How to sell a car privately
Driver’s guide to a quick sale
11-Step guide to a safe and legal sale
Selling your car privately using classified ads can be unnerving, but the steps in this guide will make things easier and help you sell your car quickly.
Selling a car privately is the surest way to get the best price.
But alternatives are offering a little less cash but a lot less hassle. See our secondary guide about car-buying sites.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to sell your car quickly, safely and legally as a private seller. We look at price points, where to advertise, handling enquiries and negotiation, and notifying DVLA of a sale and transfer.
Table of contents
- Step 1 – Basics of a quick sale
- Step 2 – Preparing your car for sale
- Step 3 – Fixing minor damage
- Step 4 – Where to advertise your car
- Step 5 – Write a classified advert
- Step 6 – Set the asking price
- Step 7 – Demonstrating to car buyers
- Step 8 – Test drives
- Step 9 – How to negotiate
- Step 10 – Acceptable methods of payment
- Step 11 – Receipts and notifying DVLA
Is my car in good nick?
A private sale works best for cars that are mechanically sound and in good working order. Cosmetic damage is ideally little more than general wear and tear defects, like the odd stone chip or scuffed bumper or alloy wheel.
The car experts at CarVeto have been selling cars for more than 30 years. During this time, we have learned that a new or long MOT helps make a quick car sale. Anything less than 6 months of MOT status and you will benefit from getting a new MOT test.
Vehicle history check
A hassle-free way to selling privately (and getting the best price for your car) is a vehicle history report. It’s illegal to knowingly sell a car with outstanding finance or theft status.
Our database provides all the details such as car finance information such as the agreement number, lender, and contact information.
CarVeto car data checks also look at stolen car checks, write off status, mileage issues and number plate changes.
A detailed report about your car offers peace of mind to potential buyers that can increase your chances of selling your car privately.
For more details, take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to sell a car.
Prepare your car
Your classified ad will appear alongside dealers and private motorists selling a comparative car.
Getting your car cleaned is an essential aspect of a quick sale. With car valet centres in every town and city across the UK, spending a few quid to make your car look and smell great is worth every penny.
But if you don’t want to pay someone else to clear your car, look at clearing out any rubbish, cleaning the windows inside and out and getting a hot soapy wash.
When it comes to selling a car privately, first impressions count. Therefore, you need your potential buyer to be immediately impressed when first taking a look.
Car buyers’ expectations differ based on age, mileage, and price.
Buyers expect minor wear and tear damage on a car if it’s covered tens of thousands of miles. And the odd stone chip or curbed alloy wheel can signal that your car is a little worn but genuine.
If you’re selling a luxury or expensive car, stone chips, supermarket dents and curbed alloy wheels can be a deterrent.
It’s generally easier to sell an expensive car when minor cosmetic damage is repaired.
Advertise to sell your car privately
Once your car is in good condition to sell privately, it’s time to write out your classified advert and get your car within reach of prospective buyers.
Best places to advertise your car
Your car buyer will most likely see your vehicle online, using sites like Autotrader or Gumtree.
Buying a private car advert can be pricey, especially on platforms like Autotrader.
Advertising privately with Autotrader ranges anywhere from £10 up to £90, depending on the price of your car.
Gumtree is more affordable. They offer free low-spec car adverts and premium ones for a little under twenty quid.
Facebook marketplace is another option, but works best for cars under £2,000.
If you have a specialist or classic car, look for platforms that are a good fit, such as Car and Classic.
Alternatively, you can advertise locally in a newsagents shop window or by spreading the word to family and friends. Remember to include the important details, for example, make, model, age, mileage, colour, and price. Also, include your phone number and email address.
Take good-quality photos
Capture various angles of your car in natural light and dry weather.
Take close-ups of:
- Each corner
- Front and back
- Under the bonnet
- In the boot
- With the driver’s door open
- Interior shots front and back
- The odometer that displays the mileage
If your car has a minor dent or scuff, a photo will help buyers see that you’re not trying to hide anything, and that builds trust and improves your chances of an enquiry.
Writing a car advert
Car-selling platforms usually prepopulate vehicle details via the registration number. That includes the make, model, colour, age, fuel type, engine specifications, body type and emissions output.
Check these details are correct before you write your ad description.
Write enough detail, so buyers know the benefits and features of your car. Remember to include added extras that aren’t typically included with your model.
