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Selling Your Car

If you’re thinking about selling your car then you have a range of options to consider. Every car owner’s aim is to get the best price for their car, but also make the process as straightforward as possible. Let’s run through the main options for selling your car, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Private Sale

Put an advert in the paper, list it online, sell it through an auction website – this is what’s known as a private sale. The main advantage of this is that a private sale will often secure you as much as 15% more than selling other ways. The downside is that it involves a lot of effort. Not just in listing the car, but also in fielding enquiries, dealing with buyers, test drives and negotiations. If you have the time and don’t mind waiting for the right buyer, a private sale could be the method for you.

Selling Your Car Privately

The internet gives you a huge range of options for selling your car online. Popular sites include Gumtree, AutoTrader, Ebay, Facebook or PistonHeads. Some may charge you a listing fee, others allow you to advertise free of charge. If you’re lucky, you might secure a sale by asking around friends and relatives to see if anyone is interested in a new vehicle. Or you could go “low-tech” by putting adverts in the local newspapers, sticking a for sale poster in the window of the car, or putting up adverts in local shop windows.

If you’re thinking about selling your car in this way, then you’re not exempt from the law. There are three key things you must do to protect the sale, and make sure you’re not risking being ripped off or scammed. These are:

Write an accurate description of the car for the advert and gather together the documents to prove that it is legally yours.

Check your email and messages regularly to respond to queries and potential buyers as quickly as possible. Make sure to arrange test drives at a time convenient for both you and the buyer.

Find a secure way of getting payment – cash or banker’s drafts are preferred. Cheques may bounce, and online payments could be reversed.

Sell to a Dealer

Dealers rely on a regular stream of second hand cars onto their forecourt, and from their point of view, buying your car could be a lot less risk than going to the auction. When selling to a dealer there are two main ways of doing this:

Part exchange – this is when you agree to buy an upgraded car from the dealer, and use the value of your existing car as part of the deal. The dealer may be able to negotiate a little on the price they are prepared to offer you.

Outright sale – dealers may also be happy to make you an offer to take the car without you buying a new one in return. You can’t expect to get top value selling in this way, as the dealer has to make a profit too. But it’s certainly the most hassle-free way of selling.

Car Auctions

Car auction companies have sites in all major towns and cities across the UK and can be a useful way of getting a quick sale. There are two main options when selling your car through an auction company.

Live auction – this is the traditional auction set-up, with an auctioneer accepting bids on your car from the people present or bidding on the phone. The risk is that everyone is out for a bargain, and your car might not sell at all, or for a very low price. Sometimes a private buyer might spot your car before the auction and wants to do a deal, but this is by no means guaranteed.

Online auction – many auction companies offer their own online portals to sell your car. They’ll manage the bidders, the payment, will write descriptions and take the pictures. This removes the hassle from the process, but the auction company will take a percentage of the final selling price too.

Car Advertisements – The Law

Whichever method you use to sell your car, there are clear laws about which details you must give in your advertisement. All adverts for cars must contain the following:

The exact make and model of your vehicle

Year of manufacture, or the letter or number(s) which denote the year

The colour


Information about the condition of the vehicle

Whether or not it has a full service history

Contact details for the buyer (usually phone number)

Any extras which come with the sale

Preparing Your Vehicle For Sale

There’s lots you can do to secure the best price for your care. Spending a bit of time and effort to spruce up your car will attract more buyers, and help you get the maximum price possible.

Cleaning – get the hoover out and give the car a good clean. Don’t forget to clear out the glove box and side pockets, and make sure there’s no rubbish under the seats or in the boot. A professional interior valet will cost around £50.

Exterior check – make sure all your electrics like lights and indicators are working, that the tyres conform to regulations and that there are no obvious faults.

If you do spot any mechanical problems or damage to the bodywork, get the car booked in to have the work done. Buyers are far less willing to buy a car with obvious damage, and if the car needs work this just gives them ammunition to bargain hard on price. If the MOT is due soon or has expired, get a new one done.

Put together a folder with all of the car’s essential paperwork. This will include the owner’s handbook, V5 certificate, service history book and anything else you think is relevant. Buyers like to see a car with a full service history as this proves that the car has been well looked after.

After You’ve Sold Your Car

Getting the cash or money paid into your bank account isn’t the end of your tasks as a seller. Keep on the right side of the law and protect yourself by taking the following steps:

When the buyer takes the car away and gives you the money, write out a receipt showing the type of car and registration number, with both your details and the buyer’s details. Give them one copy and you keep the other copy.

Tell the DVLA that you’ve sold the car. Go online, or tear off the bottom portion of the V5 certificate and send it to them in the post.

Give the rest of the V5 certificate to the new owner who will then be able to register themselves as the new owner. Give them the rest of the information and paperwork you’ve gathered together.

Cancel the tax on the car – the new owner will have to go online and get it taxed.

Tell your insurer company that the car is sold, and that you want to cancel the policy.

Selling a Car With Finance

It’s a common misconception that you can’t sell a car with finance. This isn’t true, and many thousands of people each year sell a newer car with finance. All you need to do is make sure the finance is settled at the same time the car is sold. Speak to your finance company about any penalties for settling the finance early.

Selling Written Off Cars

You can also sell a car which has been written off by an insurer, under certain circumstances. This will depend on the reason for the car being written off, and the level of damage.