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The time has come to sell your car and there are many options. But which will get you the most money and which is easiest? Broadly, there are four routes to moving your car on to a new owner. Here are the main advantages - and disadvantages - of each.
Private car sellers
Selling privately can often achieve the best price for your vehicle but it does come with a little extra effort. You will need to tidy the car and ensure it is smart as possible. All your paperwork will need to be in order - additional receipts for work done and parts bought will increase saleability. And of course you will have to advertise and deal with potential customers.
Here are our top tips to make the process as easy and effective as possible:
Know the value of your car
Do your homework. These days, it is straightforward to determine the value of your car. Services such as My Car Check will provide indicative vehicle values depending on how the car is being sold. Look for the ‘private sale’ figure. Remember to adjust slightly for a significantly high or low mileages or any options which are in addition to those on the model’s standard trim. Damage or faults will reduce both the car’s value and appeal. Also look at other cars for sale which are similar yours and pitch your price accordingly. If there are dozens of examples of the same make and model, be realistic: you will need a competitive price.
Prepare the car
A clean, tidy and unblemished car will command a higher price than a tatty one and will also be easier to sell. If you are short on time, a professional valet can be well worth the money. Remove stickers and personal effects. And if there are any faults, either get them fixed or understand what they would cost so you won’t be intimidated by potential buyers trying to knock your price down too much.
Get your paperwork in order
Check everything from the V5C (registration document) to receipts for services. The more information you have to build a picture of the car’s past, the easier it is to increase the buyer’s confidence.
Create the right advert
You need to include the essential details, be honest and use plenty of photos which accurately show the condition of your vehicle. Check out our dedicated section on advert creation.
Wait by the phone
Okay, we don’t have to do this with mobile phones but do respond quickly to interested callers or they will simply look elsewhere. Be polite and flexible when it comes to arranging a viewing. And while you may be wary having strangers visit your home, it is perfectly valid they may want to confirm the car is in fact owned at the address on the V5C document. If you are uncomfortable, ask a friend to be with you for the viewing.
Put buyers at ease
Most people fear being ripped-off when buying a used car, so anything you can do to build confidence will help. So valid paperwork, seeing the car at the registered property and everything matching up with the details in the advert is good. And because you are confident your car is genuine, suggest the buyer uses a vehicle checking service such as My Car Check to validate all the details.
Negotiate - and be careful
This is the part many sellers fear most but if you know what your vehicle is worth - and what price is being asked for similar cars - you should be in a strong position. If you are close to reaching a deal, offer to split the difference. And don’t be deliberately awkward - is the last £50 a deal-breaker on an £8,000 car? Most importantly, remember it’s still your car until you are happy with an offer so don’t be intimidated and be prepared to say no if the deal just isn’t right.
Of course there might be some people out to take advantage. There are the more obvious crimes such as trying to steal your car or failing to pay, to the more subtle approaches such as bringing an ‘expert’ who will mysteriously find faults with your car and aim to knock your price down. Be wary - and ask for ID and insurance if a test drive is requested - and have a friend present if you feel uncomfortable. Check our more detailed articles on scams, negotiating a sale and your rights as a private seller.
Complete the paperwork
We recommend you complete a seller’s contract which ensures the terms of sale absolutely clear to both parties. And don’t forget to send the relevant section of the V5C document back to the DVLA - otherwise you could be liable if the new owner commits any motoring offences.
Most people are familiar with the process and it can achieve the best price but it takes a little effort.
- Likely to get the best price
- Time and effort to create advert
- Have to deal with potential buyers
- Have to negotiate sale
How to create good private seller adverts
Whether you are pinning a card in your local post office or advertising with one of the main car trade publications or websites, getting the wording right can mean the difference between an interested customer or not. So what makes a good advert?
Facts and honesty
Be honest about the car and stick to the facts. If you misrepresent the car or fail to declare a fault you know about, you could become liable in future. Make sure that the vehicle details are shown correctly and you list key facts you can back-up with documentary evidence such as services or maintenance work.
