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Selling a used car

Handing over the keys - but there is much to do beforeEvery seller wants to get a good price for their car, as well as to sell it within a decent timeframe. However, you won't do this unless you prepare the car for sale properly. Your car will be up against many similar vehicles for sale, and the more appealing it is to buyers the more attention it's going to get. The condition of your car, both mechanically and aesthetically, can make a huge difference to how quickly you can sell your car, and having all the relevant documentation already prepared can easily result in a quick sale.

Do your preparation

As the saying goes, 'If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail'; this is also true when selling your car. Make sure the vehicle has been cleaned, both inside and out, and any junk that you may have lying around in it has been removed. As part of cleaning the outside, now is also a great time to get any minor damage to the paint job sorted out. If there are any small mechanical problems you can easily fix then get them done, either yourself or though a nearby trustworthy garage. If there are less than 3 months remaining on the MOT, get a new one done. It may even be good to get a new MOT done on the car, as this will send any buyers a good message, and may also highlight any problems to you that may prevent you from selling the car.

It is possible to sell a car that has problems or defects, or is even unroadworthy. However, such problems must be described and given in full, otherwise you could be breaking the law. Make sure to detail ALL current problems unless you fancy something nasty biting you back in the future. If you are short on time to prepare the motor, there are many professional services out there that offer valeting and basic mechanical checks. These services are often inexpensive, and they may well find things you have missed out.

Your car should now be in tip-top shape, so lets get selling it

Setting a decent price

Your car for saleIf you want a quick sale, make sure you use a realistic asking price. Use our valuation tool, and look at similar cars on AutoTrader or other classified ad sites and magazines and check their prices too.

Sort out your finances

If your car has any outstanding finance on it, you are not legally entitled to sell it. You will either have to settle the outstanding finance before selling, or get permission from the finance company to allow you to sell it. Note this also includes hire-purchase vehicles. You can get in serious trouble by attempting to sell a car still on finance.

Don't embellish

When selling your car, don't make silly claims about it. Stick to the facts when writing your adverts, as using hyperbole or salesman-esque language will put people off.

Just the facts

Checking classified ads helps you get a view of the marketWhen writing your advert, make sure you accurately describe every pertinent detail about your car. It is the facts that potential buyers are interested in, so be clear and concise. As well as the make and model, buyers will want to know it's year, number plate, where the vehicle is geographically located (many prefer local vehicles), and how long is left on the MOT. There are certain information points that you SHOULDN'T give out in the advert or in emails/over the phone. These include the VIN number, engine number and personal details of previous owners. This is because car adverts are often targeted by thieves and fraudsters, who can use this information to clone vehicles and adverts. If a buyer is legit they should be fine to view the vehicle where you wish and check it out for themselves.

Describe the condition

Make sure the car's condition is accurately given in any adverts, and also on the receipt at the end of the sale. If the vehicle has any major problems that make it unroadworthy, needs major repair work doing, or if it is being sold for scrap or spares, this should all be stated too - in both adverts and any sales receipts. This helps to cover both you and the buyer in the event of problems.

Sort out the paperwork

You should make sure all the vehicle's documentation is available before you start the selling process. This includes any records or receipts from servicing and repairs, MOT certificates, V5C logbook and if possible the handbook and any other relevant information. You should not let anyone who is interested in the car take photos, pictures or photocopies of any of the vehicle's documents. This could assist thieves and fraudsters in nefarious activities, and puts you at risk. You should though of course give all these documents over to the buyer when the sale goes through.

Give buyers a test drive

Before letting a buyer come round and test drive your car, you should ask them for their full contact details, including a land line number if possible, so you can call them back to confirm. A legit buyer should have no problems with this; if they do, there may be something up. For any buyers wanting to test drive the car, you should make sure they bring their driving licence with them, and that the licence is valid. A legit buyer will also be happy to view the car at a location of your choice. Your home is still the best place to do this, as it gives both buyer and seller more confidence.

Buyers should be insured if they want to test drive your car. Or, depending on your own level of insurance cover, they may be ok without - check your policy. You should always go along on the test drive, and if possible take someone else you know along with you too. Never leave the car keys in the car when you get out; should you have to change seats during the drive, take them with you whilst you walk round to the other door, and only hand them over when sat in the car.

Read more about test drives here

Leave room for haggling

This is optional, but you should be prepared for buyers that want to haggle. If you're not too confident in this, you can add a 'buffer' to the price initially, and allow any wannabe hagglers to bring you down to this amount. Always keep an amount in mind that you will not go below, and make sure that you do not go below it.

Give a receipt

When finalising a sale, you should always give the buyer a receipt - in this case a 'sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee' one. 'Sold as seen' does not affect the legal rights of the buyer, and you must take care that your description of the car is accurate in any writing. You can also use our buying contract or draw up your own.

Get your payment

It's a rich man's world!Never let a buyer drive away your car until you are sure you have received full payment. If the buyer wants to pay in cash, ask them if they can do so at a bank, in case of forged notes. Bank transfers are quick and easy ways of receiving payment these days with the widespread use of online banking. You can also get immediate bank payments through the CHAPS system, which you can ask your bank about. CHAPS payments are subject to a fee, and are irrevocable.

There are many Escrow services available too, where the money for the car is held by a third party until the sale has been completed. Make sure you've heard of the service before, or you can check if they are authorised in the UK by using the FSA's register. What ever method of accepting payment you go with, always make sure the money is in your bank account before you hand over the keys and documents for the car.

Finalising the sale

Before your car's buyer drives off with their new purchase, make sure you draw up a contract between yourself and the buyer. Print off two copies, one for you to fill out, one for the buyer. You should both sign and date the documents, and each keep a copy. This will be your proof of purchase and helps protect you both.

After this, you will need to inform the DVLA that the vehicle is no longer your responsibility. This should be done as soon as possible, and is done by completing the new keepers section on the V5C document with the buyer. As the seller, the responsibility is yours, and you should send the filled-out V5C document to the DVLA as soon as possible.


Although everyone wants to sell their car quickly and easily, you really should take your time over it. With proper preparation of the vehicle, and by doing your homework first, you can easily walk away with more cash than you would have done otherwise. Good luck with your sales!

Latest Valuation: 2005 Blue Toyota Corolla Hatchback 2.0 5 Door

Interesting Trivia

The average price of second hand BMW vehicles in our archive is £16,484.
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