13 tips for selling your car

The prospect of selling your car can be a daunting one – especially if you’re unfamiliar with the market and the various selling methods at your disposal.

In this guide, we’ll share 13 expert tips for selling a car. Follow our lead to avoid the biggest pitfalls and find the right buyer for your motor.

We’ll cover everything from choosing the best time to sell your car to getting a car valuation, deciding whether to repair or sell, how to clean your car - and how to create the best possible ad.

However, before we delve into our tips for selling a car, we’ll list some of the most popular ways to sell your car – and explain their benefits and drawbacks. Understanding each of these methods can help you make an informed decision on the best way to sell your car.

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Decide how to sell your car

To determine the best way to sell your car, you should consider the following questions:

In this section, we will examine the benefits and drawbacks of various popular selling methods to help you decide what works best for you.

(However, if you are determined to sell at the highest possible price, it may be worth exploring several of these methods. This will improve your chances of attracting an offer you’re happy with.)

Selling on the private market

Selling your car privately can present a challenge, especially if this will be your first foray into private car sales. However, if you can find the right buyer, there’s a good chance you can sell it at a favourable price by taking this route.

Remember, if you decide to sell privately, you’ll have to advertise your car to attract prospective buyers. There are numerous platforms that can help you find the right audience including:

  • Free car advertising websites.
  • Advertising in the online or print versions of automotive magazines.
  • Social media platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and Instagram.
  • Classified and free listing sites such as Gumtree and Nextdoor.
  • Online car enthusiast forums such as pistonheads.com.
  • Online forums dedicated to a specific car brand. (This method of advertising may be useful if you are looking to sell a rare, collectable or classic car.)
  • Community noticeboards (often found in shops, pubs and supermarkets).

Once you start to receive enquiries, you’ll also have to facilitate any viewings and test drives.

Unfortunately, finding the right buyer is not always easy and you may encounter your share of timewasters before meeting a serious prospect. However, if you set your asking price realistically – and persevere, you should eventually succeed!

Sell to a car buying service

Selling to a car buying service can be a simple and straightforward process. By choosing this method, you’ll skip the hassle of having to advertise your car and meet with prospective buyers. You’ll benefit from a quick sale – and you could also get a great price for your motor!

Here at webuyanycar, we are proud to be the UK’s favourite car buying service. More than 3.5 million drivers have chosen to sell through us.

As our name suggests, we will buy any car you can imagine including:

You can sell your car to us by following these three simple steps:

  1. Get a free car valuation – Enter your reg number to get a valuation in 30 seconds or less!
  2. Book an appointment – Make your appointment at any of our 500+ UK branches.
  3. Sell your car - Meet our buyers at your local branch to sell your car.

You just need to provide a few key documents to sell your car with us. Then our friendly buyers will take care of the rest.

There’s no obligation to sell to us, but if you do, you could have the money in your bank within 15 minutes with our Immediate Payment service (additional fees will apply).

Want to learn more about our car buying service? Visit our ‘How it works’ and ‘Frequently asked questions’ pages.

Sell to a dealership

    • Selling to a dealership can be a convenient option for selling your car, especially if you want to part exchange for a newer model.
    • This can help you to get behind the wheel of a brand-new car quickly and easily. If you’re planning to trade up, don’t miss your opportunity to haggle a great deal on your new car.
    • However, it is important to be aware that the dealership’s aim is to maximise their profits. Therefore, you can expect their offer to be less than what you could get on the private market.
    • Some dealers may refuse to buy a car that has significant wear, damage or mechanical issues.
    • If you are selling through an approved used car scheme, your vehicle may be subject to more stringent checks before the dealer agrees to buy your car.

Selling at auction

Selling your car at an auction can make it easier to find the right buyer. After all, your car will be displayed before a room full of people with an interest in buying a new motor.

If you have a rare, niche, classic or collectable car, signing it up for the right auction can really help you get a great price for it.

