The essential guide to selling your car

When it comes to selling a car we all want the same thing – to sell it for the best price, and to sell it quickly. However, in today’s market you’re very likely to be up against hundreds if not thousands of advertised cars on the Internet that are all competitively priced.So how are you going to make yours stand out from the rest?

By following our essential guide to selling your car, you should stand every chance of getting a quick and easy sale!

Clean your car

When selling your car, ‘showroom clean’ is what buyers really want.

This may sound quite obvious, and I’m sure you’ve already done it, right? Well, unfortunately the seller’s definition of a clean car can differ quite a lot from the buyers, and it’s important to make sure you don’t underestimate the power of an ultra tidy and clean car.

A professional valet doesn’t cost a lot these days, and it’s definitely worth investing in. Not only will they do a cracking job on the outside if you ask for a wash and a wax, but they will also do an amazing job on the inside.

Don’t forget to also make sure they clean your alloys so they are gleaming. It should come part and parcel of the service, but the wheels are one of the best features of a car, so it’s important to check.

Try to remember that when someone wants to buy a car they are looking for showroom condition, so it’s important you clean your car until it shines. If you do decide to do it yourself, then be prepared to spend the hours required to make it gleam. There are usually 2-3 people cleaning your car when you get it valeted. So if you do it on your own, then be prepared to put the time and the effort in.

People buy with their eyes more often than not, so making your car shine is one of the most important aspects when it comes to selling.

Repair minor damage or paintwork

Repair dents or minor damage before selling your car.

Again, when it comes to buying a car, one of the most important aspects is how it looks. It’s the first thing everyone notices before anything else, like how it drives, the service history, the mileage etc. So now that you have it gleaming it’s important to lastly check on any minor knocks, dents or scratches.

Assuming that the car doesn’t have any major damage, you now need to take a good walk around the car and spot any potential marks or dents. Make sure you do this in the daytime so you have plenty of light to see everything clearly. It’s not advisable to do this at night with a torch, or even in your garage with the lights on. Use natural sunlight to spot everything with ease.

One of the best ways to check if you have a dent or not is to look sideways down the car. So rather than looking straight at your door or bonnet, you need to look down from an angle, as this is the only way to truly spot a dent. Even larger dents can be sometimes easy to miss if you look head-on at your car, so it’s essential you spend quite a bit of time standing from lots of different angles to spot any of these minor dents.

If you do, then don’t hesitate to contact your local fixer for a quote on repairing them. Small dents shouldn’t be too costly to pull out, and it’s worth it in the end if it helps to sell your car. Same goes for any minor scratches – don’t hesitate to get them to repair those at the same time, which could bring the cost down if you have everything done at the same time.

It is possible to fix scratches yourself, but it won’t be as professionally patched up, so it’s your choice at the end of the day. If the scratches are extremely small and hard to spot, then you may be able to do a touch up job yourself. But anything more serious needs to be sorted by a professional who can make it disappear.

Remember, the longer your car sits on the drive waiting to be sold, the cheaper you are going to have to consider selling it for in order to shift it. So in the long run it would make more sense to spend that money on the car now to get it sold quicker, rather than lose money on depreciation as well as ending up doing the repairs anyway.

MOT, general mechanical repair and service history

A full service history is attractive to buyers.

If your MOT is due for renewal within the next 3 months, it would be advisable to have it tested again and put 12 months on it. Selling a car with 3 months MOT or less is not very attractive to potential buyers who are usually looking for at least 6 months or more.

Service history is also an essential part of successfully selling a car, because without it you are not going to attract much attention. If you’ve already failed in keeping the car serviced each year then you must go and get it done immediately. A major service is in need before you even contemplate selling it.

If however you’ve been sensible enough to regularly service the car in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually once a year or every 10,000 miles), then you need to ensure you keep the service book and that it’s stamped by the garage each time. Without the service book you may need to chase the garage up for proof, so keeping and stamping the book is essential. The words ‘full service history’ on your ad will make you stand out from the rest!

