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Selling your car: A complete guide

A red 2007 Mini Cooper S, denoting how to sell a carIf you want to sell your car, there are lots of choices to make – whether to sell to a trader or to advertise directly to the public, for example – as well as red tape to deal with. This guide to how to sell a car explains how to make sure you get the right price with the minimum hassle.

How to sell a car: your options

If you want to market your vehicle, you can either sell it to a motor trader, directly to a private individual, or at auction.

A trader will give you a set price based on its own valuation. You are unlikely to be able to haggle. The price you get may not be as much as you could make through a private sale, but you will save on costs such as advertising, and cut out the time and effort spent marketing your vehicle privately and dealing with potential buyers.

Auctioning your car is another way to sell it quickly. Auctions take place regularly all over the country, so check online to find one near to you.

A sale at auction completes immediately, so you’ll need to take your car’s documentation with you.

The auctioneer will take a fee – usually as a percentage of the selling price – and you can pay extra to set a reserve price below which your car can’t be sold.

If you want to sell it privately, there are numerous possible routes: online is probably the easiest, and you can use sites such as eBay, Auto Trader or Gumtree. Or you may prefer to use the classified ads in your local paper.

Want to know how much your vehicle is worth? Use Confused.com's free car valuation tool to find out.

Advertising your vehicle

Getting your advert right is key to making a private sale at the right price.

There’s no point making exaggerated claims about your motor, or setting an unrealistic price: you’ll just end up with a lot of disappointed potential buyers and no sale.

Britain’s used-car market is huge, so your price has to be competitive. To get an idea of a realistic price, have a look on the websites listed above and compare your car with those of the same make, model, age, and with a similar number of miles on the clock.

If you have made any modifications – you might have installed a state-of-the-art stereo system – then this could justify a higher price.

Stick to facts in your ad rather than hyperbole: think about what features of your car will attract buyers, such as low mileage, and mention where you are based and how long is left on the MOT, for example.

Describe the condition of the vehicle honestly – but remember that giving it a thorough clean outside and in can make a big impression on potential buyers when they come to inspect.

Meeting potential buyers

Two hands shaking, denoting an agreement over how to sell a carIf you’re selling privately you need to be aware of the potential for fraud or theft, and take certain precautions.

When someone comes to inspect your vehicle or take it for a test drive, don’t leave them alone with the car and make sure you accompany them on a test drive. Hang on to the keys if you change seats, for example.

Taking along a friend or relative may make you feel more confident.

If you are offering test drives, check your car insurance position. The buyer may have “driving other cars” cover on their policy – if so, ask to see proof. Note that this is likely to provide third-party only cover, not comprehensive.

Alternatively, you can extend your own motor insurance temporarily to cover other drivers.

Sealing the deal

Remember that private buyers will expect to be able to haggle – so don’t advertise the vehicle at too low a price, and have an idea about how low you’d be happy to go.

Receiving payment for the vehicle is another area where you need to be careful.

If you’re being paid in cash, try to carry out the transaction at a bank where you can deposit the money immediately and have the notes checked for forgeries.

Payment by electronic transfer is likely to be more convenient, but don’t release the vehicle until the funds are in your account: this usually takes a few days.

Similarly with cheques, make sure the funds are in your account first.

Ask your buyer for some ID, a home address and landline phone number to be extra safe – and be wary of anyone who is reluctant to let you have such information.

The AA has a template seller’s contract which you can print out and copy, keeping one version yourself and giving the other to the buyer. This includes details of your vehicle such as make, mileage, and price, and acts as proof of the sale.

It also includes the following wording, to stress that the buyer accepts the car in the condition in which you have presented it:

“It is understood the vehicle is sold as seen, tried and approved by the purchaser without any representations, warranties or conditions express or implied whatsoever.”

However, this is unlikely to cover you if you have deliberately hidden a fault from the buyer.

Dealing with red tape

Once you’ve made the sale, you need to let the DVLA know you’re no longer the registered owner of your vehicle.

This is especially important as it ensures you don’t get landed with any fines incurred by the new owner.

Your car’s registration document has a tear-off portion (the V5C) that you should send off to the DVLA, and the rest goes to the buyer.

You should also hand over your vehicle’s handbook and service records, and its latest MOT certificate (if it is more than three years old) or any warranty details.

You may also need to cancel your insurance or, if you’re getting a new car yourself, give your provider the updated details.

Do you have any top tips for how to sell a car? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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