How to sell a car

Don't be tricked into thinking your old car isn't worth anything. This is how to sell a car.

BuyaCar team
Feb 7, 2019

The best part of buying a new car is a having shiny and shimmering new motor on your driveway for all to see. The worst part? Getting the old, less-than shiny car off your driveway.

Luckily there are a few options when it comes to selling a car. Of course, selling privately gets you the most money. But other options save you precious time and patience.

And remember that whether you’re selling to a dealer in the form of a trade-in, to an online car-buying company, or to a private buyer, you need to employ the same tactics as car dealers to achieve the right price for your car.

Below, we explain how to sell your old car effectively and boost the amount of money flowing back to your pocket.


Chosing the right type of sale 

There are a variety of people and places willing to accept your old car – but each comes at a price.

Private buyer

This is not the most convenient way to sell your car (you’ll need to make sure you’re around to deal with buyers) and not the easiest (you’ll have to negotiate, which can be awkward). There’s money to sort out, too, so make sure the buyer makes a cash transfer to your account before they take your car.

Don't forget the paperwork, either – change keeper details online immediately so it’s clear you’re no longer responsible for the car and the car tax. Make sure they’re insured for the test drive too. On the flipside, this should warrant more money than other options.


✔  Best price
✔  Simpliefies your new purchase


Not convenient
Can be risky


This is the easiest and most convenient way to sell your car. The key word here is ‘sell’. Don’t just roll over and accept the first price the dealer offers you.

Research your car’s value before going to a dealership. The dealer will know what your car is worth, and then, depending on how generous they feel, how much they want your old car, and how well you negotiate, will add some or all of their profit margin to that figure to close the deal.

At Buyacar, we work with a company called The Car Buying Group to part exchange your vehicle. You can get a valuation here.

After that you get a phone call, then you'll go through the car specification and condition on the phone. As long as you give accurate details, the subsequent quote is guaranteed. The car is picked up and money is transferred.


✔  Easy and convenient
✔  The least time consuming option


It can be hard to untangle what the dealer is offering you for your car from the discount they’re giving you on the new one
Dealer generally won't give you the same money as you'd get from a private sale

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.


✔  Convenient


Very low price


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.


✔  Generally good for selling interesting or classic cars


Run the risk of getting a low price 

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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