The scariest part for a buyer when purchasing a car privately is the chance that something may go wrong, and they don’t have a garage that they can take it back too and complain. Some people won’t even come and look at the car if it’s got less than 6 months MOT, so you are already cutting out a fair chunk of your market.

Road tax is also really important, and ideally you would be selling the car with at least 3 months on. Unfortunately you cannot just go out and stick a few more months’ tax on like you can with your MOT, so timing is everything if you plan to sell your car.

Most people are mainly interested in the condition of the car, and road tax is generally seen as a bonus if the car still has any left on. So you don’t have to worry too much about this part, and focus mainly on the rest.

Price – be realistic

Price your car realistically for the best chance of a sale.

Deciding on the price for your car usually sounds like one of the easiest tasks to undertake; however, it’s not always that simple. Most people either go one of two ways – price it too high or price it too low!

It does however all depend on how quickly you want to sell the car, and if you’re looking to maximise the amount you get for it. But let’s assume you are looking for a fairly quick sale and as much as you can get; well then you need to consider a few things and do your research!

First of all, start with the Internet. You do also have the option of searching through the local paper and ads, but most things are done on the Internet these days – and it’s much quicker! You need to search for as many cars as you can that are identical to yours as possible, even right down to the colour (yellow cars would typically go for less than a black car).

So you must search for the exact same model, transmission, fuel type, year, engine, mileage etc. You must also finally search for cars within your area, because car prices can change from county to county quite dramatically.

Ideally you need to find at least 5-8 cars that are almost identical to yours, and then make a note of all the selling prices. Once you’ve done that you then need to take the average of all the prices. This should then give you a good idea of what to sell yours for.

However, there are still a few things to consider before you finalise a price. If you’re looking for an extremely fast sale and the amount you get for it is less important, then our advice would be to consider a price slightly lower than the lowest you’ve come across. This should make for a quick sale if this is your preference.

If, like most people, you are looking for a fairly quick sale (within a few weeks) and you are keen to get a more than reasonable price; then our advice would be to consider the average price of all your comparisons or slightly higher. You certainly don’t want to go for anything less than the average, and you certainly need to steer clear of the highest price you found. Using the average price should give you a great chance of creating a realistic price that will attract potential buyers.

If you want to get the very best price you can, and you’re not too bothered about how long it takes to sell, then you could look to go for matching the highest price you saw when scouring the Internet. You just need to make sure your car is slightly better overall, so you at least give yourself a chance at selling it.

The problem you have with choosing this route is that the longer you have the car, the more it will keep deprecating. It is really not advisable to put your car in at a high price, because there would just be no point in anyone wanting to buy it when there are other cars out there exactly the same, and for less!

Tip – don’t make the mistake that most people do of pricing your car too high. Although you’ve taken care of that car like it was your child, and you are adamant it’s the best car out there, you just won’t stand a chance if the buyers have cheaper options for the same car.

Haggling over the price

Be prepared for buyers to haggle over the price.

It’s generally common practice for a potential buyer to put in an offer lower than your asking price. So you need to decide how flexible, if at all, you are going to be before you firstly agree the advertised price, and what you will finally accept.

If you are not going to accept anything lower than the asking price, then you could mention this in your ad. However, sometimes you might find that it’s worth taking the risk and letting people come and see the car before you drop that bombshell on them. Why? Because if they fall in love with the car, then they might just decide to pay the asking price.

If this is your intention, then you definitely need to settle on a very reasonable asking price, otherwise you are going to put people off when it comes to closing a deal.

A more sensible approach might be to advertise the car at a slightly higher price, and then also decide an agreed rock bottom price you will accept. Let’s say for example you’ve come to the conclusion that your car is worth £5,000, so you decide to advertise it at £5,200. The very lowest price you will accept is £4,800 (but don’t tell them that of course!). In an ideal world you then might find that you get offers anywhere between £4,700 and £5,100, which should easily allow you a good margin to agree a price.

Again, don’t forget how important it may be for you to close out a sale rather than have to wait another month for someone to come along. Try to grab the chance when you have it, and plan out all of the possible selling prices in advance.

The advert and description

Taking photos from different angles can help attract buyers.

Now let’s get down to the final important part of selling the car – the ad!

