How to Sell a Car Privately

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 18 days ago

5 min read

  • Car ownership
A private car sale.

FixMyCar provides a step-by-step guide for selling your car privately.

When it’s finally time to say goodbye to your old car, you’ll probably want to get the highest price possible from the sale, and the best way to do that is to sell privately. The process can initially seem daunting, but it isn’t as difficult as you might think. 

Follow the advice in this guide to learn how to conduct a safe, private sale and get the most cash for your car.

Contents

Advice for selling your car privately

1. Prepare your car for sale

2. Gather the correct paperwork

3. Advertise your car

4. Arrange viewings

5. Offer a test drive

6. Negotiate the final price

7. Take payment

8. Complete the sale

FAQs


Advice for selling your car privately

There are approximately 400,000 used cars for sale at any moment, making for a highly competitive sales environment. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd. 

Yet, according to a survey by YouGov, around one in four sellers don’t do anything to increase their car’s value before putting it on the market. Not only does this make it harder to sell your car, but it also means that you’ll probably get a lower price than if you’d spent some time preparing it

Simple things like booking a service and valeting your vehicle will impact its value and attract more potential buyers. Our biggest piece of advice would be to spend time researching what will help your car sell and taking proactive steps to get the best possible outcome.


1. Prepare your car for sale

Potential buyers will almost always want to view your car in person, and most will also want to take it for a test drive. When they do so, they will look for things they can use to decrease the price, such as cosmetic damage or mechanical faults. That’s why preparing your car before selling it is so important.

Servicing

Car Service

Having the entire service history of a vehicle will increase its value. But even if you don’t have evidence of this, booking a full service before you put it up for sale will make it more attractive - partly because it shows you have looked after it, and partly because it means the new owner won’t have to pay for a service for another year.

MOT

Another thing buyers look for is a recent MOT certificate proving that the vehicle is in good health and that they aren’t going to inherit any underlying safety problems by buying it.

Fix issues

It’s up to you how far you go with fixing problems. Premium, rare and relatively new used cars will likely benefit from having cosmetic damage repaired because buyers of these cars typically want them to be in good condition. You might want to consider getting scratches, dents and alloy scrapes fixed.

However, small amounts of damage matter less for a cheaper runaround car. They will impact the vehicle’s value, but probably not enough to make the repair cost worthwhile.

Any issues you decide not to repair should be documented clearly in the sales advert. If you knowingly misrepresent the car’s condition, you could face legal action from the buyer.

The following guides will help you with this part of the selling process:

Clean

Follow the advice in this guide to give your car a thorough clean. Dealers spend a lot of time preparing vehicles for sale to be as close to pristine condition as possible - you’ll have to roll your sleeves up to compete.

Woman washing her car

Another option is to book a professional valet to ensure the inside and outside of the vehicle sparkle. Valeting will add a ‘new car feel’ that many buyers enjoy. However, it might not be worth it if you are selling an old runaround car.

Clear personal digital data

Many modern cars have infotainment systems that synchronise data with your personal devices. Remember to clear this data from the vehicle, including addresses and phone numbers stored in the sat-nav. You don’t want this kind of information in a stranger’s hands.


2. Gather the correct paperwork

This guide explains all the paperwork you’ll need throughout the process of selling your car. The most essential documents are the:

MOT certificate close up

3. Advertise your car

Where to advertise 

You have many options when privately selling your car, from social media and local notice boards to classified adverts and online auctions. Most people shop for vehicles online - if you post an advert on a website, it’s likely to reach many potential buyers. 

Some websites charge fees, while others are free. It’s also worth considering the popularity of different sites, which will affect how fast your car sells. 

Here are the five best websites for selling your car in the UK.

Tips for writing the advert

What to include

Many websites fill this information in automatically when you enter your reg number, but you should still check it for accuracy and add additional details:

  • Make and model

  • Mileage

  • Any modifications

  • Any damage or imperfections

  • Notable features, such as aircon

  • Service history

  • Highlight if its tyres are new

  • Trim level

  • Engine size

You should also include your contact information.

Writing the ad

  • Be concise. Provide as much detail as possible without waffling. 50-75 words is ideal.

  • Focus on accuracy. List the car’s key features.

  • Be honest. Stay positive but be open about any issues that the new owner might want to address.

Photographing your car

Take photos from all angles, ensuring all parts of the car have been covered and any damage has been documented. In addition to photographing the outside, you should also take shots of the inside, the boot, under the bonnet and the dashboard with the engine switched on, allowing buyers to see the dash lights and infotainment system.

Man taking a photo of a car

Tips for taking car photos

  • Photograph your car in daylight, ideally in good weather. 