Show the details a customer will be interested in. ‘First to see will buy’ or ‘one lady owner’ won’t wash but ‘immaculate with full dealership service history’ will.
Some on-line sales sites will auto-fill many of a vehicle’s details based on the registration plate but you will need to add some text around the car’s condition and any known issues.
There are some standard abbreviations which tend to be used in adverts, for example FSH (full service history) or FMBSH (full Mercedes-Benz service history) but try not to use too many.
Here are the essential details:
- Year of first sale
- Registration year indicator (e.g. ’63 plate’).
- Trim level
- Optional extras added
- Months left on MOT certificate
- Whether it has a full (demonstrable) service history
- How many previous owners
- Condition and any known faults
Do NOT include…
VIN number of the car or your full home address. Potential buyers using car sales web sites will be able to search on postcode area only and you should only give out an address once you have spoken to the person and agreed to meet for a viewing. The VIN number - along with the other details you have supplied - could be used to clone your car.
In this digital age, it is easy to add numerous images to show the condition of your car and upload these on-line. It has been shown that vehicle adverts accompanied by a higher number of better images receive more attention. While you won’t be expected to produce dramatic magazine-style pictures, they will need to show all aspects of the car clearly.
Here are our top tips:
- Ensure your car is clean and make sure you capture it in good daylight.
- Don’t take pictures while facing the sun as the car will just appear as a silhouette.
- Take pictures from all four corners to show each angle. (If one side is missing, readers may question what you are hiding.)
- Turn the car round if necessary to avoid the glare of the sun.
- Take interior pictures showing front and rear seats.
- Take an image of the dashboard - this reveals both its condition and any functionality.
- Include open boot and bonnet pictures.
- If there are any optional extras such as a glass roof, either photograph separately or ensure they can be seen on the main pictures.
- If there is any damage, ensure this is clear to see.
- If you have the option for further pictures, take close-ups of the wheels which often sustain kerb damage.
What is a car buying service?
There are numerous car-buying services with appealing adverts, catchy jingles and promises of an easy sale. Is it too good to be true? Are there any pitfalls? And how does it work?
Once you enter your vehicle’s details, including key information such as mileage, you will be given a quote which will last for a limited time. This isn’t guaranteed though: if you decide to go ahead with the sale, the car will be inspected and any undeclared problems or damage found is likely to lower the price.
Remember that the car-buying company works by selling on your car at a profit and therefore won’t be offering you the best price. Cars usually go on to auction. In fact some of the bigger car-buying brands are actually owned by auction houses. So it is always worth checking the value of your vehicle elsewhere and comparing the asking price. Check for similar models in private adverts and use industry valuation services such as My Car Check in order to decide whether you are happy with what the car-buying company is offering.
If you are happy with the price, the process should be reasonably straight-forward. However, you should read the small print when it comes to cars which have been imported, if you have any outstanding finance and always check for administration fees.
And of course you will need all your documents in order as you would for selling your car via any other method. Read our section on paperwork to check you have everything needed.
Scrapping your vehicle
Scrappage is where you are offered an agreed amount for your old vehicle when part-exchanging it for a new model. Your old car will then be scrapped. There are two general motives for scrappage schemes. The first is environmental: it encourages drivers of older and more polluting models to drive newer, cleaner cars. It also boosts sales, helping individual manufacturers and the country’s economy as a whole.
How does it work?
Different manufacturers have slightly different scrappage schemes but there is usually a minimum part-exchange value - often around £2,000 - for your old car when buying new, irrespective of your car’s condition. Your old car will be scrapped and - even if it is still a runner - won’t be allowed on the road again.
