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Car Selling Guide

Buying a new car is one thing, but selling one is a whole other, and potentially more complex matter.

With so many different things to consider such as value, timing and even buying your replacement set of wheels, not to mention the stress of having to find a buyer and getting the right price, there are a lot of things to think about for those selling a used car.If you’re unsure about what it takes to go it alone or what help you could get from a third party, we’ve included plenty of helpful tips to guide you in the direction that’s best for you.

Maximising your car's value before sale

One of the first things to think about before selling your car is how to maximise its value; after all, you’ll want to ensure you get as much money back as possible.Therefore, there are number of different ways to ensure your car is at its absolute best before potential buyers come to look at it. We’ve highlighted six different ways you can do this:

MOT and paperwork

If your car hasn’t recently had an MOT or has one coming up, then it’s usually best to get this done before you consider selling it. This will make sure any issues can be rectified beforehand. It can increase the chances of sale if a potential buyer knows they won’t have to pay for an MOT straightway, and they’ll also know that the vehicle is in good working order.

Then you’ll want to ensure that you have all the relevant documentation too, which should include:

  • Logbook
  • Service book
  • Manual
  • MOT certificates
  • Any significant invoices and receipts for parts purchased or work completed on the vehicle

If relevant, produce proof that outstanding loans have been paid off to confirm the car is yours.

Gather the bits

Simply make sure that you have all the keys, including the spares, and any special socket-style tools for unlocking alloy wheels (if you have wheel nuts that lock). Parts that have been removed should also be re-fitted, such as a tool kit or parcel shelf.

The right price

After you’ve gathered the bits and pieces and had the car checked over at the MOT, do a little research. This will give you an idea of how much vehicles similar in style and age to yours are selling for, meaning you’ll be able to put it up for sale at the right price.

Remember, if you put it up too high it’s likely to not sell quickly, and if you put it too low you’ll be cheating yourself out of money.

Make it perfect

This should sound pretty straightforward, but before you have any one come to view the car, or before you put any photos online, make sure the car is sparkling on the inside and out. Pay particular attention to the bits viewers are more likely to see.

It may also be worth investing in touch-ups if your car is relatively new and has minor scuffs or scrapes.

Delete data

Although this may not be something you’ll immediately think of, some newer models tend to feature Bluetooth or have a built-in sat nav. These will often store information such as your phone book or work, home and friend’s addresses within. Therefore, make sure you remember to wipe any information before selling.

Be honest

Being upfront and truthful about your car, such as disclosing any accidents that have occurred in the past, will make your sale much more straightforward and could prevent any legal issues in the future, should anything happen with the car.

Best time to sell

Now that you’ve got everything sorted when it comes to your car, you’ll be ready to sell. But something you may not know is that there are specific times of the year when it’s best to sell your car. For example, the changing seasons can have a big impact:

Spring – With the weather beginning to warm up ahead of summer the demand for sports cars tend to rise, along with their prices, due to the lure of a convertible

Summer – While the demand for convertibles and sports cars tends to hold, the second-hand car market usually takes a dip due to the school holidays, ultimately lowering prices

Autumn/Winter – As the colder and typically more dangerous weather begins to appear, this will often drive up the demand for 4x4 and crossover vehicles, making it a great time to sell. However, the market will begin to slow closer to Christmas

There are also non-seasonal factors that can play a part in selling your car. This includes politics, with the annual budget and big events such as the referendum having an effect on car sales, where they tend to dip due to the cost of fuel.

The issue of new registration plates in March and September often causes huge spikes I activity too. However, try to avoid selling around the immediate date as a wealth of availability gives the upper hand to the buyer rather than the seller.

Sporting events such as the Olympics or the World Cup can also have an effect as people’s attention is diverted elsewhere.
Of course, your actual car can have an effect too. If your vehicle has more than 60,000 miles on the clock or is over five years old this can have a huge effect the price, as this is when issues typically begin to take place. Therefore, it’s recommended to try and sell a little while before either of these two eventualities.

Third party v private sale

When it comes to selling your car, just like buying, you have a number of different options to choose from, which include using a third party or selling yourself. These come with their own pros and cons that can affect the price that you’ll receive at the end, so it’s important to know which one is best for you.

