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Jamie Gibbs

How to avoid problems when selling a car


Ideally, we want things to go smoothly as possible when selling a car. This is how to reduce risk when selling privately.

Man unlocking his car

Selling your car privately means you should be in control of the sale. It’s usually the quickest way of selling a vehicle at the best possible price. But it’s important to be wary when dealing with potential buyers, as there are fraudsters out there who might try to take advantage of you.

To ensure a smooth and hassle-free car sale, be sure the read our top tips to staying safe.

Before you meet the buyer

Before you find a potential buyer and way before you arrange a viewing, there are a few things you need to do to minimise the chances of something going wrong:

  • Make sure your advert describes the car in detail – be honest about any damage or defects.

  • Clean and tidy up your car – research shows that one in five Brits would pay less for a dirty car.

  • Take good photos – listings without photos tend to get ignored. Plus, photos will show the real condition of the car.

  • Have your car’s paperwork ready – registration document, MOT certificate and service history.

The more a potential buyer knows about the car, the lower the chances of facing problems.

Man handing over car keys

Meeting the potential buyer

Someone’s enquired about your car and wants to view it? Great, you’re another step closer to selling it. Here are some handy tips to protect you from becoming a victim when meeting a potential buyer:

  • Bring a friend along – many buyers might bring someone else to help them make a decision. You can do the same to feel safer while they’re viewing the car.

  • Always be in the car when you go for a test drive – don’t let a potential buyer drive your car alone as they might not return it.

  • Try and meet at your home address – this is probably the safest location to arrange a viewing. What’s more, this should increase a buyer’s confidence.

  • Make it clear that the buyer is liable should they get involved in an accident during the test drive. They should also be insured.

  • Always take the car keys before you exit the car after a test drive.

  • Be prepared to haggle as most buyers will try to get a better deal – keep in mind the absolute minimum price you’re willing to sell your car for, and be flexible if you think the buyer is serious.

woman driving away in a new car

Closing the deal and getting paid

So, the potential buyer is happy with your car and wants to buy it. What do you do next?

  • Remember not to hand over any paperwork until a payment is made.

  • Ask the buyer for their personal details and proof of identity – if they seem unwilling, you can always ask them to sign a seller’s contract. This way you’ll both be protected against potential problems.

  • Give the car to the new owner only after the money is in your account – even if you have to wait a few days for the funds to clear.

  • If they’re paying cash, make sure you count the money – take your time as you can easily miscount or miss counterfeit banknotes. Also, you can take the buyer with you to deposit the money into your bank account.

  • Provide two identical receipts stating the price, details about the car, date of purchase, which you and buyer need to sign. The receipt should also state that the car is “sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee”.

  • It’s your responsibility to notify the DVLA that you’ve sold your car – you should also cancel your insurance policy, but tax should be sorted out automatically.

  • Putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes is always helpful and will minimise the risk of unexpected problems.


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