Sell a car privately - the complete guide

Last updated May 07, 2021

You can take the hassle out of selling your car and have it sold in under an hour with webuyanycar.com. However, if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are other options available such as selling your car privately or to a dealership.

Many consider a private sale in an attempt to try and get the highest price for their car. However, the process of selling a car yourself is often time-consuming and laborious compared to selling to an online car buyer or dealership. In addition to this, there is no guarantee that you will find a buyer and after hours of hard work, you may end up selling your car to a professional instead.

Nevertheless, if you have decided that you want to sell your car privately, our in-depth guide will explain all you need to know to sell your vehicle safely and effectively.

Value your car in under 60 seconds

Why should I sell a car privately?

The primary reason you may be wanting to sell your car privately is to get the best price for your car. However, selling privately doesn’t always get you the most money and it’s always worth getting a free online valuation beforehand. It takes less than 60 seconds and you may be surprised how much you can get for your car without the hassle of a private sale.

Nevertheless, for certain cars you may get a better price by selling privately, such as if the car has been modified to appeal to a specific market. Furthermore, if you have a car that isn’t your ordinary, everyday vehicle you may be able to sell it for a premium, but with a smaller number of people interested it could take a while to sell.

If you’re considering selling your car privately, you should think about what makes your car stand out. There are many cars on the private market meaning that if your car doesn’t stand out from the crowd, it is unlikely to attract interest from potential buyers. It is likely that there are many cars of a similar specification, therefore the buyer has multiple options available and can use this to their advantage when speaking to private sellers.

What documents do I need?

To sell your car you should have the V5C, logbook, MOT certificates, service history documents and receipts for any work carried out on the car. If your car has outstanding finance, you should have proof of the settlement figure so that you can pay off the finance before the ownership is transferred to the new owner.

It is recommended that you don’t give any documentation including photocopies to the buyer before you have agreed to the sale of the car. Only once the sale has been agreed should you give the buyer the top part of the V5C document and any additional paperwork. It is also recommended that you provide two receipts – one for you and one for the buyer. This should include as much information as possible including the date, sale price, registration plate, model and the names of the parties involved.

How to price your car to sell

Price is one of the key factors when selling your used car, especially when there are many other similar vehicles on the market for a buyer to choose from. If you price your car too high, you may struggle to attract any interest and not sell the car. However, if your asking price is too low then you could lose out on hundreds or thousands of pounds.

To ensure that your car is priced correctly, we’d recommend using a free car valuation tool. Remember that these tools may make assumptions that your car has no aesthetic or mechanical defects, you have a full service history, you are the only previous owner, you have over 6 months remaining on your MOT and there is no missing documentation.

You could also manually search for your car make, model and specification on a car buying website to analyse how other sellers are pricing their cars. It is worth noting that dealerships can demand a higher price due to offering extended warranty and more protection than a private seller due to regulations.

What should I do to prepare my car for resale?

Once you’ve got an understanding of how much your car is worth, you may be tempted to take pictures and advertise your car for sale straight away. However, it is important not to rush into things and make sure that you have everything in place before trying to sell your car privately.

Firstly, we would recommend thoroughly cleaning your car inside and out. Making sure that your car is presentable may increase the chances of a buyer choosing to view your car over another that is on the market and show that it’s been well taken care of. If you don’t want to spend the time cleaning your car yourself, you may want to take your car to a reputable car wash for a full valet by a professional.

Imperfections negatively impact the value of your car, therefore you may want to consider making aesthetic and mechanical repairs to your car before you sell. For example, having scratches on your bodywork could have a larger impact on the resale value than the cost of the repair. If you have any engine warning lights illuminated, we would recommend having these looked at before selling as it is likely to deter potential buyers from enquiring about your car.

Whilst having a clean and flawless car is important when selling your car, it is equally as important to ensure you have all the correct documentation before advertising your car for sale. This includes the V5C, service history, MOT certificates, receipts for any repairs and proof that the car doesn’t have a hidden history. You can get a free car check using our online tool. As well as having the correct documentation, buyers will usually expect the car to have a full service history and both sets of keys.

