How to sell a car privately – top tips

How to sell a car privately – top tips
Selling a car yourself might seem like a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t need to be.

Follow these simple steps and we’ll walk you through the process of how to sell your car privately and get the most money for your car.

You’ll be quids in, and you might even enjoy the process.

Preparing your car for sale

You’ve decided you want to sell your car yourself. The first step is making your car presentable. Dealers often spend hundreds of pounds preparing each car, so this is an area where your car could potentially fall short.

It perhaps goes without saying, but give your car a clean. No one wants to buy a dirty car, not least because the dirt could be hiding the car’s true condition. By cleaning it inside and out, buyers will be able to see the car clearly. And their first impression is likely to be good.

Once you’ve cleaned the car, it’s up to you how far you want to go in preparing it. If it has a short MOT (less than three or four months), it’s probably worth putting it in for a test as buyers may assume it has problems otherwise. Service it if required, and make sure it’s in good mechanical order.

READ: MOT checklist and comprehensive guide

Cosmetically, buyers have different expectations. If it’s an expensive or premium car, kerbed wheels or minor scratches might put people off. On a cheap runaround, they’re less of an issue – provided you’ve accounted for them in the price.

You’ll have to make a decision on whether it’s worth getting any cosmetic damage fixed. If you do, the car might be worth more money or be easier to sell, but you’re unlikely to get all of your cash back.

Advertising your car

Where to advertise

Once your car is looking spick and span (or as close to perfect as reasonable), your next step is reaching an audience of prospective buyers.

Most people find a car online, with websites such as RAC Cars, Auto Trader, eBay and Gumtree popular with buyers. Shop around, as different websites have different charges – often depending on the value of your car.

It could be worth thinking outside the box, too. The Facebook Marketplace feature is popular, especially with cheap runarounds being sold locally, while there are a number of Facebook groups catering for car sales: from classic cars to off-roaders.

If you don’t want to advertise online, or want to try other avenues, consider the old-fashioned options.

Stick a notice in a newsagent’s window, tell your family and friends (you might be surprised how good word of mouth can be) and put a sign in the window with a price, a few important details (mileage and MOT, for example) and a phone number. You never know who’ll see it.

Preparing the advert

Now you’ve prepared your car for sale and decided how where you’re going to advertise it, it’s time to spend a bit of time preparing the ad. We’re assuming you’re going to post it online, but these guidelines apply for most methods of advertising.

Take a wide variety of pictures of all angles of the car. Do this in daylight, ideally in good weather.

Remember to take pictures inside, and consider including shots of the boot and underneath the bonnet. Take photos fairly close-up, so potential buyers get an idea of the car’s condition, but try to get the entire vehicle in the shot.

Now it’s time to write the advert. Most websites will auto-fill details such as the car’s make and model. Make sure this info is correct, and add details such as mileage and price (we’ll come to this shortly).

Depending on the website, there might be space to add a more detailed description. Don’t go over the top here, though – buyers don’t want to read an essay – but include some general information about the car’s condition and its history.

Be honest about the car, but don’t undersell it. A 10-year-old vehicle is likely to have minor cosmetic wear and tear, for example, and it’s worth mentioning this. But don’t feel the need to take a photo of every tiny dent and scratch. Equally, don’t lie about its condition. If there’s anything that the buyer is likely to want to fix, be open about it in the advert. They way you won’t waste the potential buyer’s time – and vice versa.

Provide information about the car’s service history. You might think a pile of old receipts isn’t very interesting, but it could give yours the edge over similar cars advertised for sale.

MORE ADVICE: How to spot a clocked car

How much should I ask for my car?

Valuing your car can be tricky. Obviously, you don’t want to ask too little, but a high asking price will discourage potential buyers from even looking.

You can visit RAC Cars for a free valuation, but it’s also worth looking in the classifieds for an indication of what to ask. Look at like-for-like cars, if you can – dealers will ask for more than private sellers, and things like specification and mileage can have a big influence on a car’s value.

Online marketplace’s search tools are good for narrowing down results to find cars very similar to yours, while eBay lets you search for completed listings, which is ideal for finding out what cars have actually sold for, rather than asking prices.

Try to list your car below a ‘milestone’ number. For example, people searching by price might set a limit of £5,000. If your car is advertised at £5,150, it won’t appear in their search.

Do include a small degree of haggling room in your asking price. Everyone likes to feel like they’ve got a good deal, even if that means your car was priced slightly higher in the first place.

If you’ve been honest in your description, anyone who views the car will have little reason to negotiate, so don’t expect to knock a huge amount off.

