How to sell a car – driver’s guide

How to sell a VW T-Roc car.
  • Selling your car privately

  • Selling to trade

  • Car buying sites

Comprehensive guide to the best price, quick sale with the least hassle

Whether you need something a bit newer or want to scale back your driving and need a little runaround, you’ll be looking to sell your car at some stage. Most drivers sell up and reinvest the money into a more expensive set of wheels.

Father and daughter finding how to sell a car quickly

In this guide, you’ll learn how most Britons sell vehicles.

The three popular routes are selling privately, selling to the trade (car dealership), including part exchange or selling online with one of the ever-growing numbers of car-buying sites.

Find out which is best for you based on selling prices and convenience.

Row of houses to sell a car privately

Selling a car privately

If you choose a private car sale, consider Autotrader as the hub of private used car sales websites.

If you own a specialist vehicle such as a classic car, kit car or unusual import, look at advertising on a specialist website or magazine publication.

Free ad sites work best if your car is older and cheaper, including Gumtree and Friday ads.

Tips to sell your car privately

Things you’ll need to think about:

  • Asking price
  • Writing your car ad
  • Phone calls or online enquiries
  • Demonstrating the vehicle
  • Accepting payment
  • Providing a receipt or invoice
  • Notifying DVLA of the change of ownership

New guide to selling a car privately

The asking price

If you price the car competitively, it will get more interest from buyers. Advertise your car too cheaply, and you risk appearing suspicious. Most buyers will naturally think there is a hidden history or mechanical issues.

Similar models priced in the cheapest 20% to 40% bracket of all those advertised online get the most enquiries. If you’re unsure of how much to sell your car for, get a free value on the Autotrader, or a car comparison selling site like We Buy Any Car or Motorway.

Writing your car ad

You’ll increase the chances of a phone call if you write your advert well. Be accurate in the condition, model specifications, age and mileage, service history and MOT status.

Including more details such as one owner from new, spare keys, main dealer servicing, new tyres, or recent cam belt replacement is generally good. Key features like these generate more interest, leading to more enquiries.

Photos of your car

A little effort in taking good photos is essential to get the best price. Shots of your car from multiple angles, including pictures of the interior and wheels. But make sure you don’t photograph car documents that give away personal details that might lead to identity theft. DVLA are hot on this type of precaution as well.

Sales enquiries

Most serious buyers will call for information about a car for sale, so it’s good to know the basics:

  • How long have you owned the car?
  • Why do you want to sell?
  • When was the car last serviced?
  • When the MOT expires?
  • Any cosmetic damage or mechanical issues the buyer would like to know about?
  • An up-to-date free car history check
  • Be on the lookout for suspicious emails or texts that say they want to buy your car. Most times, they turn out to be car scams.

Don’t give personal information over the phone, such as your full name or the V5 logbook reference number.

Demonstrating your vehicle

Be prepared for failed appointments. Unfortunately, people sometimes fail to turn up because they are time wasters or hagglers looking for a significant discount from the asking price.

When a potential buyer arrives, keep yourself safe and take precautions:

  • Do not leave people alone with your car and keys (and paperwork like the V5C log book or service history)
  • Always accompany people who want to take a test drive
  • Ensure they have a driving licence and insurance to drive any vehicle

Taking payment for the car sale

A bank transfer is the safest method of payment. However, be wary of accepting large amounts of cash that might be forged. Likewise, do not accept private or banker drafts cheques, as they might be fake.

Writing a receipt from the car sale

Taking a few minutes to write a detailed receipt is an essential step in how to sell a car privately:

  • Write two receipts, one for you and one for the buyer
  • Include both your and the buyer’s name and address
  • Include the date of sale
  • Include the car’s make and model
  • Registration number
  • Selling price
  • How payment was made
  • Do not hand over the keys until payment has been received in your account

Notify DVLA of the sale

You’re legally obligated to notify DVLA of the sale or transfer of a vehicle. You and the buyer sign the V5. The buyer gets the ‘new keepers supplement’ green slip, so they can tax the vehicle. As the seller, you must send the V5C log book to DVLA Swansea to reregister the car with the buyer’s name and address. You can also notify DVLA online of sales or transfers.

Young woman selling her car on her mobile phone whilst sat on the sofa.

Selling my car online

There are a growing number of companies offering to buy your car online. Well-known ones like We Buy Any Car and Motorway give you an online valuation in exchange for car details like make, model, age, mileage and service history.

Most of the information they need is found by typing the car registration number into their websites.

We Buy Any Car has local depots across the mainland UK.

If you sell your car, it goes straight to auction for resale.

Motorway has established partnerships with car dealers who can collect your car from home or work. If you sell your car to them, it is likely to end up on a dealer’s forecourt for sale.

New guide to sell my car

Things you need to know about car-buying sites

  • Online valuations are provisional and based on the assumption that your car is in good condition for its age, mileage, and service history
  • Your car will be visually inspected before an official offer is confirmed

How to get the best offer from a car-buying website

Inform the buyer (dealer) of any cosmetic damage or mechanical issues your car has. It ensures that your online valuation is accurate, and you’ll get the price initially offered. Motorway tend to offer the best online prices.

They have more flexibility than We Buy Any Car as they deal directly with dealers (5,000+). Pop your car reg number into their site and choose from various offers. Typically, you’ll opt for the highest bid and a quick sale.