Where can I sell my car privately?

Once you’ve made sure you’ve got all of the required documentation, prepared your car and decided the price you want to sell it for, you will need to advertise the car for sale.

This can be a time-consuming process as there are many options where you can advertise your car online and you will need to create an ad on each of them individually to reach the most people. You’ll also need to make sure your advert catches the attention of buyers with professional images and a compelling description.

If you are thinking of selling your car online, there are multiple websites that may come to mind including AutoTrader. If you want to sell your car through AutoTrader you should consider that it will cost you between £39.95 and £84.95 to create an ad for a car with a value of over £10,000 depending upon the package you select and there is no guarantee that your car will sell.

If you’re wanting to receive a price that is above the market average for your car, AutoTrader will show prospective buyers that the price is higher than average which may impact the desirability of your ad. Lastly, there are hundreds of thousands of cars on AutoTrader, meaning if you choose a lower ad package, your ad could struggle to get views as it’s not promoted.

An alternative option to sell your car is through eBay Motors, where you have an option to sell your car via a classified ad, fixed price listing or an auction. The price of a classified ad is £19.99 with no final value fee, whereas the price of a fixed fee or auction-style listing is £14.99 with a final listing fee of 1% (min. £25, max. £45). There are other fees that can increase the cost of listing too, such as ‘gallery plus’, adding a subtitle and adding a reserve price to your auction-style ad.

Other common options to sell your car online without a listing fee are Motors.co.uk, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace. While they don’t charge a fee to list your car, the reach of your ad may be less than if you were to use AutoTrader. Similarly, there is no guarantee that you will sell your car. You may want to consider avoiding the hassle of a private sale and sell to webuyanycar.com in less than an hour.

How to negotiate the best price for your car

If a buyer has inspected your car and decided they want to go through with the purchase, they may try to negotiate the price to get a better deal. In order to ensure you and the buyer get a fair deal for the car, you should be prepared if the buyer tries to haggle by knowing the value of your car in the current market. You can use other similar listings online to prove that the buyer is getting a good deal and ensure that you don’t hide any damage to the car in the ad.

What steps should I take to stay safe?

Selling your car privately has some risk involved due to strangers coming to view and inspect your vehicle. To minimise the risk involved, we would suggest having a friend or family member present during a viewing and try to arrange to meet in a public place. However, it is not uncommon that a buyer will insist on viewing the car at your home as proof that you are the owner of the car.

It is common practice that a buyer will want to test drive the car before buying and it makes sense to take precautions before allowing a stranger to drive your vehicle. Before allowing anybody to test drive your car you should ensure they have a valid driving licence and that they’re insured to drive the vehicle. We would recommend against leaving a buyer alone with the keys in the ignition until the sale is agreed.

If you agree to sell your car, it is important to take some precautions when receiving payment, which will be covered in the next section of the guide.

How should I accept payment for a private sale?

The number one rule is that you have the money before you hand over the keys and transfer over the ownership of your car. It is recommended that you get paid via bank transfer and ensure that the money is paid via instant payment so that you’re not waiting for the money.

If the buyer wants to pay in cash, it is recommended that you check all of the notes are legitimate – you can do this by going to a bank to have them verified. To avoid getting scammed, you may want to exchange the cash within a bank so you can see the cashier hand over the money and that it is legitimate.

Most importantly, regardless of the payment method you choose to accept you should ensure that you write a receipt for yourself and the buyer once the sale is completed. You may want to store an electronic copy if possible in case it gets lost by either party.

Avoid the hassle of selling privately

If selling a car privately is too time-consuming and you would rather avoid the hassle of a private sale, you can get a free car valuation in less than 60 seconds and sell your car in under an hour with webuyanycar.com. If you’re happy with your online valuation, you can book an appointment at one of our 375+ branches across the UK and sell your car in under an hour. By choosing our Premier Payment option (fees apply), you can have the money in your bank the same day.