How to sell a car

Trying to get the absolute most from your current car before you buy a new one? Here are some tips to maximise your chances of a strong sale

BuyaCar team
Apr 23, 2021

If you're thinking it might be time for a change of car, you're probably going to want to sell the one that's currently sat outside your home. This can be pretty daunting if you don't know where to start, so take some time to consider the best way of going about it.

At the most basic level, selling your car is a good opportunity to make a bit of money. As long as you've looked after it, it's bound to be worth something, and getting an understanding of just how much it's worth can be a good place to start.

Then there's advertising to consider, along with how you're intending to sell it. There are more ways of selling a car than you might have thought, and you can be sure different types of buyers will offer very different amounts of money.

But of course, once the car is sold you might well be looking for something to replace it with. We can help there, too, because at BuyaCar we have a huge selection of great used cars ready and waiting to be delivered to your door. Head to our search page to get started.

Choosing the right type of sale 

You can sell your car in a variety of ways. You can expect to get more money if you go private for example, but if you're more interested in a quick and easy sale then you might be more tempted to forego the extra cash and get rid.

Private buyer

A private sale is completed between two individuals. It's quite a common way for cars to change hands, but it can prove to be time consuming and stressful. Because essentially you're advertising you're own car, and you can choose a variety of platforms to do this, whether it's in the local newspaper or even on social media.

You then simply wait for the phone to ring and hope it's someone asking to buy your car. This can be a mentally and physically taxing process. You'll need to be on hand to answer any questions about your car, while many buyers will want to have a look at the car first before they buy it, so you'll need to be flexible and make time to accommodate.

Be prepared to speak to plenty of people when attempting to sell privately and don't be surprised to see many of these potential buyers come and go without making any serious offers. But with a bit of patience and perseverance, eventually a buyer will come along and decide your car is the one for them.

At this point the fun really starts. First you'll have to agree on the price, and then you'll have to administer the change of ownership between you. All of this can be done on the V5C logbook, which you send off to the DLVA.

The good thing about opting for a private sale is that you're in control. You value your car at a price you think is fair, and you sell it. More often than not, you'll get much more money from a private sale than any other option on this list.


This is the easiest and most convenient way to sell your car. It also doubles up as a good way to buy your next car, too, so in many ways a part-exchange might feel like the best option.

But it's important to make sure you know what you want from a part-exchange deal. It can be easy to be swept away by the thought of a new car and forget all about your old one. You should still seek to get every penny of value from the car your selling; this is why it's important to ensure you know how much it's worth.

In most cases the company you're dealing with will have a set price they expect to pay for a particular car. This will incorporate the chance of resale, so if they think a car is going to sit unsold for too long they will reduce their valuation, regardless of how much it ought to be worth. Don't forget they'll be looking to make a profit, too, so be on your guard and stick to your guns.

There are plenty of ways to complete a part-exchange; we offer them here at BuyaCar. The process essentially involves you offering your current car as a means to pay for the value of your new car. So if you're buying a car for £10,000 and your current car is worth £4,000, you're only required to pay the remaining £6,000 once you've handed over the keys.

If you're able to finalise a good deal, then a part-exchange is by far the most convenient way to complete both the sale of your old car and the purchase of your new one.

Car-buying company

There are many companies offering you instant cash for your car. They’re useful if you’re in a hurry, have a debt to settle to clear the way for a car purchase, or you just don't want any hassle. However, this convenience comes at a price. Because they dispose of all the cars they buy at auction where prices are lowest, the companies operate on very slender profit margins. They can't afford to give you a penny more than the car will achieve at auction and to make a profit..

For this reason, they’re ruthless when it comes to valuing a car. Because you generate the initial valuation online, it’s vital you’re totally honest about faults, damage, keeper history and so on. Naturally, people skirt around the details in order to generate a favourable valuation. All this comes to nothing when the car is actually physically inspected and every single dent, scratch and missed service taken into account.


Since the arrival of online auctions such as eBay we’ve all become a little more familiar with how auctions work: pay a fee to list your car, set a reserve price below which you won't sell, and wait to see what happens.

Away from eBay, this is just how physical auctions work too. In order to achieve the best prices, auction companies organise sales by vehicle type and age. That way, they attract like-minded buyers who will bid against each other and achieve a better hammer price.

Even so, it’s hard to see why you would use an auction because you’ll invariably get less for your car than a private buyer will offer you. However, if you have something a bit special like a Porsche that requires expensive repair work, they can be effective when sold alongside similar cars when specialist buyers are present.

Presenting your car

After you’ve decided on how you’re selling your car, you need to do the following:

Appraise your car honestly

Establish the condition of your car, being scrupulously honest about its service history, tyres, interior and exterior, as well as its general appeal. View it through the eyes of someone buying it. You’d spot dents and dings, and so will they. That said, don't undervalue your car.

If it has redeeming features (a good specification, an attractive colour, full service history or it’s cheap to run) consider these, too.

Get at least three valuations

Having established the condition of your car, visit at least three online valuation tools to get an average valuation. You may be shown three values – typically private, trade-in and auction. Auction is the lowest and a good basis on which to build your price or to calculate a dealer’s trade-in offer. Ignore part-exchange because that depends on so many factors beyond your control and is too general to be of use.

Private is useful if you’re looking to sell the car in the classifieds but check the figure against the prices of similar privately-advertised cars being sold there.

Present you car properly

Whether selling your car privately or part-exchanging it, it’s vital it looks its best.

  • Clean it inside and out
  • Attend stone chips with a matching touch-up pen.
  • Get dents seen to (these can be £80 a panel, though)
  • If the MoT is due soon and you reckon it’ll pass, get a new MoT.
  • Take pictures of it for the advert. They don’t need to be on a state of the art camera - a smartphone will be more than enough. Get all of the car in the picture. Take it off your driveway and park it in an uncluttered environment for the pictures.

Write an effective advertisement

Most classified sales forms will make sure you give the most important information – model, age, mileage – but don't forget to give colour, length of MoT, number of former keepers and details of service history. Give details of any interesting options, too. Don’t write in indecipherable acronyms, you’re not paying per word like in the old days of the classifieds.

Negotiate effectively

Keep things polite and friendly but keep your distance, too: you’re selling a car, not making a friend. Keep control and keep quiet, too, volunteering only essential information and answering questions truthfully when asked. Be prepared to move on your price but when you’re not prepared to budge any further, say so politely but firmly.


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