However, before committing, you should bear the following in mind:

  • If you choose to sell at a physical car auction, you will have to take your car to be photographed and valued at the auction house before it is displayed.
  • This is not usually necessary for selling at an online auction. (You should be able to take your own photographs at home.)
  • It is likely that you will be charged a seller’s fee (and the buyer will also be charged a fee for purchasing from the auction), so you should factor this in when setting your price.
  • You will need to arrange alternative transport home if you decide to sell your car.
  • If your car is severely damaged, selling it at a salvage auction could be a practical option.

Scrap your car

If your car is a write-off or a non-runner and it isn’t feasible or financially viable to have it repaired, scrapping your car could be a viable alternative.

Make sure that you have the documents needed to scrap your car. (Although it is possible to scrap your car without a V5C logbook, producing this document can make the process easier.)

Expert tips on selling a car

Here are 13 valuable tips from experts on how to successfully sell your car. By following our advice, you can steer clear of common pitfalls and attract the perfect buyer for your vehicle.

Tip 1: Choose the right time to sell

If you want to maximise the price you’ll achieve for your car, bear in mind that its value may fluctuate throughout the year due to seasonality. Convertibles typically sell for more during the warmer months and the value of SUVs, 4x4s and MPVs is usually higher during the winter.

Tip 2: Get a valuation - and decide whether to repair or sell

When selling a car, it is important to set the price realistically. If your price is too low, you may find yourself short-changed. However, if the price is too high, you may deter genuine buyers and struggle to attract any meaningful interest.

Therefore, before putting your vehicle on the market (or committing to any repair work) you should work out what it’s worth.

Use our free car valuation tool to get a 30-second valuation for your vehicle. Simply enter your reg number to get started.

Getting a valuation for your vehicle can help you decide whether to repair your car or sell it in its current state.

What to consider before repairing your car

  • Use a car valuation tool to find out what your vehicle could be worth after being repaired or restored.
  • Your car will always be worth less after an accident, even if it is repaired to a high standard.
  • Cars that have been assigned insurance write-off categories will also be worth less (and once assigned Category A or B.

Tip 3: Make sure the paperwork is in order

Before putting your motor on the market, make sure that you have all the documents needed to sell your car. Ideally, you should have the following:

  • Your V5C logbook.
  • Your full service history.
  • Past MOT certificates - You can check all recorded MOT data since 2005 (since 2017 for MOTs taken in Nothern Ireland) with our free MOT check tool.
  • Car warranty documentation (if the vehicle is still under warranty) - You will also need to inform the warranty provider when you have sold the car, so that the warranty cover can be transferred.
  • Receipts for parts and repairs.

Although it is possible to sell a car without a V5C logbook, this can make the process more difficult (and will substantially reduce the car’s value). Therefore, in most cases, completing a V62 form to request a replacement V5C logbook from the DVLA is well worth the effort.

Tip 4: Check for minor damage

You should also check your car for any minor damage that prospective buyers could leverage to drive down the price:

Tip 5: Give your car a thorough clean

A grimy appearance can diminish even the most prestigious car. So, if you want prospective buyers to see yours in the best possible light, it’s time to give it a thorough clean.

Automatic car washes and self-service jet washes are both fast and convenient options for freshening up your car. However, you should be aware that using them on a regular basis carries certain risks.

After all, the brushes and rollers will have been used on many other vehicles before yours. Therefore, they can easily transfer dirt and grit onto your car – and over time, this can lead to fine scratches (or ‘swirls’) in the paintwork.

So, if you really want to shine up the exterior, you’re better off using car shampoo with a bucket, sponge and a little elbow grease.

Don’t neglect the interior either. De-clutter the inside of your car and deep clean the upholstery. This will help you maximise its value and saleability.

Tip 6: Take your car for a service

To maximise the value and lifespan of your car, you should take it to be serviced at the manufacturer-recommended intervals.

If your car’s next service interval is coming up, taking care of this proactively can instil viewers with confidence that the vehicle is in good working order.

A ‘full’ or ‘major’ service will incorporate more thorough tests and checks than a routine ‘interim’ service. Many buyers will be more inclined to buy a vehicle that has recently had a ‘full’ or ‘major’ service, as they won’t need to pay for an in-depth service in the immediate future.

Tip 7: Renew the MOT

If your car’s MOT is due to expire within the next three months, we would recommend taking it for an MOT test before selling it. This will save the next owner the hassle of arranging the test themselves whilst giving them the reassurance them that vehicle has no significant mechanical faults.

