How to sell your car

Discover different options to sell your car

With so many options out there, choosing the best way to sell your car can be a stressful. From private sales and online car buyers, to part exchange and auctions, we explore the pros and cons of each to help you find the best way to sell your car, and for the best price.

Choosing the best way to sell your car

Selling a car has become complicated in recent years, with more options than ever before to get the best return for your vehicle - but what is the best option for you?

Traditionally there were two simple methods, either trade it in for a shiny new motor at a dealership or choose to list it in the classifieds for sale privately.

Today, you have four conventional ways to sell a car, and each has different pros and cons.

The most important thing is making sure you sell it right, which means getting the best price for it. This starts with preparing your car and showing it off in its best light, to doing the deal and sending it on its way.

Private sales

Selling your car privately is generally the most time-consuming way of selling your car but also the one that will potentially earn you the most money. You have the bother of having to get it properly prepared for sale, advertising it, potentially dealing with timewasters before having to deal with the paperwork when, and if, the car eventually sells.

While it's not for all, for those who want to get the most for their car (in most cases), it can be a cost-effective way of selling your car. Just ensure you're careful and wise when people come around to look at it, and never let a person test drive it without proof of insurance or let them drive it without you in the car.

When finalising the sale, make sure you accept full payment for the vehicle before handing over the keys and that the method of payment is genuine. If it's a cash buyer, double check all the notes are genuine and count the entire amount with them.

Pros & cons of selling privately


  • Set your price
  • Sell from your own home
  • Sell when you are ready


  • No guarantees
  • Possible haggling
  • Time-consuming

How to advertise your car

Before selling your car privately, you'll need to decide the best way to advertise your car. You will want to reach as many prospective buyers as possible, so choose a variety of advertising methods. Try placing adverts in:

  • Car selling websites
  • A local shop window
  • Your car window
  • Your local newspaper

Whatever you decide, by law you must advertise your car accurately. For best coverage, include the following details:

  • Make and model of car
  • Colour
  • Condition
  • Mileage
  • Your contact details
  • Year of manufacture & registration identifier (e.g. '09' or '59' for 2009)
  • Service history
  • MOT status
  • Fuel efficiency and type
  • Engine size
  • CO2 emission rating (for tax purposes)
  • Transmission
  • Detail any modifications

You should also include any details of recent repairs and the number of previous owners, as it can boost the sale and value of your car. Finally, clarify the forms of payment you are willing to accept.

Take a lot of high-resolution photos of your car for the advert. The more pictures, the more likely you are to sell. Get shots of the front, back, sides and interior, and the boot and engine if you consider them sale points.

Test drives for private sales

Some potential buyers may ask for a test drive. Make sure they are legally allowed to do so.

  • Check your potential buyer has a valid driving license and insurance coverage to drive your car. The buyer may have Driving Other Cars (DOC) cover, but this type of insurance often provides third-party-only insurance protection. In other words, should the worst happen, any damage to your car would not be covered.
  • Ask your insurer about the best ways to insure your car for test drives. Some insurance companies now offer temporary policies that cover test drives.
  • Always accompany the potential buyer and always be the one in control of the car keys. Take the prospective buyer's name, address and contact number, before you let them test drive your vehicle.

Safety tips for private car sales

Be cautious of fraudulent buyers and scams:

  • Be wary of offers to buy your car without a single viewing
  • Be cautious of potential buyers who claim someone else will pay in their stead
  • Do not let any prospective buyers into your home
  • Consider having someone with you during viewings
  • Never hand the car keys or documents over until payment is cleared and in your account
  • Remember: a cheque will show up in your account after a couple of days, but it won't clear for at least five working days and could still bounce
  • Beware of cold callers asking you for money to help sell your car (aka possible vehicle-matching scams)
  • Beware of 'phishing' email scams - these may pose as buyers or even classifieds websites
  • Take caution with supposed overseas buyers who ask you to cover transportation costs (aka potential shipping scams)

Also, remember, it is also illegal to sell a car in an unroadworthy condition to an unaware buyer. If the vehicle is not fit to be driven, by law you must make this clear in the advert and sell it 'for repairs or spare parts'.

