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How to sell your car privately

August 11, 2021 by

So, the time has come to say goodbye to your trusty set of wheels, and now that you’ve decided to move on, it’s no longer a car — it’s an economic unit, waiting to be exploited to the full. So, how can you get the best price for your car?

Trading in may be an easy route if you’re intent on buying a replacement, but that’s not going to get you maximum value.

Dealers will always include in their calculations not only what the car is worth, but what they think they can get for it, and how long it might sit on their forecourt before it’s sold. The result will always be less cash than the car is physically worth.

So, what about selling it yourself? You’ll get more than you would for a trade-in, and you will then have a little more leverage when it comes to striking a deal on your next car.

If you don’t want the hassle, you can now sell your car through carwow quickly and easy. Just tap the green button below to find out how.

If you’re determined to do it the hard way, here’s how best to go about it…

How much can I get for my car?

How long’s that piece of string in your hands? A car’s value is decided by a huge range of factors, the most obvious ones being age and mileage. There’s more — way more — to it than that, though. Service history comes into it too, especially for more expensive, more complicated cars. A full sheaf of dealer stamps and receipts can potentially add thousands to your value.

Your car’s specification matters too, but only up to a point. Buyers will look for critical items such as air conditioning, Bluetooth connection, and increasingly high-end items such as a decent infotainment system and an automatic gearbox, but once you’re past those lots of extra kit doesn’t always pay off. Executive and luxury models will need certain items such as leather trim to make the most of their value, but the majority of buyers won’t pay much extra for the extras on your car.

Colour is another issue — while it’s not true that silver, black, nor grey are the only ‘safe’ colours when it comes to second-hand values, it is true that brighter, jazzier colours can be a tricky sell, so work that into your calculations too. To help you find an appropriate price to set for your car, it’s best to trawl through as many classified adverts for similar models as you can, remembering that cars being sold by a dealership will always have an extra markup price on them. You can also use Carwow’s valuation service to help you settle on a final figure.

What should I do to prepare the car?

If your car is due a service, get it done. As long as nothing major is wrong, it’ll not cost you too much and will pay dividends at sale time if you can present a freshly-minted service receipt. A main dealer service is obviously the most reassuring for buyers, but a service by a good independent brand specialist, or at the very least a reputable non-franchised garage should be sufficient.

Obviously, there’s a sliding scale of value to this — the newer and more valuable a car is, the more it’s worth getting every small detail attended to, whether it be replacing major parts, repairing bashed panels, or fixing scratches and scrapes.

The older and less valuable the car, the less and less work it’s going to be worth doing, although more work done will generally equal an easier sale if not necessarily one that will cover all your costs. Make sure that the car’s MOT is up to date, and that it’s taxed (or properly declared off the road with appropriate SORN paperwork).

Once the car is mechanically sound, get it clean. You can put your own efforts in here — lots of elbow grease, body wax, paint restorer, and some old toothbrushes for getting into the nooks of alloy wheels — but it might be worth taking it to a good local valeter to have it properly cleaned inside and out.

The inside, in this case, is at least as important as the outside; you don’t want potential buyers sitting on a pile of old crisp-packets, or getting lungfuls of your dog’s personal odour when they take the car out on a test drive. Again, you can do this at home — a high-quality fabric cleaner spray will take care of the upholstery, and the rest is down to intensive vacuuming and plenty of time spent gently cleaning surfaces with a little warm water and a gentle detergent.

Better to do this on a sunny day, if you can, so as to leave the windows and doors open to let everything dry off nicely. Don’t forget the boot, incidentally. Oh, and be prepared — cleaning your car and making it all nice again might make you less keen on getting rid of it after all…

Now is a good time to gather up any and all keys, and remove any accessories that might be fitted to the car that you want to keep. Make sure that the tyres are in good condition (a little tyre shine is never a bad thing, as long as they all have legal tread and have been inflated to the correct pressures), including the spare if one is fitted.

