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What to do when you have a car to sell

If it’s time for your old wheels to find a new owner, the chances are you’re looking for advice on how to sell a car quickly – and how to get the best price.

Our tips for selling a car privately take you through the process of getting a proper valuation, preparing your car to the best possible standard and making sure all the documents are in order for a smooth transaction. After all, there’s a lot of competition out there, and the best way to sell a car fast is to make sure yours is priced attractively, looks its best and has all its paperwork in order.

Thanks to the internet and online advertising, it’s a lot easier to sell your car than it used to be. If you’re feeling lazy you can grab a couple of pictures on your smartphone and upload them to a social media platform in just a few moments. In fact, trying to sell a car on Facebook marketplace isn’t a bad idea if you need a quick sale and you’re offering an obvious bargain. However, that approach is unlikely to work if you’re trying to get the best price for a car you’ve cherished.

The best way to get a good price for your car is to make sure it stands out in the crowd. When you’re selling privately that means taking the time to create the best possible advert, even though online classified platforms make it easy to post a quick ad and hope for the best.

Don’t be tempted to cut corners, because buyers always respond to well worded and carefully presented ads. If you’ve taken care with your ad, buyers will assume you’re the type of person who likes to do things properly, including looking after your cars. A slapdash ad suggests you probably take a similar approach to car maintenance, which is absolutely the worst impression you want to make.

That means any for sale ad should have a description that includes key points of information, and good pictures of the parts of the car that people will be interested in.

Of course, we’d highly recommend getting your car cleaned and valeted before you take the pictures, as a presentable car will be more attractive to buyers and create a positive first impression. The same goes for all the documentation. If you have a wallet full of receipts detailing servicing and maintenance on a car, this will be attractive to buyers, too. And remember, all this advice can also be applied if you’re going to trade your car in at a dealer or a company that claims to buy any car, as it will help you get a fair price for your motor.

Our tips below help to give you advice on how to sell a car, but they will also help you to avoid being scammed into parting with your car by online fraudsters. Unscrupulous vendors online can claim to be able to put you into contact with buyers for a fee, but invariably this isn’t the case. Others may try and take your car by giving you a deposit and driving away in your motor. However, as long as you’re aware of the risks and keep your wits about you, then these scams should be easy to spot and avoid.

Top tips for selling your car privately

  1. Ensure your car is ready to be sold

Most people who have bought a car privately will probably have nightmare stories of filthy and neglected cars that they have seen. The overriding thoughts of a buyer looking at a car that’s been left dirty will be: ‘if the owner hasn’t taken the time to look after the interior of their car while they’ve owned it, what else have they neglected in terms of servicing and maintenance’? For some potential buyers, it could be enough to make them walk away without any further questions asked, as there are plenty of other vehicles on sale, and many will look like they have been maintained properly.

So the first step to selling your car, is to give it a thorough clean. This will sound incredibly obvious, but you only need to look at the classifieds yourself to see that many sellers still manage to fall at this first hurdle. Even if you just clear the car of rubbish, use a car shampoo, hoover the seats and carpets and clean the windows with glass cleaner to get the car looking tidy, it will help make a difference. Buying a car isn’t like buying a house for renovation: most buyers won’t want to look beneath the grime to see a car’s potential, they want something that’ll look good and be driveable as soon as they buy it.

You could even go the extra mile and fix any cosmetic faults. Crazed or cracked lights, broken mirrors and nasty parking scuffs can all be repaired relatively cheaply, either with DIY products or by using a mobile SMART repair company. The latter will be pricier, but the quality of the finished job should easily be recouped by a higher price offered by a potential buyer.

  1. Have the correct documents ready

A great way of instilling confidence in the car you’re selling is to have a wallet full of receipts and print-outs showing the car’s history. This printed record can show every year of a car’s life, and if you have a service book full of stamps for every service, as well as full MoT details (including any advisory notices), then it will be attractive to used car buyers.

Having a comprehensively stamped service book is incredibly useful, so make sure you get the local garage to stamp it when you get it serviced. If you had forgotten to do this, don’t panic, your car is not destined to go to the scrap heap, you can go back to the people who did the services and ask them to stamp it retrospectively. If you’ve had your car serviced at a main dealer, it’s likely that they will have online records of the work, too, so if you have missing information, it’s always worthwhile checking with your service outlet to see if they have the information.

Out of all these documents, the V5C is the most important one. This vital piece of paper is red on the cover and has V5C written on it in the top-right corner. However, don’t let anyone take it away or photograph it before you have the cash for the car, because criminals can use the logbook to take out loans using your car’s information, or even use it to clone your details to fit a stolen car.

  1. Work out a fair asking price

Depreciation is the driving factor when it comes to valuing your car to sell it. That means you need to focus on what someone will pay, rather than what you paid. If you’re struggling to value your wheels, start by looking at similar cars that are advertised on sites such as AutoTrader, eBay and Gumtree.

After arriving at the price you think your car is worth, start looking at where you would like to advertise the vehicle. Again if you are trading in or even scrapping it, don’t be afraid to hunt around, as offers from different dealers will vary depending on how desperate they are for stock.

  1. Advertise your car effectively

The best way to sell your car in this day and age is to take out an online advert on a site such as AutoTrader or eBay. These websites allow you to put a large number of photos and thorough description to entice buyers.

  1. Don’t get ripped off by scams or thieves

While it’s nice to think that no one will get ripped off, some people out there will. To ensure it’s not you, there are a few simple measures that you can use to protect yourself. Firstly, when a potential customer calls up wanting to buy or test drive the car, make sure you have their full name, phone number and, if possible, their address.

Also, before you let anyone get behind the wheel of your car, make sure they have their driving licence and proof of insurance. If they do not, you can demonstrate the car to them buy driving it yourself.

  1. Make sure you get paid before handing over the car

Never hand over the car keys or documents until the money from the buyer is safely in your hands. Whether that means counting cash in an envelope, or your own bank confirming by telephone that funds from online transfers, personal or building society cheques, or bankers drafts have cleared into your account, the principle is the same.

  1. Completing the sale

Once the money has been handed over, you’ll need to draw up some simple paperwork to keep things clear and above board for both parties.

  1. Notify the DVLA that your car has been sold

With your old car speeding off home with its new owner, your only remaining task is to notify the DVLA of the change of ownership. You no longer need to post your V5 to Swansea as you can do it all online.