A guide to selling your car privately

Looking to get the best price for your car? Follow our handy guide on selling privately 

4 minutes

All of our content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts

It can seem like an awful lot of hassle to sell your car privately, but it could net you more money in the bank.

Read our guide to find out how to sell your car privately.

  • Be realistic when you value your car - check trusted online resources and find other examples with the same mileage and registration date
  • Give your car a spruce up - a good wash, polish, tidy and Hoover can make the world of difference when potential buyers come and take a look
  • Take the time to create a quality ad, complete with all relevant details and well-taken photos of the interior and exterior of the car

It can be tricky to sell your car privately, but it could net you more money

Private sale or trade sale?

There are several ways to sell your car: through a dealer, by auction and privately to an individual. Each way has its advantages and disadvantages.

Selling through a dealer is fairly straightforward and you can get a reasonable price if you're buying another car from them.

Selling your car at auction can be a bit hit and miss because you don't know if it will sell and whether you'll get a good price. However, you can put a reserve on the car so you know you'll get a minimum price.

Selling privately could get you 10-15% more than selling through a dealer, but it can take time and a certain amount of know-how to secure a good sale.

Our six steps to making a private sale work for you.

1. Valuing your car

Be realistic about the amount you can get for your car. You can use the motor press or online valuers to give you an indication of a fair price. Remember this is the selling price, so if you think buyers will haggle, you might want to add a bit to the base price.

2. Spruce it up

No one wants to buy a dustbin on wheels. Give your car a good wash and polish, touch up any paint scratches, hoover inside and ditch any kids' toys. Then take lots of photos.

3. Create an advert

There are plenty of places to advertise your car for sale. Social media, online listings, printed listings, local papers, motoring press, even put a note in the side window of your car.

State the facts about your car:

  • Mileage
  • Make and model
  • Full service history
  • New tyres or other new parts
  • In car entertainment, bluetooth etc.

Be honest about the condition of the car. You'll just waste your time if buyers turn up expecting pristine bodywork when it has a few knocks and dents. Photos of the car and bodywork can help manage expectations.

Also, be aware that you can't sell a car with outstanding finance on it. You should contact your finance company for a settlement figure and pay it off before you sell.

4. Showing buyers your car

Understandably, you'll be delighted that someone has shown an interest in your car, but it doesn't mean you should let them drive off alone into the sunset.
A few precautions when it comes to showing buyers around your car can help safeguard against theft and fraud.

  • When they call to make an appointment to view the car, take their name, address and contact number.
  • Ask the buyer to bring their driving licence and insurance details when they come along.
  • Don't meet the buyer with the car somewhere remote. Make sure they come to your home to view the car.
  • Check the buyer's insurance details before they drive the car. If you're concerned they may not be covered, you may be able to extend your car insurance to cover other drivers.
  • Always go with the buyer on a test drive. In fact, take a friend with you for extra security.
  • Don't leave the keys in the ignition if you swap over to change drivers.

5. Taking payment

So you've agreed a price, now comes the payment.

Whatever method the buyer uses to pay you, don't let them take the car until the payment has cleared.

This could be a few days if they pay by cheque, or just a few minutes if they pay by bank transfer 'faster payment'.

If the buyer pays in cash, check it's all there before they leave. Even ask to meet the buyer at the bank, so you can safely put the cash in your account immediately.

Write a receipt for the car when payment has gone through. There are also handy car seller's contract templates online that you can use as proof of sale.

6. Clear your data

Which? has shared a report highlighting that four in five owners do not take appropriate steps to remove personal data from their car before selling the vehicle. Between December 2019 and February 2020, they surveyed 14,079 people who had sold their car in the past two years. They found that more than half of them had synced their phone to their car via Bluetooth or USB and most had not followed instructions in the car’s manual to delete all their data from the car before selling it. So, make sure you haven't left any important documents in your car, or personal data in your car's multimedia system such as phone contacts, previously connected phones or key addresses in your satnav. You may want to check your vehicle handbook or ask your dealer for advice on how to do this. Alternatively, check out this handy guide on how to clear your car of personal data.

Whatever method the buyer uses to pay you, don't let them take the car until the payment has cleared.

Transferring ownership

Until you transfer ownership of the car to the new keeper, you are still the owner of the car. You should therefore transfer ownership as soon as possible, so you don't get penalised for any infringements by the new owner.

As the person selling the car, you must complete section 6 of the V5C – this is the registration certificate. Fill in the name of the new keeper, sign it, tear it off and send it to the DVLA. The remainder of the document goes to the new keeper.

Also pass on the handbook, service history and MOT certificate.

And remember to cancel your insurance or transfer your policy to your new car.

Job done!


This article contains links to other sites, and we're not responsible for the contents of any of these websites.
All content is approved by our in-house advisory board of experts.