If you have a touchscreen infotainment system, make sure that you’ve deleted all of your personal details, and phone connections or at least make a note to do so before you finally hand over the keys to the new owner.

How do I create the best car advert?

The good news is that you very likely now have an exceptionally good camera in your pocket — your mobile phone. Once you’ve got everything cleaned and looking sharp, take the car to a wide-open space, such as an empty car park.

Taking pics on your own driveway not only gives away your address to people you might not want to give it to but also limits how much of your car you can fit in the photo. Make sure that the background is clear, and there’s no rubbish or anything unpleasant in view.

With the sun (assuming there is any) behind you, frame the car in the centre of the screen before taking the picture. It’s best to take the pics in ‘landscape’ mode, rather than the upright ‘portrait’ style.

You don’t have to take photos of every little detail, but you’ll at the very least need to have shots of the front, side, and rear, and maybe a front three-quarter and rear three-quarter angle. Take photos of the front and back seats, and of the dashboard and instrument panel (the best way to do that is to sit in the back seats and take the photograph on as wide-angle a setting as your phone can manage).

It’s a good idea to take photos of the dials, showing the mileage, as well. Again, don’t forget the boot. Take loads of photos and select the best ones.

When it comes to the description, be clear and honest. Describe the precise make, model, and trim of the car, what engine it has, its mileage and its overall condition. Be honest about any bumps or scrapes, and make sure to emphasise the service and ownership history. Include details of all the car’s specifications and options — many classified advert websites will have dedicated sections to fill out for the major items.

Don’t bother including details such as ‘one lady owner’ or ‘drives really well’ — these are meaningless. Equally, don’t bother being aggressive with potential buyers, with phrases such as ‘no time-wasters please’. It just puts people off.

Also, don’t bother saying you have a ‘genuine reason for selling’. Of course you do, but no one cares about that. Equally, be careful about including any personal information in the advert — there are unscrupulous types out there and be especially wary if they call from a withheld mobile number and aren’t happy to provide contact details.

How do I negotiate with potential buyers?

When people do start to come to view or test-drive the car, don’t offer to meet them in a pub car park, as that just makes you look suspicious. When people want to test drive the car, always make sure you accompany them and ask them to bring their driving licence and make sure that they’re covered by insurance (theirs or yours, if you have an open policy). Don’t ever let someone head off in your car on their own, especially if the keys and paperwork for the car are inside and make sure you keep hold of all the vehicle documents.

When it comes to haggling over price, be polite but firm. There’s always a bit of give and take in any negotiation, and you may get a quicker sale if you’re prepared to sacrifice a little cash, but equally set a realistic genuine minimum price in your mind, and stick to it. There’s no point in getting into an argument, so if they try to keep haggling beyond where you’re prepared to go, just say a simple “no thanks.”

How should I be paid?

Once you have agreed a price, arrange for payment. Some people still want to pay in cash, but this is best avoided — it’s too easy to end up with counterfeit notes.

A banker’s draft is the best way to be paid, but that can take time to clear. A crossed cheque is a good option, but again wait for it to clear into your account. Be careful of handing out your bank details if the buyer asks to make a direct bank transfer. In that case, you might be better off using a secure intermediary such as PayPal. Do not hand over the keys nor any of the car’s documentation until the money is, one way or another, in your account.

What do I do then?

Once you’ve got your money, you’ll then need to tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you’ve sold the car and that it is now with a new owner.

You’ll need the 11-digit reference number from the front of the V5C registration document (the logbook) that comes with the car, and you’ll need to give the little green ‘new keeper’ slip from the V5C to the new owner. Then simply follow the process on the DVLA website, and when you’re done, destroy the rest of the old V5C.

Is it all worth it?

If maximising the potential cash value of your car means the most to you, then yes. You’ll be able to go and buy your new car with a hefty wad of cash or a plump banker’s draft, which will help in your own price negotiations.

If it all seems like too much though, why not see how much you can get for your car today with carwow?