How to sell car safely header

How to sell a car safely (step-by-step)

When it comes to selling your car, it can be tempting to prioritise maximising your profit over everything else. However, if you choose to sell your car privately, you should be aware of the various safety risks you may encounter when dealing with private buyers.

In this guide, we’ll highlight the safest channels for selling your car and the steps you should take to stay safe whilst navigating the private market. We’ll also provide some valuable tips for avoiding scammers and protecting yourself legally.

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Where is the safest place to sell my car?

The process of selling your car privately starts with deciding where to sell your car. There are several options at your disposal, including:

  • Car listing websites

    There are numerous car advertising websites where you can list your car for sale. These sites cater to users looking to buy or sell vehicles. Listing your motor on one or more reputable car advertising sites can help you attract a pool of prospective buyers.

  • Social media

    In recent years, social media apps have become a popular avenue for selling cars, especially Facebook Marketplace.

    Listing your car on social media apps can be a great way to connect with prospective buyers. However, you should proceed carefully, as once you start dealing with a potential buyer, you’ll need to handle the rest of the sale yourself; this includes facilitating the payment.

  • Car enthusiast forums

    Car enthusiast forums aren’t quite as popular as they once were, but they’re still a useful tool for selling your car privately – especially if you have a rare, niche or collectable model. These forums are usually dedicated to specific car brands or types, so listing your motor on a few relevant forums can be a great way to attract genuine buyers.

    If you want to find that ‘needle in a haystack’ buyer who has their heart set on your specific car model (and might even pay a little more than its market value), a car enthusiast forum can be a great place to start!

    To maximise your chances of selling your car successfully, you should:

    • Take a variety of good quality interior and exterior photographs.
    • Include details of your car’s make, model, features, mileage and condition.
    • Be fully transparent about your car’s history (e.g. the number of previous owners and whether it has been written off).

    Whichever selling avenue you choose, you should take the necessary precautions to avoid scams when dealing with buyers. We will cover these in detail later in the article.

Illustration of car keys


To ensure the selling process goes as smoothly as possible, make sure you have the following documents to hand:

  • V5C logbook.
  • Car service history.
  • MOT certificates.
  • Owner’s manual.
  • Car warranty documents (if applicable).
  • Proof of deposit and purchase.
  • Car parts receipts.
  • Insurance documents.

Whilst it is possible to sell a car without any documentation at all, missing documents will reduce your car’s value and saleability. Therefore, you should try to replace any missing car documents before selling your motor.

The V5C logbook is arguably the most important document of all, as it plays a key role in transferring ownership. Many buyers will not consider purchasing your car if this is missing.

Important car documents


Key considerations when preparing your car for resale include:

  • Having any faults or damage repaired, if feasible.
  • Cleaning your vehicle inside and out.
  • MOT testing your car, if there is less than 6 months’ cover remaining.

When you sell your car, you should be fully transparent about the vehicle’s condition from the outset. If you attempt to deceive potential buyers about its condition or history, you could land yourself in legal trouble. If you can’t fix it, you must declare it!

Safety and fraud prevention

One of the most important aspects of selling your car safely is being able to spot potential buyers’ red flags. You can never be too vigilant against scams and fraudulent buyers. So, you should take every possible precaution to avoid getting caught out.

If you can’t decide whether a buyer is genuine, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the buyer have an established profile on the site you’re using – or has it been set up very recently?
  • Do you know their real name – and if so, are they visible on social apps such as Facebook and LinkedIn?
  • Has the buyer agreed to purchase your car without having seen it in person? If so, this is highly suspicious.
  • Have they offered to pay significantly more than your car’s asking price or market value? Does their offer seem too good to be true?
  • Is the buyer pressuring you into accepting an unorthodox payment method? We advise against accepting payment via PayPal, as the buyer may falsely claim that the vehicle was not delivered. As it will be difficult for you to prove otherwise, PayPal may refund them, leaving you out of pocket and without your car!

You should never exchange bank details with a buyer before you have met them in person and are satisfied that their intentions are genuine.

Making a secure transaction

The sale of a car typically involves a large sum of money changing hands, often thousands of pounds. To minimise the risk of fraud, we recommend accepting payment by bank transfer. With this method, you’ll only need to disclose your name, bank account number and sort code.

If possible, avoid taking payment by cheque, as this could leave you vulnerable to cheque fraud. Scammers may use a stolen or counterfeit cheque to pay for a car – or write a cheque for a sum that’s larger than their account’s balance, causing it to bounce.

You should not hand over the keys or transfer ownership of the vehicle until you are satisfied that the payment has cleared.

You should also exercise caution when taking payment in cash, as some fraudsters may use counterfeit notes. If you decide to accept cash, you can arrange to meet the seller at the bank and ask the cashier to count and verify the notes for your peace of mind.

Illustration of lock

Meeting and test driving

If you’re selling your car on the private market, there’s a good chance that viewers will ask for a test drive before they commit to buying it. This will allow them to experience how the vehicle handles and performs in various driving conditions.

You should only ever meet with potential buyers in safe, familiar locations. Meet in your own local area and always accompany the buyer during the test drive to prevent car theft. As a precautionary measure, avoid leaving the keys in the ignition while the buyer is viewing the car.

Asking a friend or family member to accompany you during the viewing or test drive can further reduce the level of risk.

You should always check that the viewer has a valid UK driving license and is insured before allowing them to get behind the wheel. If you give an uninsured driver permission to test drive your car, your insurance will be invalidated – and if they are pulled over by the police, you could be charged.

If the viewer does not have a valid licence and insurance, you can offer to demonstrate the car while they sit in the passenger seat instead.

The law and the DVLA

As the seller, it’s your sole responsibility to inform the DVLA about the sale of your car and transfer ownership to the buyer. You can tell the DVLA you’ve sold, transferred or bought a vehicle via the website.

You should also ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy at the point of sale. Selling a vehicle that is unroadworthy is a criminal offence – unless you make the buyer aware of the fact.

An MOT certificate from several months ago cannot be accepted as evidence that the car was roadworthy at the time of sale, so make sure you check your vehicle thoroughly before selling it.

Selling to webuyanycar

If you want to sell your motor and avoid the hassle associated with selling privately, why not sell your car to webuyanycar? The process is fast, simple and safe.

Here’s how it works:

  • Enter your registration number into our free car valuation tool to get a quote in under 30 seconds.
  • Book an appointment at any of our 500+ branches.
  • Drive down to your local branch. If you’re happy to sell to us, our buyer will assist with the paperwork and we’ll send the money to your bank.
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