How to sell a car

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How to sell quickly and get the best price

Tips and advice for selling your car

The easiest way to sell your car is to trade it in when you buy a new one or to sell it to a car buying service but this will give you the lowest price.

Selling privately should get you more cash, assuming you can find a buyer, but won’t be as convenient. You’ll have to:

  • find space for two cars at home
  • arrange and pay for advertising
  • maintain insurance cover and car tax on two cars
  • deal with potential buyers – enquiries, viewings and test drives
  • get paid and make sure that funds are in your account before you hand over the keys

Before you advertise your car

Getting your car ready for sale is essential if you want to sell it quickly and get the best price – presentation, mechanical condition and service history can all make the difference.

  • Clean it inside and out and make sure that it’s generally tidy
  • Repair minor paintwork damage or simple mechanical faults
  • Get a new MOT, particularly if there’s less than three months on the current one.
  • Consider a full, professional valet service – it’ll save you time and can really make a difference

The legal bit

For a private buyer it’s a case of ‘buyer beware’ but that doesn’t mean you can sell a car in any condition or describe it as something it’s not.

  • You must have the right to sell it
  • The vehicle must match your description
  • The vehicle must be roadworthy

Tips for a smooth car sale

Price
  • Price your car realistically – particularly if you want a quick sale
  • Check the prices of similar cars in popular classified ad magazines or online
Finance
  • You can’t sell a car with outstanding finance
  • This includes outstanding hire-purchase or conditional sale agreements
  • If you do want to sell, get the finance company’s permission or settle the finance first
Claims
  • Don’t make false or reckless claims
  • Take care how you word your advert – lines like ‘first to see will buy’ won’t convince anyone
Facts
  • Describe the car as accurately as possible
  • In adverts, stick to facts that will interest potential buyers
  • Make sure you quote the year/number plate, how many months are left on the MOT and where in the country you’re located
  • Be aware that thieves may contact you pretending to be potential buyers. If you give them details of the car like the VIN number over the phone, or share personal details they could use the information to create a cloned advert.
  • Genuine buyers will be happy to come and view the vehicle and check vehicle details for themselves.
Condition
  • State the car’s condition clearly in adverts and on the receipt
  • If it’s being sold for spares only, or requires substantial repairs, say so
  • Include this information on the receipt once you’ve agreed to sell
Documents
  • Have all documents and history to hand including MOT certificates and service records
  • Don’t let buyers make copies or take photos of vehicle documents
  • Keep receipts for any work carried out while you’ve owned the car
  • A fully stamped dealer service record adds value if you’ve got one
  • Don’t forget to hand over all relevant documents when you sell
Test drive
  • Take the buyer’s contact details when arranging for them to come and view/test drive the car – name, address and phone number. A genuine buyer will be happy to do so and will understand if you call back to confirm arrangements and check the number given. 
  • Ask the buyer to show you their driving licence if they’re expecting to test drive the car.
  • Insist that the buyer comes to see the car at your home address – a genuine buyer will be happy to do so. 
  • Check that the buyer is insured to test drive the car. Your own insurance may cover you. See our test drive tips for more advice on insurance cover 
  • Don’t be a victim of car theft
    • always accompany prospective buyers on a test drive 
    • if you change seats part way through, take the keys with you and hand them over when you get back in the car 
  • There’s safety and confidence in numbers – ask a friend or relative to accompany you while the buyer is viewing the car and on the test drive
Haggle room
  • Build in a margin for haggling – the buyer will have the satisfaction of negotiating you down while you still get close to the amount you want
Receipt
  • Provide a ‘sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee’ receipt
  • Print off and use our buyer’s/seller’s contract
  • Providing a ‘sold as seen’ receipt doesn’t affect the buyer’s legal rights – the car must match any description you give in writing or verbally in the course of the sale
  • You can’t use a ‘sold as seen’ receipt to cover the possibility that the car may be unroadworthy in some respect either. 
Get paid
  • Cash – consider arranging to be handed the cash at your bank – or an online bank transfer are the safest way of getting paid
  • Don’t let anyone drive your car away until you’re satisfied that you’ve been paid in full
  • Beware of emails from abroad offering to buy your vehicle without seeing it, and offering to make overpayments. Also beware of bogus ESCROW or shipping companies recommended by the buyer.
  • Bank transfers are quicker these days thanks to the ‘Faster Payments’ system. Customers can make payments over the phone or through online banking all day, every day
  • An immediate bank transfer can be made using the CHAPS system (a fee is payable). CHAPS payments are irrevocable
  • ESCROW, where money is held by a third party on behalf of transacting parties is a safe way of receiving payment for a vehicle but you will need to make sure that the company is legitimate.  You can check using the FSA register of payment services firms authorised in the UK
  • If you are given a personal or building society cheque, wait for it to clear in your bank before you hand the car over
  • Remember that banker’s drafts can be forged – if you accept payment by this method it’s important to wait until you’re sure the funds have been cleared into your account before handing over the keys.

Successfully sold your car?

Before the buyer drives off into the sunset, draw up a seller’s contract to help protect yourself

  • Print two copies of the contract, one for you and one for your buyer
  • Complete the contracts with your buyer
  • You and your buyer should sign and date the contracts
  • Make sure you each keep a signed copy as proof of the purchase

Tell DVLA

Tell DVLA as soon as possible that you’re no longer responsible for the vehicle. It’s in your own interest to do so, as you don’t want to be landed with any of the new driver’s future offences and convictions.

  • Tell DVLA online – the quickest and simplest way to tell DVLA that you’ve sold your car is to do it online.  The vehicle record will be updated straight away and you’ll get a refund of any unused vehicle tax within a few days.
  • Tell DVLA by post –  you can still inform DVLA by completing the new keeper details on the V5C, signing the declaration along with the buyer and then sending the completed V5C to DVLA in the post. It will clearly take some time until the record gets updated to no longer show you as the keeper and any vehicle tax refund will be delayed.

Whether you tell DVLA online or by post, don’t forget to give the buyer the V5C/2 section – their proof of keepership until they receive a new V5C from DVLA.

Buying a used car

(updated 19 February 2018)

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