Terms and conditions
These vary considerably by manufacturer but your car will usually have to be roadworthy and legal. You will have to have owned the car for a specific length of time (usually between 90 days and 12 months) and some manufacturers will only offer the deal when scrapping a diesel car (usually Euro-4 compliant or earlier). Some state a minimum age for the car such as seven years. Many of the schemes specify that the new car must be a lower emission model.
Is it worth it?
It can be cost effective if you are in the market for a new car but it is always worth checking the maths. Do consider other current dealership offers, what you would make from selling your car elsewhere and whether there is any reasonable life left in your old car.
Also consider the different scrappage schemes from the various manufacturers. Some offer scrappage deals on top of the trade-in value of your old car while most will offer just a fixed value. And a few dealers will offer the scrappage deal in conjunction with other offers while others won’t.
How to part exchange your vehicle
Part-exchanging a car - where the value of your old car is used as a part payment against a newer one - is arguably the easiest way to replace your vehicle. You may not receive the best price for your old car - the dealer has to make some profit after all - but it saves the hassle of advertising it, organising viewings and dealing with potential time-wasters. So what should you do to receive the best deal?
Do your research
Before you drive anywhere near a dealership with its shiny cars and persuasive sales staff, do your homework. This means knowing the value of your car and of course checking for any offers at other dealerships such as scrappage schemes or minimum trade-in deals.
With an internet connection, it is simple to understand the value of your car. Services such as My Car Check will provide indicative vehicle values depending on whether you are selling to a dealer, at an auction or privately. Look for the ‘trade-in’ value because this is close to what a dealership should be offering. You will have to adjust this up if your car has significant optional extras and a low mileage; the value might be lower if your car is in a poor condition for example.
Check how much is being asked for models similar to yours currently offered for sale. Remember, the dealer won’t pay this much as they will need to make a profit by selling your car on but it helps to know what your car is worth in the market place so you can understand how much profit a dealer intends to make on it.
Prepare the car
Whether selling privately or part-exchanging at a dealership, it makes financial sense to prepare your car properly for sale. Read our sections on how best to present your car - both ensuring it is as tidy and clean as possible and checking all the documentation is present and correct. A full service history with supporting evidence will enhance the desirability of any used car.
Don’t be pressurised
Don’t be intimidated by a salesperson trying to offer you too low a value for your car. You should mention the industry valuations and other models like yours for sale. Remember to look at the deal as a whole, too. Sometimes a dealer will prefer to knock a little more from the new car than offer more against your old car (or vice versa) so think about the cost to change which takes into account both factors.
Compare prices at different dealerships. This will help you understand if you are receiving a fair offer for your old car. You might find you receive a better offer for your old car if trading in for the same make. So a Peugeot dealer might be happy to take your old Peugeot and place it on the forecourt for resale; a BMW dealer would probably pass it on via an auction.
Be prepared to say no.
Don’t be pressurised into accepting a deal on the spot unless you are absolutely happy. You can always ask the dealer to hold the offer for a day or two while you think about it away from the enticing dealership. If you know the value of your car and the salesperson can’t even come close, just walk away. Maybe that particular dealership simply doesn’t want your old car because there are already similar models on the forecourt.
Selling to a dealer
Some dealers will take your car even if you aren’t part-exchanging it against a newer model so this can often be the easiest way.
- Straightforward price discussions
- Minimal effort
- Easy, especially if trading in an old car for a newer one
- Probably not the best price paid
- May have to visit more than one dealer to find best offer
The adverts are appealing and you can receive an immediate valuation but you are unlikely to get the best price.
- Usually a guaranteed sale
- Usually quite fast
- Won’t be the best price
- Value listed on internet will be subject to inspection where the offer value may be reduced
- Look out for admin fees
Auction houses are more often frequented by dealers than private sellers but there is nothing stopping you trying this route to sell your car.
- Auction house manages sale in front of multiple potential buyers
- Can set a reserve (lowest) price
- Car may remain unsold - especially if reserve price not met
- Auction house costs and administration fees
- Expert articles on where to se