This is where you really need to focus and ensure all the best parts of the car are highlighted and easy to spot for someone searching quickly through the internet. First of all, although we shouldn’t need to say this, it’s important you don’t make any false claims and attempt to deceive the public with your ad. For obvious reasons you should never do this!

A great ad will first of all need great pictures. Nowadays you are allowed to upload quite a lot of pictures, which will help immensely in the sale. For the bare minimum you will need the front, back, side, and front interior. However, if you do have any other appealing features then don’t hesitate to take a snap and upload it.

You may for example have some nice expensive alloy wheels, so don’t hesitate to take a closer picture of one of them. If you have a leather interior, then again, consider taking two or three from different angles as these will look great. Does you car have amazing boot space? Then why not take a picture of the car with the boot open showing how large it is?

Our advice would be to sit down with a pen and paper and list all of the features you think the car has that would appeal to a buyer. The list shouldn’t be too long or full of obvious features like a gear stick, but nice things like the wheels or CD multi changer. Once you have this list you should have a better idea of the pictures you want to take, and what you’d like to include for the special features section.

Also, try to take all of your pictures on a nice sunny day so everything looks nice and colourful. You also need to be careful not to take a picture directly into the sun, or where the sun is reflecting badly off of your car. Take lots and lots of pictures for every different angle, and then you can choose from the best when you view them on your PC.


Make sure you have all of your documents to hand, so you can present them to a potential buyer. You need to have things like your MOT, registration document, service book, any receipts for repairs or new parts etc.

Test drive

Allowing a test drive can help to sell your car.

Offer all of the potential buyers a test drive to give yourself an even better chance of selling the car. Of course, it’s important to make sure you check that they are insured to drive your car first, and we would always recommend you ask them to prove this to you, and to also provide a driving license. Ideally, if you can get their full name and address along with a contact number, then you can double check everything matches up when they arrive.

If you have any doubts whatsoever, then just refuse to allow them to drive it. There is no point in taking any chances in case an uninsured driver happens to crash your car and you lose everything. However, if you are happy that their details check out, then take them on a test drive.

You need to drive first and take them away from any busy roads to somewhere quiet. Don’t allow them to reverse the car off your drive and put them in a difficult position. Driving a new car can be very challenging and you don’t want them to feel under pressure. So take them out first for a short while to somewhere nice and quiet, and then do a swap over. If they are unfamiliar with the area, then make it easier for them by organising a nice round trip which brings you safely back home.


It is illegal to sell a car that is not roadworthy.

When you sell the car it’s important to provide a receipt that is signed by both parties and it is advisable that this is a ‘sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee’ receipt which provides the buyer with the full terms and conditions of the sale. You can download suitable documents from the AA website here without charge.

However, please bear in mind that a ‘sold as seen’ receipt will not affect the buyer’s legal rights. The car must of course match the full description you advertise, and any representations you make during the negotiations. A ‘sold as seen’ receipt also does not cover the possibility that the car may be unroadworthy and the law on this point is very clear: it illegal to sell a car in an unroadworthy condition. You can find more about buyers’ and sellers’ rights on Law of Contract.

Getting paid

Online banking is the safest way for you to receive payment for your car.

It’s now time for them to pay up and give you the money. But how do you accept this? Our advice would be to only ever accept a bank transfer. Accepting cash may be OK if the sale price of the car is not too high but you need make sure you are not handed any forged notes, whether deliberately or by mistake.

However, try to stick to a bank transfer, as this is the safest way to receive large sums of money. Most people have online banking, so it’s a very simple process to transfer you the funds. If they refuse to transfer the money this way, and are being difficult in any way, then you may need to re-think their legitimacy. Anyone who is not willing to come to a sensible arrangement may be trying to swindle you out of your hard earned cash – so don’t fall for it!

Anyone wanting to legitimately buy a car would always be willing to make a bank transfer, or at the very least try to be flexible to the seller’s payment requests. So don’t be bullied into doing anything you don’t want to, and stay firm to your original payment request. Of course, make sure the bank transfer has cleared before you hand over the keys and paperwork.

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