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Selling your car: A complete guide


hands shaking

If 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 a lot of 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

You can either sell your car to a motor trader, directly to a private individual, or at auction.

A trader will give you a set price based on their own valuation, and you're 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'll 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 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 privately, there are numerous possible routes: online is probably the easiest, using sites such as eBay, Auto Trader or Carfused. Or you may prefer to use the classified ads in your local paper.

To help you get an idea of how much you should aim to sell your car for, try our free car valuation tool


Taking a for sale sign off a car

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

There’s no point making exaggerated claims about your car, 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've made any modifications, like installing a state-of-the-art stereo system, this could justify a higher price. However, buyers will often be sceptical about a car that’s been tinkered with too much.

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.

It's also worth having plenty of photos in your online ad. It’ll help attract more views, and encourage more potential buyers to take the next step and arrange a face-to-face viewing.

Be mindful of depreciation

Old car

Depreciation is simply the difference between the value of a car new, and when it's sold at a later date. Most cars will lose value over time as they run up additional miles and standard wear-and-tear. 

The older your car is, and the more miles it's driven will be two of the main contributing factors to its depreciation, along with overall condition. You should expect to get significantly less for a second hand car than it was valued at when new, though most online valuation tools will take this into account.

Meeting potential buyers

If 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 car 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're 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 cover only, not fully comprehensive.

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

Sealing the deal

Happy man with keys to his new car

Remember that private buyers will expect to be able to haggle, so don’t advertise 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 it's best not to release the vehicle until the funds are in your account, which usually takes a few days. The same goes for payments by cheque.

Ask your buyer for some ID, a home address and landline phone number to be extra safe – and be wary of anyone reluctant to let you have that 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've 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've 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 the car. 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 give the buyer 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.


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