How to Sell a Car Privately

Selling a car is not easy, and there are a number of ways that you can go about it. If you’re looking to sell privately, what can you do to ensure you get the best price in the shortest time possible? Follow the steps below and you should have a nice amount of money sitting in your bank account sooner rather than later.

What does selling a car privately mean?

Selling privately means that, rather than going through a dealer (where they’ll likely give you part exchange towards a new vehicle), you do all of the selling yourself, from advertising to negotiating prices all the way to the final sale. It’s not as hard as it used to be, however, as thanks to the likes of eBay, Auto Trader and others, selling cars is considerably easier than it was 25 years ago, although it’s still a treacherous shark tank at times.

What are the benefits of selling a car privately? 

Selling your car privately is the way to go if you’re looking to get the most money out of your sale. While you’ll likely be working harder to get the sale, on average you’re likely to get 10-15% more for your car than if you had gone to a dealer. You also have total control of your sale, and, providing you are available for buyers to come and view your car and have put the advert in a sensible and easily viewed space, you should be able to make steady headway in offloading it.

How to sell a car privately

Get an MOT and Service
Most buyers will be looking for something they can confidently drive away in, and if they see that it has just been put through a full service and MOT before it was sold, they can have peace of mind that it’s roadworthy. If your MOT has less than four months to run on it, the buyers may assume that it has problems and walk away before you’ve had a chance to show them how good it really is.

Give it a Wash
Go to any car dealers early in the morning and you’ll notice there’s someone there washing all of their cars down. You’re not going to sell a car if it’s caked in mud and dirt, because no-one wants to buy a car that’s dirty – if it’s not been looked after externally, who knows how the previous owner treated the car when they were in it? Making a good first impression is key to a sale, and you don’t want to give potential buyers anything that could cause doubt to creep into their minds.

Get an Ad Out
No-one’s going to buy your car if they don’t know it’s for sale. The easiest way these days is to sell on the likes of Auto Trader, Gumtree or even Facebook Marketplace, but be sure to shop around as websites often charge for the service. If you’d prefer to stay offline, then the old tactics are still usable – sticking a notice in the local newsagents (or most supermarkets have local notice boards), or putting a sign up in the window of the car with MOT, mileage, price and a phone number. Even word of mouth can be a huge help, so put the word out and you may be surprised at how quickly people start getting in touch.

Be Available for Viewings
Once someone is interested in your car, they’re going to want to come and see it so they can be sure it’s the car for them. Holding these viewings at your own home allows you to be in a familiar, comfortable environment, and also serves as proof to the buyer that the registration address on the V5C document matches up to where you live. You don’t also have to look over them like a nosy teacher, either, leave them to it (keeping the keys with you) for a few minutes before heading back out to offer to start the engine for them.

Allow Test Drives
If the potential buyer asks for a test drive, then it looks like you’re closing in on a sale. A good test drive should take around 20 minutes and see them drive on a variety of roads, being able to reach 60-70mph so they can see how the car performs at the top end of national speed limits. Before you let them out on the roads, though, you’ll need to make sure the car is taxed or the buyer could be fined up to £1,000, and you should also see proof of insurance first. If you still have insurance under your name, then they could be able to drive other cars, but it’s always worth checking first. If they’re not insured to drive your car but the car is road legal, you can offer to go for a drive with them in the passenger seat – it’s not ideal but it will give them a better idea of your car’s performance.

Settle on a Price
Not every buyer out there is going to offer you the asking price straight away, so it’s worth preparing yourself for some haggling. Have a minimum price in your head you’d be happy to sell for, but let them bring up the subject. If they offer you a lower figure than your asking price, don’t be too desperate to sell, and confidently respond with a figure you’d be happy to sell at. If you can’t agree, don’t be afraid to let them walk away. They may have a change of heart or you could get another offer the very next day.

The quickest, and safest, way you can be paid is to be paid in cash. Make sure you count out the cash carefully, double checking (ideally having someone do the second check for you) to be sure. Bank transfer is also a popular option, and can be easier than paying in cash, but can take time – do not allow them to drive away until the money is in your account. If they offer to pay with a cheque, just be prepared that it can take quite a bit of time and, again, don’t let them take the car away without the money clearing in your account.

Create a Receipt
One of the first things you should do after you have agreed a price and it’s been paid to you is to print a receipt for both yourself and the buyer. This receipt should detail the make and model of the car, its registration number, mileage, agreed price and a note that says it was ‘sold as seen’, which protects you from any issues the new owner has. You should both sign the two copies, and take one each.

Fill out V5C
Now all the hard parts are done, you have your money and the new buyer has his receipt, you’ll need to fill out the V5C registration document to let the DVLA know that the registered keeper of the car will be changing – you can also do this online. Now all you need to do is hand over the keys, make sure any extras such as service history, locking wheel nut adapters and spare keys are with the new owner, and watch as your old car drives off into the distance.

Tips for selling a car privately

Selling privately can take time, but there are a few processes you can put in place to try and get the best deal for your car as quickly as possible with minimal fuss.

If you’re selling online, the first time your potential buyers will see the car is by the images that accompany the advert, so making sure these look their best is a must. Ideally these should be taken in daylight in good weather and should have a good mixture that frames the entire car and some that are fairly close up. You should also show interior shots, as well as photos of the boot and under the bonnet. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of the dashboard with the engine on and the infotainment system so the buyers can see exactly what they’re looking at and potentially answer some questions before they’ve had to ask them.

Advertise Widely
If you’re looking for a quick sale, offering the car on more than one site is going to get more people looking at it, and therefore improving your chances of a sale. However, just be prepared to pay the additional fees that will come with listing the car on multiple websites.

If you’re looking to sell your car because it is damaged or faulty and you just can’t manage the work yourself, then selling it for scrap or salvage will be a much easier route for you than trying to sell privately. With Scrap Car Comparison, and thanks to our nationwide network of buyers, we guarantee you the very best price for your car, so why not get started today and see just how much your vehicle could be worth?

For more hints and tips on all things motoring, guiding you through keeping your car in the best condition possible, visit our Car Care hub, where you’ll find walkthroughs on everything from changing your oil to booking an MOT.

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