The main benefits of selling a car with Motorway:

  • A range of offers
  • Specialist dealers wanting specific makes and models
  • No admin or pick-up fees
  • Money is paid into your bank the same day

Even if you don’t choose to sell your car online, you can get a no-obligation, mid-range online valuation.

New guide on the leading car buying sites.

Car dealer and private selling shaking hands on a deal.

Selling a car as a part exchange

If your car is four years old or younger, or if you plan to buy a new car from the same manufacturer, a part exchange (PX) could show you a reasonable price. It’s also the simplest way to sell your car whilst buying a new one.

Franchised car dealerships want good quality cars to sell from the forecourt. And if you own a sought-after model, your part exchange valuation might be higher than expected.

Local, independent dealers are likely to value your car less than franchises. But, if your car is sought after and in good condition, they can make you a good offer.

Part exchange or price to change

The ‘price to change’ is the difference between the value of your car and the price of the new one.

Pay attention to the numbers.

A salesperson may want to offset a new car list price discount against a poor valuation on your old one. You will get a low offer if you sell your car by part exchange, mainly if you deal with an independent dealer who wants to profit from both vehicles.

As a rule of thumb, a PX deal is the lowest price you’ll get.

Selling with a car buying site should get you a little more. Selling privately offers the chance to get a reasonable price and nearer retail value.

Young couple completing a car dealer with a local trader.

Selling a car to trade

Similar to car buying sites but cutting out the middle man, selling a car direct to trade can bring reasonable offers. Much depends on the quality of your car, its make, model, mileage, age, and specification. Signs that a dealer will make a reasonable offer for your car to buy it outright:

  • It’s less than five years old
  • It’s low mileage and a comprehensive service history
  • The make and model are desirable and appealing

Today’s car dealers have difficulty sourcing cared-for, well-maintained cars. In addition, car auctions have seen a growing number of private car buyers over the last ten years, which has seen trade prices skyrocket, making it harder for dealers to find a bargain.

New guide on how to sell car to trade

People selling a car at an auction

Selling a car at an auction

Things to consider selling your car at auction:

  • You are not guaranteed to sell your car
  • There is an entry fee
  • You must set a reserve price. You’re unlikely to get any bids if you set your reserve price too high
  • Privately entered vehicles are often ignored because of the risk of hidden mechanical issues
  • Your car can easily pick up cosmetic damage
  • You will need to collect your car quickly if it doesn’t sell at the auction
  • If you do make the sale, there is a hefty commission to pay based on the selling price

A car auction is the least attractive method of selling.

Online auction

Well-known online auctions like eBay offer the chance to sell a second-hand car regardless of age, mileage, or condition. eBay offers two routes to selling your car:

  • Auction bids
  • Buy it now

Carefully describe your vehicle, including make, model, history, and cosmetic or mechanical issues. An accurate description is crucial, and we expect potential buyers to ask questions before making an offer.

Write your advert in the same way you might with a classified ad.

Things to consider with an online auction sale:

Buyers are buying blind, which usually affects how much you can sell for.

Bids are legally binding.

Beware of buyers without an eBay History.

Also, be on the lookout for buyers that don’t have positive feedback on their profiles eBay is known to have car scammers. If it seems too good to be true, it may be.

Avoid doing a deal without eBay’s online payment system that offers you some security if you find yourself being scammed

Sign saying 'Donate a car'.

Give your car away to a charity

When your car is near the end of its life. Not-for-profit and social enterprise sites like Give a Car will take your old car off your hands, sell it for cash and donate the process to a charity of your choice.

This new market is ideal if your car is old, broken, and ready for the scrapheap. You also get to declare the donation as part of Gift Aid, which brings a bit more money for your chosen charitable organisation.

Some sites do expect a commission, so make sure to read the terms before you donate.

CarVeto expert tips for selling your car

Let’s assume you will sell your car privately or via a car-buying site. Before you grab an online valuation or write out your classified ad, check our tips on selling a car hassle-free.

1 – Value my car

Getting the right price is essential if you want to try selling a car privately. Overvalue, and it’s hard to get enquiries. Undervalue, and you risk appearing suspicious. Alongside online valuations with Autotrader or car buying websites, browse for comparable cars advertised online. We have already mentioned a target price with your vehicle in the cheapest 30% of all those online.

2 – Preparing your car increases the chances of selling, Buyers appreciate:

  • A new or long MOT
  • Recent service
  • Valet
  • Documented service history, including receipts and invoices for work, carried out by a local workshop or dealers

Have the correct paperwork, including the V5C logbook. If you’ve lost or damaged your logbook, it’s easy to get a new one from DVLA V62. If you own a car with outstanding finance, get a settlement letter from the lender stating they have no interest in the vehicle. Use our outstanding finance check report for details of your lender, agreement number and contact information.

3 – Accessories

Have all the bits and pieces, including spare keys, a locking wheel nut, accessories, a manufacturer’s handbook kit and some fuel in the tank!

4 – Valet

A good car valet is one of the most significant factors in a quick sale, especially to a private car buyer. Even if you’ve kept your car grubby, it will pay to sell it clean and shiny. A good air freshener is also known to help get a quick sale.

5 – Car history check

Get an up-to-date CarVeto vehicle history check. It will show buyers your car’s complete history and eliminate doubts about its legitimacy or potential reliability. CarVeto reports include detailed VED, MOT history, theft, finance, write off and mileage checks, a history of number plate changes, VIC inspections and current road insurance status.

Composed by Marcus Rockey

Marcus has authored across the automotive sector for more than 30-years – with a focus on private motorists buying or selling a used car.

Read more of his articles here