You can find out when your next MOT is due by entering your reg number into our free MOT check tool.

Tip 8: Take good quality photos and write an informative ad

If you plan to advertise your car to private sellers, set some time aside to take good quality photos. Aim to take a variety of interior and exterior shots, ideally in daylight.

Your photos should be accompanied by a concise, honest and informative written advert.

For tips and advice on taking show-stopping photos and writing a word-perfect ad, see our guide ‘How to sell your car privately’.

Tip 9: Be professional

After you've placed your advert(s), enquiries should start coming in. This is when you need to channel your inner car salesperson.

From the moment each caller picks up the phone, engage with them in a professional, courteous manner. If they are interested in viewing (or even test driving) the vehicle, you can arrange this at a mutually convenient time.

Always aim to be punctual. Try to keep appointments wherever possible, but if you must cancel, provide the viewer with plenty of notice and give them the option to reschedule.

Tip 10: Take precautions when meeting buyers

Stick to where you know

Members of various online automotive communities have advised against meeting prospective buyers at unfamiliar locations.

It is a known tactic for car thieves to make an appointment with a private seller, then ask them to meet at a remote spot (perhaps claiming they are lost) before forcibly taking the vehicle. Use your common sense – and if you don’t feel safe, don’t agree to meet the viewer.

Don’t give out your address

Posters have also advised against meeting viewers at your home address, especially if this is where the car is kept. By doing so, you risk unwittingly attracting car thieves.

Bring support

If you are meeting a viewer, bring a friend or family member with you for support. They can also assist you with the viewing and/or test drive.

Make sure you are both covered for a test drive

Your vehicle must be taxed and MOT certified to be used on the roads.

The prospective buyer may also need to arrange temporary car insurance before taking a test drive.

Tip 11: Negotiate a price you’re both happy with

When negotiating with a buyer, start with your maximum price, but show a willingness to lower your offer – and try to meet them in the middle. If the buyer feels that they have haggled a discount, they are more likely to accept your offer.

Read our guide ‘How to negotiate when buying a car’ to learn more about the techniques employed by top car salespeople to close a deal.

Tip 12: Ensure you get paid

In the automotive industry, ‘buying a car with cash’ refers to any method of paying for a vehicle upfront (rather than in a series of instalments or under a car finance plan). Most private sellers accept some form of upfront payment.

  • Taking physical money as payment is simple, straightforward and involves no transaction fees. Count the cash carefully before handing over the keys to ensure the buyer has paid the correct amount.
  • Bank transfers are one of the safest and most convenient forms of payment. Buyers can arrange payment quickly through their banking app or by calling their bank.
  • Buyers can also make CHAPS (Clearing House Automated Payment System) payments, which should clear in a matter of hours (whereas BACS transfers may take up to 2-3 business days). However, they may also be charged a fee for this transaction.
  • An escrow is a legal arrangement where a third party temporarily holds money until a particular condition (often the completion of a sale) has been met. You should be wary of fake escrow companies recommended to you by buyers. Before using a reputed escrow service, check the company name against the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) financial services register.
  • We would advise against accepting PayPal as a payment method, as cars aren’t covered by their buyer or seller protection. Therefore, if there is an issue with the payment (e.g. if it fails or is not authorised), then you will not be covered.
  • Do not hand over the keys and paperwork until you are satisfied that you have been paid in full.

Tip 13: Get a refund for your insurance and road tax

If you have outstanding cover on your car’s insurance policy when you sell it, you should be able to claim a partial refund. The amount you can claim will depend on how long you have left on the policy and the terms and conditions set by your provider.

It is your legal responsibility to notify the DVLA after selling your car (and by failing to do so, you risk incurring a £1,000 penalty). If you have any full months’ car tax remaining, you can also claim a car tax refund through the DVLA.

Good luck – and happy selling!

We hope you found our tips on selling a car useful and are now ready to sell with confidence!

Looking for more car selling wisdom? Visit our extensive back catalogue of selling and buying guides for tips, ideas and information on a wide array of motoring topics.