Mold and musty smells can be signs of previous water damage, which would be expensive to fix.

Confirm whether the electronics and other accessories are in good working condition and if they need replacement or repair. You can also take this opportunity to inspect the state of the motor; look out for a clean engine and engine compartment.

You can also try to find out how many owners the car has had and how long it’s been sitting for. If possible, take the car on a test drive and bring along your mechanic friend or a car diagnostics app if you prefer.

These details will give you a good indication of how much the car is worth, the cost of any repairs you might have to undertake, and, ultimately, whether the car is a worthy investment.

Prepare Your Paperwork

After buying a car, you’ll need to complete some paperwork to legalize the sale.

To help move things along, make sure you have a bill of sale with blank spaces for details such as the VIN, date, sale price, odometer reading, and your and the buyer’s information.

You’ll also need a transfer title, or to have the original title signed and dated by both parties so you can take it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a new title.

Note: NEVER buy a vehicle without a title. There will almost never be a case where this ends well for you. Almost every reputable vehicle owner will have a title of some type.

Preparing Flip Cars for the Market

We’ve covered the various processes and checks to ensure you get a good deal. But how do you convert a flip car into cash in your pocket?

a vector image of a hand holding a pencil and writing on a clipboard, to indicate he is performing an Uber vehicle inspection

1. Get a Professional Inspection

Get a professional mechanic to inspect the vehicle and give you a clean bill of health. You don’t want to leave something to chance only to get caught out in the middle of showing the car to a prospective buyer.

To make this easier, establish a relationship with a mechanic you trust, especially if you intend to make car flipping a successful side hustle.

2. Splurge on Professional Detailing

Have a professional auto detailer show the vehicle some love. You’d be surprised at what a bit of cleaning and buffing can do. If done well, good detailing will leave the car looking presentable and give you a bit more wiggle room to argue your quoted price.

3. Invest in High-Quality Pictures

High-quality photos of your car are integral to your success, especially when listing your cars online. They help attract buyers, give them a glimpse into what they can expect, and, most importantly, set you apart from the competition.

As such, you may want to invest in a semi-professional camera setup. You don’t always have to outsource the task, especially if you intend to make flipping cars your side hustle.

In the long run, this will also help cut back on operational costs, boosting your bottom line.

Wrapping Up

From navigating state laws and investing in proper service and repairs to fielding interested buyers, flipping cars can be an intensive venture for a beginner.

But if you have a good eye for the market and are determined to make extra money doing something you enjoy, then car flipping can be a lucrative gig for you. 

What do you think of flipping cars as a side hustle? Have you done is successfully, or do you have advice to help others avoid getting burned?

Let us know in the comments below?

1 thought on “Flipping Cars for Beginners: Turn Your Love of Cars Into a Source of Income”

  1. Yeah great, none of these articles address the biggest hurdle: The TITLE.
    You speak of legally flipping, the TITLE is a big part of that.


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