Selling your car safely

Safety tips for private car sales

While there tends to be more risk in buying a car, private sellers are not immune to being targeted by fraudsters. To help you avoid falling victim to a crime, here are our top five things to know when selling your car:

It is your responsibility to satisfy yourself that a transaction is legitimate. Remember, you must notify the DVLA of the transferred ownership, as you are responsible for the vehicle until you have done so. If you don’t, you could find yourself facing somebody else’s motoring offences.

It is important to note that takes no responsibility for the legitimacy of any enquiries you receive on your advert. Remember to use your common sense and instinct as to whether a transaction feels legitimate. You are under no obligation to sell the car, and can back out at any stage before you have received the money for the vehicle.

Being cautious of fraudulent buyers

  • 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)

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'.

Advertising your car

Advertising in the classifieds is usually the quickest way to sell your car and for the best price. To the uninitiated, however, it can be a daunting experience, made worse by the risk posed by criminals looking to exploit unprepared vendors. Follow our tips to ensure your car sale goes as smoothly and as safely as possible

Meeting the buyer

  • Always aim to meet at your home address during daylight hours. Not only is this likely to be the safest possible location for you, it increases the buyer's confidence that you're a genuine seller. If this isn't possible, pick a safe, public place and consider taking a third party with you as a potential witness should things go awry.
  • Have all the appropriate documents to hand. A genuine buyer will want to inspect the car's history and check you have the legal right to sell on the car. If documents are missing or the car has a patchy service history, honesty is the best policy.
  • On that note, be wary of buyers who seem in a rush or disinterested in inspecting the car/taking a test drive. Unless you've advertised the car as a non-runner (so called 'spares or repairs'), buyers will nearly always want to give the car a once-over. Scammers who are more interest in simply relieving you of your keys won't be.

The test drive

The sale

  • Once the buyer is happy and you've agreed on a price, it will be time to exchange the keys for cash. Accepting payments by bank transfer is always the safest method – accepting bundles of notes from the buyer may seem convenient, but how can you be sure they are genuine? Always make sure funds have cleared and are available in your account before letting them drive off, particularly if accepting payment by cheque.
  • Write out two identical copies of a receipt, and include the details of the car, the amount paid and the date. Crucially, write 'sold as seen' on it. This isn't a free pass to mislead a buyer over the state of the car, but will cover you should it break down in their possession later down the line. Both you and the buyer should sign both copies.
  • Take responsibility of the v5c document, which will inform the DVLA that the car has changed hands. One section will be handed over to the buyer as proof of they are registered keeper until their own copy comes through. Do not rely on the buyer to fill out the form and send it, or you may find yourself liable for any traffic offences committed once it has left your possession. Similarly, it is an offence to fail to notify the DVLA of a change of ownership.