Your first car can often hold a special place in your heart and have great sentimental value, however there will come a time when you’ll need or want to replace your car. Selling your car can be a bit daunting when it’s something you’ve never done before so we’ve put together some suggestions to help make the journey as smooth as possible.


Getting your car ready to sell

When you’re ready to part ways with your first car, the first step to getting a sale is giving your car a good scrub. Even if it’s pretty old and tired, a car that looks clean and tidy can help a car to sell itself. If you really can’t face cleaning your car or perhaps it hasn’t seen a sponge since you bought it, consider paying to get it professionally valeted.

You might also want to think about getting any minor repairs seen to (see our previous article on finding a reputable garage). This includes stone chips in the paintwork, minor scratches and chips in the windscreen. SMART repairs can fix minor damage like this and is usually quick and cost-effective. Also make sure you’re up to date with the day-to-day maintenance. Check the engine oil, coolant, brake fluid and windscreen washer fluid levels and ensure the tyres are inflated to the correct pressures recommended in your car handbook and have at least the minimum levels of tread on them. The Highway Code states that cars “must have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference”. You should also make sure all the light bulbs are working and that you haven’t got any dashboard warning lights on.

If your car has a major fault, such as a worn clutch, the Used Car Guy recommends weighing up how much it’ll cost to fix the issue versus how much the fault is going to reduce the value of your car by. As an example he says that if the engine management light is on all the time a buyer might look to take £500 off your asking price, but the problem might be an unreliable sensor that could only cost £125 to replace. In this instance, you might choose to pay for the repair. If you choose to sell your car knowing that it has a serious defect you need to clearly say this on your advertisement. If you’re selling a car with a serious defect or that is unroadworthy you could be breaking the law if you haven’t described it accurately.

Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork ready. This includes your V5C (car registration certificate or ‘logbook’), service history and current MOT certificate. If you’ve got receipts for any work you’ve had done, this will help the buyer to see that you’ve cared for your car.

If the MOT is about to expire, potential buyers might be put off buying your car as they won’t know if it will pass, and if it doesn’t, how much it’s going to cost them to get the car through. The AA recommends: “Get a new MOT if there’s less than three months on the current one. Consider a new MOT anyway as this says a lot about the car’s basic condition.”


How to sell your car

When selling a car, you have two main options; sell it privately or sell it to a motor trader. Selling your car privately has its pros and cons. The pros are that you can get a better price compared to selling to a motor trader or car dealer, but it can take a long time and carries certain risks which will discuss further later on.

Selling to a car trader tends to be quicker but you might not get the price you’d like. The trader will be looking to turn a profit so will likely only offer you what a computer valuation system shows your car to be worth.


Selling your car privately

Where to advertise your car

There are lots of options for advertising your car for sale. Some will be free, whereas others you’ll have to pay for:

  • Your local newspaper
  • ‘Free ads’ classifieds papers
  • Car-selling websites such as AutoTrader
  • Place a notice in a local shop window
  • Stick a ‘for sale’ sign in your car window
  • Online auction site

However you choose to sell your car, you’ll need to be available to answer phone calls and meet prospective buyers so they can come and look at your car and take it for a test drive.

When writing your advert you need to make sure you’re as accurate as possible and you don’t mislead the buyer. Citizens Advice recommend including the following details in your car for sale advert:

    • The exact make and model
    • The year of registration and plate number (for example, 1999/V)
    • Total mileage
    • Whether it has a full service history
    • Colour
    • List of equipment/features
    • Price
    • Colour photograph
    • Your contact details.


Deciding how much to sell your car for

Before putting a price on your car you’ll want to have a good understanding of how much your car is worth. You can do this by using a car valuation tool such as Glass’s Guide, Parkers or What Car?. You can also have a look online or in popular classifieds papers to check the prices of similar cars.

Always ask for more than you’re happy to accept to allow the buyer some room for bartering. As the AA says, this “will give the buyer the satisfaction of negotiating you down while you still get close to the amount you want”. If you want a quick sale, ask for less money. On the other hand if you are not in rush to sell your car and want to hold out for the best price, don’t be afraid to turn offers down.


Keeping safe while selling your car

As mentioned above, there can be risks associated with selling your car privately. These are to do with safety and possible fraud. It’s important to keep yourself safe when selling your car, and don’t assume that everyone is as honest as you.

It’s normal that the potential buyer will want to take your car on a test drive before deciding to buy. So you’ll need to make sure that they have a full driving licence and are insured for the test drive. Many insurance policies allow you drive other cars, but usually only with third party cover. You might want to arrange temporary cover for the potential buyer.

Points to remember

      • Don’t let the buyer go on a test drive by themselves in case they don’t come back.
      • While the buyer is looking at the car, don’t leave the keys in the ignition.
      • Ask the buyer to come to your home address and, if you’re worried about safety, ask a friend or relative to be with you when they come round and during the test drive.
      • Never hand over the car or the paperwork until you’ve received the payment in full.
      • Be aware of internet scams. If you advertise your car for sale online you might be contacted by email from a foreign buyer agreeing to pay the full price. According to What Car?, this is likely to be a scam so don’t reply to them and contact the website administrators instead.

Taking payment

Probably the most common way to accept payment for a used car is cash. However, bank transfer might be the preferred option as there’s no need to count the cash or carry large sums, and you don’t have to worry about any fake notes. With the ‘faster payments’ system bank transfers are very quick and you could see the money in your account immediately.

If you do decide to accept cash, consider asking for the money to be handed to you at the bank so you can pay it in straight away. If you’re given a cheque, wait for it to clear (it can take six working days) before handing over the car in case the cheque bounces and you’re left with no money and no car.

If the buyer wants your car but they can’t pay for it immediately, taking a refundable deposit is a way for them to show commitment and to protect you for any losses should they pull out of the sale.

When you take payment for your car, provide a receipt and make two copies, one for you to keep and one for the buyer. You can write ‘sold as seen’ on the receipt but this doesn’t change the legal rights of the buyer. The car must still match any description you’ve given during the course of the sale and it must be roadworthy. On the receipt include the date, price, registration number, make and model and you and your buyer’s name and address.


Your responsibilities as a seller

Once you’ve sold your car, you must tell the DVLA straightaway. If you don’t, you’ll still be responsible for taxing the car and you might get letters about speeding fines or other motoring offences the new owner commits, and you’ll be left having to prove that you weren’t driving at the time.

You can advise the DVLA by completing the relevant sections on the V5C, or registration certificate, and sending it to the stated address, or online. Give the green section to the new owner of the car along with the car’s handbook, keys, service logbook and any receipts you might have.

Telling the DVLA that you no longer own the car will mean that you’ll be automatically refunded any road tax that you’ve already paid for (in whole months). Road tax can no longer be sold with the car, so the new owner has to tax it as soon as they take ownership and before they drive the car.

When you change your car, you must inform your insurance company immediately so your cover can be updated.

[symple_toggle title=”Got an insurethebox policy?”]

If you change the car on your policy, your premium may go up or down, and there’ll be an administration fee to pay.

You should also notify the new owner of the car that a black box has been installed. If they wish for the box to be removed, please call us on 0333 103 0000 to arrange this.[/symple_toggle]

We hope that by following these tips your car sale journey will be as smooth as possible and you’ll be driving your new car in no time.