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How to sell a car

How to sell quickly and get the best price

Tips and advice for selling your car

Getting your car ready for sale is essential if you want to sell it quickly and get the best price.

Unless you're selling something very rare or unusual, it's likely that you'll be competing for buyers' attention against many similar cars – presentation, mechanical condition and service history can all make the difference between an easy sale and long drawn out affair with you having to drop the asking price every week.

Before you advertise the car

  • Clean it inside and out and make sure that it's generally tidy
  • Repair any minor paintwork damage or simple mechanical faults
  • Get a new MOT if there's less than three months on the current one. Consider a new MOT anyway as this says a lot about the car's basic condition
  • Remember that if your vehicle has a serious defect and is unroadworthy, you could be breaking the law by selling it, if you haven't described it accurately
  • Consider a full, professional valet service – it'll save you time and can really make a difference

Now you're ready to market your car, so here are some tips for a stress–free sale.

Tips for a smooth car sale


  • price your car realistically – particularly if you want a quick sale
  • check the prices of similar cars in popular classified ad magazines or online


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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 land line 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 bring and 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


  • provide a 'sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee' receipt
  • print off and use our buyer's/seller's contract
  • bear in mind that 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 cannot use a 'sold as seen' receipt to cover the possibility that the car may be unroadworthy in some respect either.  The law is clear – it's illegal to sell a car in an unroadworthy condition.

Get paid

  • 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.
  • don't let anyone drive your car away until you're satisfied that you've been paid in full
  • cash – consider arranging to be handed the cash at your bank – or an online bank transfer are the safest way of getting paid
  • 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 tranfer 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

Notify DVLA

You must tell DVLA as soon as possible that you are 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.

As the seller you will need to complete the new keeper details on the V5C and sign the declaration along with the buyer. It is your responsibility to send the completed V5C to DVLA having first given the buyer the V5C/2 section – their proof of keepership until they receive a new V5C from DVLA.

(29 December 2014)

Prices and adverts for used car sales

Getting your car on the market

Price is all important. Get it wrong and your car won't sell. Have a look around to see what similar cars are being advertised for, bearing in mind, condition, age and mileage.

The easiest and most convenient way to sell your car is to trade it in when you buy a new one from a dealer, but this will give you the lowest price. A valuation service will give you an idea of trade-in price depending on the car's condition but a dealer may not offer that much if he doesn't expect to be able to sell it on quickly for a profit.

Selling privately

Selling your car privately should get you more cash, assuming you can find a buyer, but it certainly won't be as convenient as you will have to:

  • find space for two cars at home
  • arrange and pay for advertsing
  • 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

Don't expect to get as much as the dealer's forecourt price though – the dealer has costs to cover, is likely to be including a warranty and may well have put time/money into preparing the car.

Price your car as reasonably as possible – especially if you want a quick sale. You may want to compare similar car adverts to gauge current prices.

Some cars are seasonal – don't expect to get the best price for a convertible if you're selling in the autumn, though this can be a good time to buy one.

Be realistic about the asking price while allowing room for bargaining. Buyers feel better if they've managed to knock the price down a bit but might be put off even enquiring if the initial asking price is too high.


For a private buyer it's a case of 'buyer beware' as they are not protected in law to the same extent as when buying from a dealer but that doesn't mean you can sell a car in any condition or describe it as something it's not. If you advertise a car for sale:

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

If you're going to make claims like 'very good condition', make sure you can substantiate the claim. The buyer won't be expecting to see a rust bucket and an unhappy buyer could take you to court if they think you've misled them. Avoid words such as 'genuine' and 'cheap' – these just serve to make buyers wary.

Keep it simple

Keep your ad as brief as possible, using plain English rather than jargon, while ensuring that you highlight any optional extras that are likely to be of interest to potential buyers.

Online advertising sites are likely to look after a lot of the basics of the ad such as the car's specification but, wherever you advertise, you need to make sure the ad includes:

  • make, model and variant
  • mileage
  • price
  • fuel, engine size, transmission and year of first registration
  • extent of service history
  • MOT expiry date
  • your location and contact details
  • photographs inside and out – make sure you clean the car first!

Call to action

Remember, if you get a call, be polite. Have paperwork handy so you can answer questions, such as mileage and number of owners and remember to be completely honest. When potential buyers come round to view the car, don't let anyone into your home, and make sure someone else is with you for the viewing.

(11 August 2014)