How to sell your car privately

Last updated November 8th, 2022

Selling your car privately can present a difficult challenge, particularly if you have a limited knowledge of the private market and the various laws and regulations that surround it.

With that said, if you take care to ensure your car is looking and performing its best – and advertise it effectively to the right audience, there is no reason you can’t get a great price for it!

In this guide, we will cover the steps you should follow to sell your car, the various online and offline selling platforms available – together with tips and advice to help you sell at a favourable price, whilst staying on the right side of the law.

Value your car in under 30 seconds

Steps for selling your car privately

      • Step 1 – Fix any mechanical issues

        Before putting your car on the market, it’s important to check for any mechanical faults. Even if the vehicle appears to be in good working order, you should still take it to a reputable local garage for an overview to ensure there are no hidden issues.

        Arranging a full service for your car and having any existing or developing mechanical faults repaired can reassure prospective buyers that they’re unlikely to face any problems in the foreseeable future. Many leading garages will also offer a warranty with your service, providing even greater peace of mind.

        If your car’s MOT is due in the next four months or less, putting it in for another test will help reassure viewers that they’ll be no nasty surprises next time they take it to a garage!

      • Step 2 – Treat your car to a makeover

        After performance and reliability, your car’s appearance is arguably the most important factor when it comes to selling at a good price on the private market. Car dealerships will typically throw the kitchen sink at making well-worn cars look nearly new – and you should consider this approach too.

        Years of daily wear (and the odd coffee stain) can drive down your car’s market value and desirability. However, fear not – the solution is often as simple as rolling up your sleeves and cleaning your car from top to bottom.

        A grimy interior is usually what makes a car look ‘lived-in’. However, you shouldn’t neglect the exterior; introducing the wheels and bodywork to hot soapy water can be transformative. You can do this yourself or arrange for the car to be professionally valeted. Whilst the latter option is pricier, it often yields impressive results.

        If your car has been on the road a few years, there’s a good chance it’s accumulated a couple of minor scratches or dents. Whilst these are not always deal-breakers, they can certainly devalue your car in the eyes of prospective buyers. Having dents and scratches removed isn’t always cheap, but in many cases, some (or all) of the cost can be re-couped thanks to the increased resale value of your car.

        Illustration of a clean car
      • Step 3 – Deciding where to sell your car

        If you want to command the best possible price for your car, how and where you advertise it should never be an afterthought.

        There are many sites and apps that you can utilise to sell your car privately online, including car ad sites such as Autotrader and Gumtree (which have largely replaced physical newspaper and magazine ads) - and online selling communities such as eBay Motors and Facebook Marketplace.

        Whilst their popularity has been somewhat eclipsed by online selling, traditional advertising methods such as purchasing a classified ad in a newspaper or automotive magazine - and placing a noticeboard ad at your local pub, café or community centre can all be effective ways to capture the attention of prospective buyers.

      • Step 4 – Write your advert

        Once you’ve decided between paid or free car advertising sites, you can begin writing an advert to attract potential buyers.

        When it comes to writing an advert, you should avoid tired car seller cliches such as ‘one careful owner’, ‘first to see will buy’, ‘drives beautifully’ – and of course, ‘future classic’. These are all things that viewers will judge for themselves.

        Instead, make sure you include pertinent information about the car’s model, condition, specifications and history. If there are one or two minor faults or scratches that a prospective buyer might want to address, be honest and disclose them in your ad. You should aim to provide enough information for readers to decide whether they want to view the car.

        You’ll also need to specify an asking price for your car. If you’re unsure where to set this, simply enter its registration number and mileage into our free car valuation tool. We can provide you with an estimate of your vehicle’s current value in under 30 seconds!

        Although the ideal length for a car ad may vary slightly depending on the platform used and the model you’re selling, an advert of around 50-75 words should work well in most cases.

      • Step 5 – Take photos of your car

        Next, take a series of good quality photographs to support your written advert. Take a good variety of exterior and interior shots in daylight, preferably on a clear day.

        Make sure to include pictures of features such as the dashboard, infotainment system and the boot (to give viewers an idea of the available storage space). Try cover every angle of the car that viewers might request to see.

        Illustration of a camera
      • Step 6 – Schedule viewings

        After placing one or more advertisements for your car, you should hopefully start to receive enquiries. Whenever a prospective buyer expresses interest in your car, you should arrange a mutually convenient time where you can show them the vehicle in person.

        Bear in mind that you may need to arrange several viewings before you succeed in selling your car. Approach this in a business-like manner; try to keep your appointments if possible. If you are unable to meet a commitment to meet a viewer, provide them with as much notice as possible and ask to re-schedule the appointment.

        For additional peace of mind, you may wish to meet prospective buyers near your home and ask a friend or family member to assist you with viewings, test drives and the selling process.

      • Step 7 – Arrange a test drive

        When someone requests to see your car, there’s a good chance that they will also request a test drive.

        However, in order to provide a test drive, your vehicle must be taxed; if it is not, you could be liable to pay a fine of up to £1,000.

