Selling your car
Planning to sell your car? Here are the different ways and places you can do so and how each may affect the price you’ll get. And don’t miss our tips on the best time to sell your car and what to do if you haven’t finished all the payments on it yet.
Choosing the best way to sell your car
Your first step
You’ll get the most for your car by selling privately. The next best option is dealer part-exchange, followed by a car-buying website.
If you sell privately you may get 10% to 15% more for your car than you would from a dealer. This means that if your car was worth £5,500 if sold privately, you’d lose at least £500 by selling it to a dealer instead.
Selling to a dealer
Part-exchange: The easiest way to sell your car is to trade it in when buying a new or used car from a dealer. Although you’ll probably get less for it than through a private sale, the plus side is that you’ll avoid the work and expense of advertising and dealing with enquiries, viewings and test drives.
Your car’s part-exchange value will be a little more than the trade price you’d get if you sold your car outright to a dealer. But the dealer may not be prepared to negotiate over a part-exchange price.
Selling outright: Selling outright to a used car dealer or garage is a relatively quick and simple process. The price you’ll get will be based on the car’s trade value and condition, so it won’t be the best price possible.
Selling a car privately can be time-consuming, but you’ll probably get a better price.
Here’s a summary of what you’ll need to do:
- Advertise your car to potential buyers – for example, a ‘For Sale’ sign on the windows of your car and/or a shop, classified ads in local papers, or ads on sites such as Gumtree, PistonHeads, AutoTrader and Motors. Or, you might be able to find a buyer among friends or their friends through social media like Facebook, or at work.
- Make sure that you describe your car correctly in your advertisement, that it’s roadworthy and that you can prove you are its legal owner.
- Deal promptly with calls or emails from potential buyers.
- Arrange and be present at viewings and test-drives.
- Arrange a safe way of being paid for the sale.
Online car buying sites
You simply enter your car’s details and the site comes back with a quote that is likely to be lower or similar to your car’s trade value.
But this valuation is subject to a physical inspection of your car. If the inspection reveals some faults, the final valuation figure may be considerably lower. Also, you may have to pay an administration fee for the service.
Which? Magazine investigated six car-buying websites in 2010. It found that with five of them, sellers would have got a better price by trading their car in at a dealership.
Auctioning a car is quick and relatively hassle-free. But there’s no guarantee that your car will reach its reserve price, and you may end up getting less for it than through other ways of selling.
Most auction buyers are in the motor trade. If you’re lucky and attract a private buyer, they may be prepared to pay more for your car than a dealer would be.
Live auctions: You’ll need to pay an entry fee of around £30, set a reserve price for your car, take it along to the auction and then wait for the hammer to drop. If your car sells, the winning bidder pays for it immediately and the auction company then gives you the sale price minus its commission (up to 10% of the sale price).
Online auctions are a particularly easy way of selling a used car. You simply advertise your car on the site with a full description and photos, and then put the auction ‘live’.
There are some charges – for example, eBay Motors charge an insertion fee of £10 and a final value fee based on the selling price (£20–£35). As with a private sale, you must describe your car accurately so as not to mislead buyers.
Cars with outstanding finance
Did you know?
It is illegal to knowingly sell someone a car that has outstanding finance without informing them of the situation.
Before you can legally sell the car, you must:
- Inform the finance company and ask them for the “settlement figure” they will need from you to pay off your loan in full.
- Pay off the settlement figure, plus any early repayment fee and administration fee that the lender may charge.
Despite these costs, paying off your loan early should end up costing you less than your remaining payments would have done.
Bear in mind that it’s usually very difficult to sell a car with outstanding finance. The finance company will have registered your car on the HPI and Experian databases when you took out the finance plan.
Before buying a used car, dealers and most sensible private buyers check these databases to make sure that there’s no finance outstanding on it. You can arrange a car history or data check by the AA, RAC, HPI Check and other companies for around £20.
Best time to sell your car
Timing is important when selling a car – both the age your car has reached and the time of year you sell it. Here’s what to bear in mind:
- The younger your car is, the more you’re likely to get for it, as there’s a perception that cars are not as reliable after five years or 60,000 miles.
- A convertible is more desirable in the spring or summer when the weather’s warmer and skies are blue.
- A four-wheel-drive appeals more in the winter when driving conditions are poorer.
- If you’re part-exchanging, choose a month when business tends to be slower at dealerships – for example, January, March, August and December.
Sellers and buyers can no longer transfer existing tax when a car is sold. Instead the buyer must tax the car themselves and the old owner can apply for a refund. However, new tax is now backdated to the beginning of the month and refunds are from the start of the next. This means if you sell and then buy a car early in the month, you will be paying tax twice in that period.
If you apply for SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) before the end of the month you can avoid paying tax on your existing car. However, you are liable for a fine if you then drive on the roads untaxed. This could make it tricky if a buyer wants to test drive your car.
Disposing of your car
If your car is reaching the end of its life and becoming uneconomic to maintain, consider donating it to charity or scrapping it. Read our guide on How to dispose of an old car.
Your next step
Find out How to prepare your car for sale so that you maximise its value.