Dealing with viewings

You’ve prepared your car well, advertised it and someone has requested to take a look at it. This is the exciting stage.

It’s best to have the viewing at your own home. It’s less hassle for you, and you’ll be more comfortable in your own environment. The seller will also probably want to see that the address on the V5 registration document matches where you actually live.

If you’re worried about a stranger visiting your home, consider having a friend or relative there to provide reassurance, or even ask a neighbour to keep an eye out for you. You don’t even have to invite the buyer inside, most of the time they’ll be outside looking at the car.

Before they arrive, give the car a quick check over and make sure there are no obvious issues that you didn’t know about. Is it clean? If it’s not been started for a while, does it start OK without any issues when pulling away?

Prepare any paperwork so they can see the service history and – if they decide to buy – can fill in the V5 without any hassle.

When they knock on your door, we’d advise giving them some time on their own with the car to inspect it. It’ll make them feel more comfortable and it saves you awkwardly standing around as they check things like the bodywork.

Don’t leave them with the keys, though – after five or 10 minutes, head out and offer to start up the engine for them.

READ MORE: How a used car inspection can save you money in the long run

Someone test-driving your car

If they like what they see, it’s reasonable for the buyer to ask for a test-drive of the car. This is tricky with private sales, as not everyone will be insured and it may not be taxed.

If the car is taxed, offer them a test-drive provided that they have proof of insurance.

If you still have the car insured in your name, their policy might let them to drive other cars. This might only be third party (meaning your car won’t be covered if they crash), but it will ensure that they’re legal at least: you decide whether you want to take the risk.

It might depend on the value of the car, and if they’re happy to agree to buy it if they write it off on the test-drive.

If the buyer isn’t insured to drive your car, but you are and the car is otherwise legal, offer to go for a drive with them in the passenger seat. It’s not as good as them driving the car for themselves, but it should give them an idea of how the car performs.

If possible (it depends where you live), try to give the buyer a good drive on a variety of roads, allowing them to reach 60mph or 70mph depending on speed limits. Around 20 minutes should be plenty of time.

Completing the sale

Haggling

We’ve touched on haggling above, so you should have given it some thought in advance. The key is to have a minimum amount in your head that you’re willing to take off - anything from two to 10 percent of the car’s asking price, depending on its value.

Allow the buyer to bring up the subject of negotiating. If you’ve done everything in this guide, your car should be desirable and you’re in a strong position to act confidently and hold your nerve.

Let them make the first offer. Is it as much as you want? If yes, try to get a bit more out of them but don’t push them too hard – you might lose the sale. If not, how far away is it from your minimum? Attempt to drop your price closer to the seller’s figure, but don’t be too desperate.

If you can’t agree a figure you’re both happy with, don’t worry about letting the buyer walk away. They might have a change of mind after they’ve thought about it, or someone else might call about your car the second they walk away.

Payment

You’ve found a buyer for your pride and joy, and agreed the deal. Now, how do you wish to be paid?

Cash. This is one of the safest ways to be paid. Count the cash out carefully – have someone double-check for you if possible, and if you’re concerned about forged notes, ask to meet the buyer at your bank so you can pay it in with them there. The cashier will check the notes carefully.

Bank transfer. This can be easier than taking cash, but it sometimes takes time. The buyer can phone, go online or visit a branch to request money to be placed in your account. Don’t let them drive away until the transfer is complete – it could take up to two hours.

Cheque or banker’s draft. This is quite an old-fashioned way of doing it, mainly because of the time it takes for the funds to clear.

Like a bank transfer, check your account to make sure you have the money before handing over the car.

Remember: if at any point something doesn’t feel right, don’t be scared to tell the buyer the deal’s off and walk away.

Doing the paperwork

Once you get to the paperwork stage, all the difficult is stuff is out of the way.

The first thing you’ll want to do is print off a receipt for yourself and the buyer.

There are a number of templates online, or you can prepare one yourself. It needs the make and model of the car, its registration number and its mileage. Write the agreed price of the car on there, and note that the car is ‘sold as seen’ (this should prevent the buyer bringing it back to you if there’s an issue).

Print two copies, sign them both and ask the buyer to do the same. Keep a copy each.

The other thing you need to do is complete the V5 registration document to notify the DVLA that the registered keeper of the car is changing. Alternatively, you can tell the DVLA online that you’ve sold a car.

Once that’s done, all that’s left is for you to hand over the keys and say goodbye to the car. Remember to give the buyer the car’s history documents, as well as any ‘extras’ such as locking wheel nut adapters and spare keys.

READ NEXT: Buying a used car - the ultimate guide