        You should also ask to see the buyer’s driving licence and proof of insurance. Their policy may permit them to drive the car, providing it is still insured in your name. You can also arrange short-term test drive insurance, if necessary, to cover the period over which you intend to sell your car.

        If the viewer isn’t insured to drive the vehicle, but you are, you can offer to go for a test drive with them as a passenger. Plan a test drive route that covers a variety of roads (e.g. country roads, built-up areas and motorways).

        When you (or the buyer) accelerate to a variety of different speeds, they will be able to gauge how the vehicle handles overall and make an informed decision about whether to put in an offer.

      • Step 8 – Finalise the sale

        If the viewer’s offer is below the asking price, prepare to do some negotiating. More often than not, a viewer will push for a discount, as a reduction in price can make them feel they have secured a good deal.

        Think about the maximum discount you are willing to apply (many sellers offer a discount of up to 10%, depending on the vehicle’s value). If the viewer won’t match your best offer, let them leave. They may have a change of heart after some consideration – or, you may hear from someone else who sees your car’s potential soon afterwards.

      • Step 9 – Arrange payment

        There are numerous ways you can accept payment for your car, including:

        • Cash – This is considered one of the safest payment methods. When the buyer has paid, count the cash carefully to ensure they have given you the correct amount. If you want reassurance that the cash is genuine, you can ask to meet the buyer at the bank. The cashier should be able to verify the legitimacy of the notes tendered.
        • Bank transfer – Whilst often easier for the buyer than paying in cash, bank transfers take a little more time to complete. The buyer may make the transfer using their banking app, by telephone, or less commonly, by visiting their local bank. You should not hand them the keys until the money has been transferred into your account.
        • Cheque/banker’s draft – Of the three payment methods we’ve listed, this one takes the longest. Again, you should check your bank account to ensure the money has been paid into your account before handing over the keys.

        Remember, if your become suspicious at any point in the payment process, you are within your rights to call the sale off and wait until you find a buyer you trust.

'Sold as seen’ car contract

Before completing the sale, you should produce two copies of a seller’s contract – one for them and one for you to keep. Both parties should sign and date the document as a proof of sale or purchase. Make sure you keep hold of your copy for future reference.

Frequently Asked Questions

This document can be used as proof that you have sold your vehicle, at the agreed price, to the buyer who signs it, on a specific date. These documents typically include the terms: ‘sold as seen’ and ‘tried and approved without guarantee’.

No, ‘sold as seen’ is not a legally binding term and does not necessarily remove the seller’s liability, should a problem occur with the car.

As a private seller, you must accept a return, if the vehicle you sold was not ‘as described’ in your advert or listing. So, if you claimed that the vehicle had features that it does not, or were untruthful about its condition, you would need to pay return costs, and refund the cost of the sale.

You can accept payment in cash, by bank transfer, cheque or banker’s draft. A small proportion of car sellers also accept cryptocurrency, although this is far less common than other payment methods. Whichever method you choose, ensure the transaction is complete before handing over the keys.

eBay Motors’ fees are different from the platform’s standard marketplace fees. At present, a final auction fee of 1% of the transaction price (a minimum of £25 and a maximum of £45) applies to all listings, with the exception of classified ads.

The listing fee for classified ads is £19.99, whilst both auction and fixed-price listings have a listing fee of £14.99.

Upgrading your listing’s gallery costs an additional £2.99 – and adding a subtitle costs £0.49. Adding the ‘buy it now’ functionality costs an additional £5.99 (this is only available for auction listings). An additional £9.99 fee will also apply, should you wish to set a reserve.

Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace both allow you to advertise your car free of charge. Autotrader also allows private sellers to advertise (and sell) cars valued at £1,000 or less free of charge for up to one week.

If you wish to sell your car privately, make sure you have the following documents available: V5C logbook, service and MOT certificate history, the remaining car warranty, the owner’s handbook, proof of reservation and purchase receipts – and the number plate retention form (if relevant).

See our full guide on documents you need to sell your car.

Yes – although selling a car with mechanical issues privately can be difficult. When your car has mechanical issues, selling to a trader, mechanic or car buying service is usually your best option. If you choose to sell privately, make sure you disclose any damage or faults.

Still unsure? You can find more information on our sell my damaged car page.

You may be worried that if your car fails its MOT, that you have no options for selling it. Fortunately, this is not the case! You can sell your MOT failure through a car buying service, such as webuyanycar – or to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF), as scrap.

In many cases, selling a ‘non-runner’ on the private market is difficult, though not impossible. When advertising, you must be fully transparent about its condition. Here at webuyanycar, we buy non-runners and SORN (Statutory Off-road Notification) vehicles.

Yes, you must notify the DVLA once you’ve sold your car. You can do this via the gov.uk website.

You’ll need provide them with details of the vehicle sold, including the registration and VC5 number – along with the full name and address of the new owner.

See our guide on how to transfer how to transfer car ownership.

If you fail to notify the DVLA, any vehicle tax refund that you are owed may also be affected. Remember to give the new owner the green ‘new keeper’ slip (V5C/2), as this will enable them to tax the vehicle.

You can find more information about DVLA and selling cars on our DVLA & Selling Cars explained page.

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