  • Crouch down so that you are on the same level as the vehicle.

  • Find a neutral background, such as a park or some trees.

  • Make sure the pictures are in focus.

  • Avoid taking photos that reveal your address.

How much should you ask for your car?

Advertising your car for too high a price will put off potential buyers. But you also don’t want to sell yourself short and get less than it’s worth. There are two ways to approach this problem.

The first is to look at other classified ads and see what cars of a similar age, mileage and condition are selling for. Bear in mind that dealers will ask for more money than private sellers.

The second approach is to use a free online car valuation tool, such as this one from Auto Trader

How to avoid scams and time wasters

Here’s how to spot red flags from potential time wasters and scammers:

  • Check buyer profiles. An incomplete or new profile with little personal information may be a scammer.

  • Never hand out your card details. You only need to provide your name, account number and sort code for bank transfers.

  • Never give your address to a potential buyer online.

  • Talk first. Chat with potential buyers to establish trust before arranging a meeting.

  • Follow your gut. If something seems suspicious, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Shut the conversation down.


4. Arrange viewings

Some drivers might call or message you with lowball offers. When responding, be polite and brief, and avoid taking offence.

Regarding viewings, doing them at home is often the most convenient option. Since you're in a familiar environment, it will help you feel more confident when it moves to the negotiation stage. Potential buyers might want to check that your address matches the one on the V5C document, so it's worth keeping that with you.

Woman getting into a car

Some buyers will want to have the car inspected by a professional before parting with their cash and may turn up with a professional mechanic. 

If you don't feel confident with this stage of the selling process, consider asking a friend or relative to be there during the viewing.

During the viewing

It’s important to allow the buyer to look at the car independently. They’ll feel more comfortable this way, saving you from having to stand around watching while they inspect the vehicle. However, never leave them with the keys. Start the engine for them if they want to see that it works.


5. Offer a test drive

You should only offer a test drive if the potential buyer can prove they are insured to drive your car, meaning they have taken out a temporary policy or put your vehicle on their insurance for a day. The RAC offers test drive insurance, which gives drivers short-term comprehensive insurance for a set period.

Couple test driving new car

If the buyer isn’t insured but the car is road legal, offer to take them for a drive where they can sit in the passenger seat to see how the vehicle performs. Ideally, a test drive should cover a variety of roads and speeds, taking about 20 minutes in total.


6. Negotiate the final price

There are three different numbers you should go into a negotiation with:

  • The price you want

  • A price you think is fair

  • The lowest possible price you’ll accept

The lowest price you are willing to accept should generally be between two to 10% less than the asking price. Let the buyer start the negotiations and stay confident, knowing you are well prepared and your car is priced reasonably. Stick to the figures you decided on before negotiations began; otherwise, you could feel disappointed afterwards that you let the car go for less.

Shaking hands on a car deal

Don’t worry about letting the buyer walk away if you can’t settle on a price you’re both happy with. They might change their mind, or you might find a new buyer on the same day. No matter what happens, getting a price that you think is fair is the ultimate goal.


7. Take payment for your car

Coins stacked up near toy car

Bank transfer

An electronic bank transfer is the safest and quickest way to receive payment. The buyer can use online banking, an app, their phone or visit their bank to send money to you. Don’t let them drive away until you have received the money.

Cash

Cash can be a pain, especially if you have to deal with thousands of pounds worth of notes. You are also vulnerable to counterfeit currency. Make sure you count it out and check you have the right amount before handing over the keys.

Cheque or banker’s draft

It’s uncommon nowadays for anyone to opt for this payment method because it takes time for the funds to clear and can slow down the sales process. Ensure the money is in your account before letting the buyer take the car.


8. Complete the sale

Filling out paperwork

Create a receipt for the sale and make two copies, one for you and one for the buyer. You can find plenty of templates online or make one yourself. It should include:

  • The car’s make and model

  • Its registration number

  • Mileage

  • The agreed price

  • A note that the car is ‘sold as seen’ (which prevents the buyer from bringing it back if there’s a problem)

After making two copies, you should sign and date them both and get the buyer to do the same, keeping one copy each.

Selling a car with documents.

Informing the DVLA of the sale

The next thing to do is complete the relevant section of the V5C registration document to inform the DVLA that you’ve sold the car. Alternatively, you can do this online.

Finally, hand over the keys and say goodbye to your car. Don’t forget to give the new owner the car’s history documents and extra items such as spare keys.


Frequently asked questions


Looking for affordable car repairs or maintenance? FixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is FixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

Find Ellie on LinkedIn.