Best ways to sell your car

Planning to sell your car? Here you can learn the different ways and places you can do so and how each might 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 there’s still outstanding finance.

How much is your car worth?

The first step of selling your car is working out how much your car might be worth. 

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It’s important to remember these are only estimations and there are several other factors which might affect the value. For example, any damage, quality of the tires, service record and how long is left on the MOT.

But there are other things you need to take into consideration when valuing your car.

For example, it might take longer to get the best possible price for your car. So, if you need money quickly, you might want to consider selling at a lower price. 

Choosing the best way to sell your car

There are a number of different options for selling your car. The best one for you depends on how much you want to get for the car, how much time you’re willing to spend on it and if you want to get another car.

Selling privately means you might get more for your car than you would from a dealer. But might be  time consuming.

If you want another car straight away, part exchanging with a dealer is might be a better option.

This means if your car was worth £5,500 if sold privately, you might lose at least £500 by selling it to a dealer.

Selling a car to a dealer

If you want another car straight away, then part exchanging with a dealer can seem like the easiest option.

You’ll probably get less for it than through a private sale, but 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 might not be prepared to negotiate over a part-exchange price.

If you don’t want another car straight away, you might still be able to sell directly to the dealer. While this might be quick, you’re unlikely to get the best price. 

Selling a car privately

Selling a car privately can be time-consuming, but you might get a better price.

Here’s 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 websites such as GumtreePistonHeadsAutoTrader 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 you describe your car correctly in your advertisement and that you can prove you’re 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

There are lots of online car buying sites that will offer to take the work out of selling a car. You enter your car’s details on the company’s website such as age and mileage, receive a valuation, and then take it to a local depot to have it assessed.

However, Which? says “You’re almost certain to get a better price selling the car, or even sending it straight to auction, yourself. In our undercover research, we found that five out of six of our mystery shoppers would have been better off selling to a dealer – in one case, by over £2,000.”

If you do choose to sell your car online be aware that usually the online valuation is subject to a physical inspection of your car. If the inspection reveals some faults, the final valuation figure might be lower. You also might have to pay an administration fee for the service.

Selling a car at auction

Auctioning a car is quick and relatively hassle-free.

But there’s no guarantee your car will reach its reserve price, and you might end up getting less for it than through other ways of selling. And, if it doesn’t reach your reserved price, you’ll have to take it home and try again in another sale.

Most auction buyers are in the motor trade. If you’re lucky and attract a private buyer, they might be prepared to pay more for your car than a dealer would be.

Large car auction companies such as British Car Auctions and Manheim have branches throughout the country, but you might find it easier to use a local independent auctioneer nearer to you.

You can also look at online auction sites like eBay, but you’ll have to do a lot more of the work around creating the advert and answering questions. If your car sells, the winning bidder pays for it immediately and the auction company then gives you the sale price minus its commission. This can be up to 10% of the sale price.

Can I sell my car with outstanding finance?

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If you’re selling a car with finance still outstanding there are two things you must do before you can legally sell it:

  • Inform the finance company and ask them for the “settlement figure” they’ll need from you to pay off your loan in full.
  • Pay off the settlement figure, plus any early repayment fee and administration fee the lender might charge.

Despite these costs, paying off your loan early might end up costing you less than your remaining payments would have done.

Bear in mind it’s usually 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 there’s no finance outstanding on it.

You can arrange a car history or data check by the AARACHPI Check and other companies for around £20.

Find out more about ending car finance early on our guide Cutting car finance costs

Can I part-exchange my car with outstanding finance?

The same principles apply as when you’re selling a car with outstanding finance.

You must contact the finance company for the “settlement figure” and pay this along with any fees and administration charges before part-exchanging.

Keep in mind that most dealers will be looking to make a profit when they resell your car, so the part-exchange price might be lower than the price you’d be able to get selling privately. But it’s simpler and quicker to part-exchange than it is to list, do viewings and test drives to sell a car on your own.

Cancel your vehicle tax and get a refund

Sellers and buyers can no longer transfer existing tax when a car is sold.

Instead you’ll need to tax the car yourself 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.

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’re 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.

To cancel your tax and get a refund go GOV.UK

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.

Negotiating when selling your car

If you’re selling your car privately or to a dealer, the buyer is likely to want to haggle about the price. So, don’t be caught off guard – read our negotiating tips below so you know how to use to maximise your car’s value without losing the sale.

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Don’t be tricked by fraudulent buyers

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:

  • 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.
  • 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 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
  • A buyer offering to buy your car unseen who pays the full amount through PayPal. You’re then notified you’ve been overpaid and you’re asked to return the difference through a different online payment method. As you do this, the fraudster arranges for their original PayPal transaction to be reversed and you lose the money you’ve ‘returned’.
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After you have sold your car

After you’ve sold your car you need to inform the DVLA you’re no longer the owner.

You and the person you’re selling to, must sign and date the relevant part of the V5C and send it to the DVLA. 

Don’t forget to pay off any finance that is still left outstanding on your car, and to let your insurer know that you’ve sold the car.

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How to dispose of an old car

There comes a point with every car when it’s no longer practical or safe to prolong its life. What’s more, if it’s not roadworthy you might end up with points on your driving licence or a fine. So, if your car is reaching the end of the road, read on to find out how you can dispose of it.

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If you decide to scrap your car, there are a few points to remember before you get started.

  • Sort out the documents. When a car is scrapped the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) needs to be notified using a Certificate of Destruction (CoD). These can only be issued by scrap car recycling centres, called Authorised Treatment Facilities (ATFs). If you don’t, then you’re still responsible for the vehicle and could end up being fined.
  • Keep your personal details safe. Customers in England and Wales have to prove their identity when selling their car as scrap. You’ll be asked to show photo ID and proof of address, such as a utility bill. Your information will be stored for three years, so make sure you’re sharing it with a reputable organisation.
  • Reclaim insurance and tax. When you’ve had your vehicle scrapped at an ATF and a CoD has been issued, the DVLA will refund any full months of remaining car tax (officially known as VED but sometimes referred to as road tax). You should also tell your car’s insurance supplier and ask for a refund,or put any credit towards another insurance policy.
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Scrapping a car

People usually scrap their cars if they break down, fail a MoT, require expensive repairs, or they can’t find a buyer.

Scrapping your car should be a last resort you might choose to do if it’s damaged beyond repair or you can’t find anyone prepared to buy it.

Remember, unless your car is a complete wreck, it might still be worth something, so you shouldn’t have to pay to get it towed away.

Bear in mind, the vehicle recycler (otherwise known as a scrapyard, breaker or dismantler) might make hundreds of pounds from your cast-off simply by selling some of its parts, even if your car might just be worth the value of the scrap metal.

If you decide to go ahead, your car must be taken to an ATF to be scrapped.

You’ll then be sent a CoD.

It’s illegal to scrap your vehicle anywhere else.

Scrapping your car will ensure it’s properly recycled without damaging the environment.

Scrap car prices fluctuate depending on the model of car, the region it’s collected in, whether it has any re-saleable parts and current market rates.

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Rewarding Recycling and CarTakeBack are the official recycling partners for a selection of motor manufacturers.

All their scrap car recycling centres have ATF licences.

You can also deliver it directly to a ATF if you prefer.

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If your old car isn’t worth much or you haven’t got the time to arrange selling it, why not donate it to Charitycar

They’ll collect it free of charge and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing your car’s value is going to the charity of your choice.

You could also consider donating your car through Giveacar

If you donate your old car, it will either be sold at auction or scrapped.

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impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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