Private sale

Selling your car privately means you’ll get more cash for yourself, and you could receive anywhere between 10 and 15% more than when selling through a third party. However, selling your car privately can be very time-consuming as you’ll be taking on the work yourself, and without any previous experience it could become a little tricky. However, if this is the avenue you opt to go down there are a few things you’ll need to ensure you do:

Advertise your car to potential buyers in a number of ways. You can do this by putting ‘For Sale’ signs in the car itself or in shop windows, classified ads in local papers or even on websites such as Gumtree or AutoTrader. You could even leverage your friends to spread word of mouth or use other online avenues such as Facebook

  • Be sure to describe the car correctly in the advert, even the smallest details can be helpful
  • Also ensure that you can prove the car is yours and you’re the legal owner
  • Be sure to reply quickly and promptly to all correspondence when it comes to potential buyers to show you’re serious, and to hopefully guarantee a quick sale
  • Be present at all viewings and test-drives
  • Arrange a safe way to be paid

Third party sale

This is when you sell your car to a dealership, which can be quicker and easier as you won’t need to deal with negotiating with a number of potential buyers, which will need to be fitted around your day-to-day life.

There are also different ways you can sell through a dealer too. These include:
Part-exchange – If you’re looking to buy a new car anyway, this will tend to be the easiest option when it comes to selling your old one. This is where your car’s value will be put against the cost of the car you wish to buy from the dealer, meaning you’re paying less overall for your new set of wheels.

Selling outright – If you aren’t looking to buy a new car then this is a quick and easy process where the car will be inspected by the dealership or garage, a value will be estimated based on the car’s trade value and condition, and they’ll purchase the car from you. However, you won’t necessarily receive as good a price as if you were selling privately, as the dealer will need to be able to sell the vehicle on themselves for a profit.

Your legal requirements

When it comes to selling your car, there are certain legal requirements you need to meet. Although it may seem pretty straight forward, if you’re opting for a private sale you should ensure you know what it is you need to do.

As mentioned previously, you should make sure the car is in a great working condition, has all of its legal documents and that you tell the potential buyer everything there is to know, such as any previous accidents. This is actually your key responsibility, as the buyer should be fully informed before purchasing the vehicle.

Once a deal has been reached, you should provide the buyer with a seller’s contract signed by both parties. You can find templates for these types of contracts online.

If the car you’re selling happens to be unroadworthy, make sure you state this in any adverts you place, as it’s illegal to sell an unroadworthy vehicle unless it is intended for spare parts or repairs. This will also cover you if the buyer decides to drive the car and it breaks down, as the car was stated as being unroadworthy upon the time of purchase.

When someone’s buying a car, chances are that they’ll want to take it for a test drive, which means you’ll need to check if they’re legally allowed to do so. To do this you’ll have to ensure they have a valid license and are insured to drive another car, which is covered under Driving Other Cars (DOC) cover. You may also be able to cover test drivers under your insurance for total safety, but you would need to check this with your insurer.

Once the car has been sold you’ll also need to contact the DVLA as soon as possible. This is to inform them that the car has been sold and you are no longer the owner. If this is left for too long it could cause problems for you if the new driver is involved in an accident or commits and offence. Your V5C certificate inside your logbook will clarify all the finer details of what the DVLA require.

Accepting an offer

Once a sale has been agreed upon you’re almost at the finish line, but there are still a few things you need to do before the car is theirs and the money is yours.

Before doing anything, make sure you’ve been paid. This could be done by a direct bank transfer, but make sure the money hits your account before letting the buyer drive away. If they’re paying with a cashier’s check you should go to their bank with them in order to get your money.

Once all of the above has been done, the next step will be to finalise all the paperwork, which will require you to:

  • Complete a bill of sale
  • Sign the car over to the buyer
  • Fill out a Release of Liability form 
  • If required, this should then be submitted to the DVLA
  • If applicable, provide warranty documents
  • Provide all copies of maintenance records – making sure you remove all personal information
  • Include all other additional paperwork that could be required
  • Hand the keys over

Now that you have all the advice you need for selling your old car, you’ll be able to make the decision to go it alone or enlist the help of a third party – the choice is yours.