How to negotiate selling your car

“The best advice I could give anybody would just be to do plenty of research. The internet's a fabulous place to find out things like models, variants, pricing structures, values for part exchanges. So, research, research, research!” - Jason Pritchard

  • Always start with an amount that is higher than the figure you are willing to accept but keep your lowest acceptable price in mind, too. Feel free to decline a sale, especially if you are not offered a price within your range.
  • Never show that you need to make a quick sale even if it is the case. Point out the car's best-selling points, such as its make and model, its mileage, or its condition.
  • If possible, let the buyer provide you with a figure first and negotiate from there. They may bid higher than the price you had in mind.
  • Consider offering to take a non-refundable deposit if a private buyer can't pay immediately. £100 is the average deposit amount.

Car buying services

This is probably the quickest and simplest way to sell your car. You simply enter in your car's details online and then the site gives you a price for your car.

There are many car buying services out there, but comparison sites take the hassle out of the process by matching you with car buying websites and car dealers instantly. Compare prices from multiple car buyers in one place to ensure you get the best deal - without spending all that time on research.

Pros & cons of online car-buying services


  • Fastest way to sell
  • Multiple locations
  • Quick payment


  • Low valuations
  • Haggling
  • Unsatisfactory sale price

How online car buyers work

  • Use a free valuation tool to find out how much your car is worth
  • Compare prices from online car buyers to find the best deal
  • Once you've found a buyer, you can sell your car instantly for cash. Most buyers even offer home collection with same-day payment

Benefits of online car buyers

  • Sell your car with outstanding finance - many online car buyers will offer to buy cars with outstanding finance and pay the outstanding finance costs on your behalf (with settlement fees taken off the final sale amount)
  • 100% free service with no obligations to sell
  • Compare prices, fees, customer reviews and level of service to find your right buyer
  • Sell your car instantly - most buyers pay by bank transfer with same-day payment, and offer home collection too

How to negotiate selling your car

Most online car buying sites provide a free valuation service, but charge an administration fee after a sale. Some companies may even charge a cancellation fee if you decide not to sell.

The valuation of your car is usually subject to a physical inspection, which could affect the initial online quote. Make sure you provide accurate, detailed information from the start and be sure to check the relevant company website for more details.


Auctioning your car can be an enjoyable process, especially watching the bids roll in. However, if your car doesn't sell, you will still have to pay the auction's entry fee. Furthermore, many auction buyers work in the motor trade, so their knowledge may mean your vehicle might not fetch your preferred price.

Increasingly, there are more private buyers attending auctions who might be prepared to pay more than a trade professional. Cars that tend to attract attention from private buyers and those in the motor industry are usually popular makes or models, with low mileage and a great service history. Vehicles that are difficult for buyers to source can also make a good profit.

If you decide to sell your car at auction, you will need to:

  • Prepare the car for auction
  • Pay an entry fee
  • Set a reserve price
  • Take your car to auction
  • Take all car keys and documents

If you sell your car, the winning bidder will purchase it immediately and you will need to hand over all keys and documents there and then. Also, the auction company will take a commission from the final sale price. The percentage of commission varies so check the charged rate beforehand.

There are many auction companies to choose from, as well as local independent ones. Do research into the company to find the right one for you. For example, some auction houses will inspect and prepare your vehicle to maximise its sale.

Online auctions

Online, or digital, auction sites make selling your car easy. Simply advertise your vehicle on the website, add a full description and photographs and then watch the online auction go live.

Most companies charge any of an initial insertion fee, a percentage fee based on your car's final selling price, or both fees together. Check the costs involved beforehand.

Remember, you must always describe your car accurately. Unroadworthy cars must be declared so by law.


  • Set your price
  • Sell when you are ready
  • Sell from your desk


  • Time consuming
  • No guarantees
  • Fees

Ebay truly dominates the online auction world, but it does mean that there are loads of punters looking at the site for a car to buy. It's a good way of selling your car if it has any minor issues that dealers would knock a lot of money for. Be aware that you will have to deal with time wasters and potential auction fees, too.

Part Exchange

This is probably the most common way of selling your car, by swapping your old car in place for a new vehicle through a part exchange dealer. The advantages are that it is quick to do, involves little hassle (other than the negotiation) and you instantly get the money off your next car or it can help towards a deposit on a new car, too.

Selling your car outright to a car dealer is often considered the easiest option, yet the price you receive could be less than if you sold your vehicle privately, as the car's value (after depreciation) will be taken into consideration. That said, the convenience of a part exchange can be a persuading factor, especially if your car has any issues, dents or scratches that could be problematic for private buyers.


  • Multiple dealers
  • Money off your next car
  • Sale and purchase in one transaction


  • Low valuations with some dealers
  • Haggling
  • Limited to buying specific dealers' stock

Read our guide for more tips on how to part exchange your car.