How to sell your car privately

Selling your car privately is likely to get you the best price, as long as you’re prepared to invest some time and effort in organising your sale. Find out what’s involved – from advertising and paperwork to safety precautions at buyer viewings and when taking payment.

Advertising your car

Remember

Don’t base your advertised asking price on guesswork. Instead, try using the car valuation tools on sites such as Glass’s Guide, Parkers, What Car? and CAP.

Advertising your car is your first, essential step to a successful sale. There are many ways you can advertise, some free, others involving a cost.

Like many private car sellers, your choice of advertising will probably be determined by how urgently you need to sell your car.

Some of the most popular ways of advertising cars are:

  • In your local newspaper’s classified ads section
  • Car-selling websites such as AutoTrader and Gumtree
  • Car auction sides such as eBay and eBid
  • ‘For sale’ signs in local shop windows
  • A ‘for sale’ sign in one of your car’s windows

Whichever option(s) you choose, your advertisement must by law describe the car accurately and include the following details:

  • The exact make and model
  • The year of manufacture and registration identifier (eg ‘09’ or ‘59’ plate for 2009)
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Colour
  • Full service history (or not)
  • List of equipment/extras
  • Your contact details

Ensuring safe payment

Once you’ve finished negotiating the price and agreed the sale with the buyer, you need to agree how they’ll pay the money to you. Here are the main options, with some tips to help ensure safe payment.

Cash in full

Make sure that you count the money. If possible, it’s a good idea to meet the buyer at your bank to take payment. That way, you can pay in the money immediately and the cashier will check that the notes are genuine.

Immediate bank transfer using the CHAPS system

Keep possession of your car until the funds have transferred. Bear in mind that with this payment method you have to reveal your bank account details to the buyer.

Cheque or banker’s draft

Make sure you have proof of the buyer’s name and address – possibly a copy of a utility bill – so you can follow them up if you don’t receive payment.

If you have any doubts about them, don’t hand over the car keys until you know that your bank has cleared the full payment into your account.

Most banks will show the cheque money arriving in your account by the next working day, but this is not the same as the cheque being cleared.

A common fraud is to present a cheque for a purchase, get the bank to confirm that the cheque has been paid in, and the seller then releases the goods. A few days later the cheque bounces because it is fraudulent, but by then the seller has lost their goods.

If your buyer wants to buy the car but can’t pay immediately, take a non-refundable deposit. £100 is the normal amount. This will help cover your costs if they pull out and you have to re-advertise.

Essential paperwork

As soon as you’ve been paid for the car, you need to complete the following essential paperwork:

  • Write a receipt and make two copies – one for you and one for your buyer. It should include the date, price, registration number, make and model, plus you and your buyer’s names and addresses.
  • Complete the tear-off part at the bottom of the V5C registration document (logbook) and send it to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency at the address given.
  • Hand over the top part of the V5C to your buyer.
  • Give the new owner the car’s handbook, the keys (including any duplicate sets), the service logbook plus any receipts you have, and the MOT certificate if the car is over three years old. If you’re selling with a full service history, buyers also like to receive old MOT certificates and other maintenance receipts.
  • And finally, keep a separate note of the buyer’s name and address.

Don’t be tricked by fraudulent buyers

Did you know?

Around 7 million used cars change hands each year in the UK, many of them through private sales.

Selling your car privately can expose you to thieves posing as potential buyers. Here are some recent scams to be on the look-out for:

  • People wanting to buy your car using PayPal or similar e-payment systems – the account may have been set up using false credit card details.
  • Text messages expressing an interest in your car only for you to be charged at a premium rate if you respond by phone or text.
  • A buyer offering to buy your car unseen who pays the full amount through PayPal. You’re then notified that you’ve been overpaid and you’re asked to return the difference through a different online payment method. As you do that, the fraudster arranges for their original PayPal transaction to be reversed and you lose the money you’ve ‘returned’.
  • Someone posing as a car exporter, who asks you to transfer ‘shipping fees’ to overseas ‘buyers’.
  • Phishing emails from so-called car buying and selling websites requesting login and payment details for your card.
  • A buyer who pays by cheque and takes the car before the cheque clears, but the cheque bounces a few days later because it is a forgery or fake.

Safety when people come to view your car

As the people coming to view your car will usually be complete strangers, it makes sense to take some basic precautions:

  • When arranging a viewing, consider having a friend or family member present.
  • Ask the potential buyer to check with their insurance company that they’re covered to drive your car. Even if they have a “driving other cars” policy it will probably only provide third party cover. Contact your insurance company – you may need to get temporary car insurance for the test drive.
  • Ask the buyer for proof of identity and check that they have a valid driver’s licence.
  • Go with potential buyers on test drives and don’t hand over the keys until you are in the passenger seat.
  • Always remove the keys from the ignition before leaving a potential buyer alone in your car.
  • Be wary if a buyer brings some ‘tag-a-long’ friends – they may plan to break into your house while you’re out on the test drive.
  • Don’t hand over the car keys or documents until your bank has confirmed that it has cleared the full value of the vehicle into your account.

You can find out more about how to protect yourself from fraudulent car buyers at the following websites:

Your next step

Find out how to prepare your car for sale to maximise its value

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