- Panoramic roof
- Upgraded alloy wheels
- Unusual body colour
- Additional park assist cameras
And if you’ve recently spent money on car maintenance, the ad description is a great place to say:
- New cam belt
- Recently serviced
- New MOT
- New tyres
If you have a spare set of keys, remember to include them in your advert.
Max your car ad description to no more than 100 words.
Remember to be honest about car condition. If something needs fixing or repairing, it is typically a good idea to say so in your ad.
Car value depends on a range of factors. But finding the right price point is essential to selling your car privately. How much is my car worth? Quick steps to an online valuation:
- Check classified ads for comparative cars (like-for-like)
- Remember that dealers tend to ask more than private sellers
- Consider mileage and specification
- Autotrader offers a ‘cars like yours usually sell for xxxx’.
Head to a car buying site like Motorway and get an instant online valuation. The trick is to place your car in the cheapest third of all like-for-like cars; this increases the likelihood of calls and enquiries.
Selling from your home address has a few benefits:
- It’s convenient
- You will feel comfortable during negotiations
- The buyer can verify that your name and address match the V5C registration document
If you don’t have your V5, order a new one online with DVLA.
Around 30% of private car buyers bring a mechanic friend to inspect the car. So the easiest way to sell your car is to give the mechanic enough space to carry out a car inspection. Allow them to look at and listen to the engine, inspect the bodywork, and maybe even crawl under the car for a deeper inspection.
Mechanic friends differ a great deal. Some are relaxed; others seize the opportunity to flex their mechanical know-how.
But never leave your car, keys or paperwork with them. Always be present and willing to answer questions.
If you feel nervous about a stranger visiting your home, consider asking a friend or family member to stay with you for reassurance.
It’s not necessary to ask the buyer into your home. The side of the road does most deals.
Before the buyer arrives, give your car a quick check-over. Ensure the tyres are pumped up, the engine starts up properly, and the inside smells nice.
Offer a test drive
If the buyer wants to test drive the car, it’s a signal they are interested in buying.
Test drives are part of the car buying process.
You need assurance that the buyer is insured. Most fully-comprehensive insurance policies permit driving any vehicle on a third-party-only basis. It means your car isn’t covered if there’s a crash. But this minimal cover is usually adequate for test drive purposes and driving legally.
We suggest asking for proof of insurance.
The car must be taxed and have a valid MOT if it’s more than three years old, else they risk being fined up to £1,000 by DVLA.
If the buyer isn’t insured, offer to take them out for a drive yourself. Of course, it’s not as good as the buyer driving, but it should give them enough information to decide.
Where possible, give the buyer a decent test drive across various road types like side streets and dual carriageways. Most buyers want to try the car at 70 mph.
Agreeing on a selling price
Negotiation can be great fun. But, unfortunately, it means you’re likely to sell your car and get cash in the bank.
The trick is to know your minimum price. Be prepared for a low offer. If they offer £1,500 less than the asking price, they will hope you’ll be amenable to a slightly higher offer.
Allow the buyer to bring up negotiating. When they make an offer, be confident and try not to appear desperate for the cash.
Let the buyer make an offer. If it’s not enough to sell, make them a counteroffer whilst gesturing for a handshake and deal. At this stage, your chances of selling have increased.
Buyer found the price agreed. What payment methods can I accept for the private sale of my car?
Being paid in cash is less popular these days due to fraud. It also lacks a proper paper trail of the transaction that might come in handy should there be some unforeseen issue.
Bank transfer (preferred)
It’s the way to go. A simple transfer from one account to another, preferably using the buyer’s online banking app.
Confirm the payment has reached your account before you release the car and keys.
Banker’s draft or personal/business cheque
Neither of these methods is acceptable due to the high potential for fraud.
Don’t accept a cheque as payment for your car.
Finalise the sale
Write a receipt
Write a detailed receipt. It’s 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 is made
- Do not hand over the keys until payment has been received in your account
- You can even print out a template receipt online, like this one.
An optional item is to include ‘sold as seen on your receipt. For traders selling a car, ‘sold as seen is not applicable and is against the law. But, selling a car privately means less liability should the car suffer mechanical issues or failure.
It’s unlawful to sell my car without notifying DVLA. It’s also risky as we might incur parking or speed fines for which we are liable. For details, check our guide on notifying DVLA.
Online is the quickest way to tell DVLA you have sold or transferred a car.
Once you have taken all the steps in this guide, you can give the keys to the buyer and wave goodbye to your old vehicle.
Remember to give them the green new keeper’s supplement from the V5 logbook, service history, spare keys and other documents or invoices you have kept over the years.