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How to sell your car

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

handshake buying a car
  • Our complete guide on how and where to sell your car
  • Find out how much it is worth
  • How to conduct test drives

Buying a new car can be wonderfully exciting. But before enjoying the quieter engine, more refined ride, comfier seats and better technology that updating your car usually brings, you’ve got to sell your existing one. Let’s run through some tips for ensuring it’s a profitable and above all safe experience.

How are you going to sell it?

There are several ways to sell a used car, each with their own pros and cons. The safest is to take it to a trustworthy garage or car dealership. Here you can follow one of two routes: part-exchange or trade-in. Part-exchange means swapping your existing car for a newer model and paying the difference on top. The benefit is that you go to the dealer with one car and drive away in another. It can be as simple as that.

Alternatively, you do what’s called a trade-in. This is when you simply sell your car to a dealer. But unless you arrange for the buyer to collect the car, you’ll walk away with money in the bank but no immediate replacement.

The third way is to sell your car privately. This route may be more profitable on paper, but you have to work for the extra cash. Once you’ve chosen where to list it for sale, you can expect to get calls from all kinds of people. These could include potential scammers and time wasters as well as legitimate buyers. It’s up to you to sort the genuine enquiries from the less ideal ones and all this can take time.

Finally, you could sell it to an online car buying site. These are quick, easy and safe if you choose one of the reputable ones. But each business values cars differently and if you get anything wrong about your car’s condition, they’ll knock money off the online quote when they see it up close.

How much is it worth?

To get the best possible price, you must know how much your car is worth. Your first port of call should be internet car sales sites. Be sure to compare like for like on these to get an accurate guide price. You’re looking for models that have the same engine, year of registration, specification and a similar mileage. Depending on how popular your car model is, this part may take some time. But it’s the best way to know what you can realistically expect to sell your car for.

Remember that if you’re selling to a dealership, you won’t get the same amount that they sell the car for. They have to add their margin to cover their time, rectifying any faults, staff wages, rent, profit and so on. The margin varies from dealer to dealer. But if there’s a massive difference between their offer and what you think it’s worth, you should shop around to get a better price.

Maximise its value

Before you sell your car, make sure it’s in the best possible condition. A car with shiny exterior paintwork and a spotlessly clean interior will be worth more. You should also get any faults rectified, as the money a dealer will knock off if it’s got a scratch down the side or a broken headlight bulb is likely to be more than the repair cost.

It’s also worth finding any original parts that might have gone missing such as the parcel shelf or spare keys. And make sure when you advertise the car you emphasise any extras it might have. These could help it to stand out from rival models you’ve seen during your research.

Finding all the paperwork is important too. As a minimum you want the V5C registration document, MOT certificate and service history. Include bills for any work you’ve had done too. It will make your car more appealing and make you look like an honest, transparent seller.

Make sure any buyer is legitimate

If you sell your car to a trader it should be easy to establish how legitimate they are. And if you take the car to their premises, you’ll be able to see instantly what kind of business they run.

Selling privately isn’t quite so straightforward. Any buyer should want to come and view the vehicle. When they contact you, ask for their name and address, mobile number and landline. No legitimate buyer should have a problem supplying these.

The key is the key

Whoever you sell your car to, remember how important the key is. Never give anyone the key unless you’re in the car alongside them. And never get out of the car unless they’ve given you the key back. It’s not unheard of for people pretending to be reputable buyers driving off when the seller’s back is turned.

How to conduct the test drive

As well as taking care of the key when offering a test drive, never allow anyone to take a test drive on their own. Before you let them get behind the wheel, ask to see their insurance. If they’re going to be driving your car, they must be covered.

Any serious buyer is likely to want to see the paperwork too. They should verify that the address on the V5C really is yours. They should also check that the mileage on the MOT certificate tallies with that on the car’s odometer. Never let them take any of the paperwork away until they’ve paid for the car.

How to get paid

Arguably the most important part of any used car sale is getting paid the agreed price. Never give a potential buyer the keys or any of the paperwork until the entire agreed sum has cleared in your bank account. Only accept BACS payments into your bank account and check with the bank that these have cleared. Cheques can bounce, bankers’ drafts can be forgeries and cash can be fake. Any reputable buyer will understand that you need to have the money before handing over the keys and paperwork.

Sort out the paperwork

Once your car is sold there’s one more thing to do: sort out the paperwork. Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) or car tax now belongs to the individual rather than the car. Apply to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for a refund on any months you won’t be using. Lastly, send your green ‘section 8’ portion of the V5C to the DVLA to tell them there’s been a change of keeper.


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