Selling your car: step-by-step guide to getting the best deal

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How to sell your car
Where to sell your car
Getting sale-ready
Deciding the price
Viewings and test drives

How to sell your car

Think of selling your car? Good idea, we say!

Whether you’re planning on using temporary insurance for car sharing with family, upgrading to something snazzier (or more eco-friendly), or just getting rid of an unused vehicle (see ya, dead weight 👋) – there’s something satisfying about handing over your wheels to an excited new owner. Made all the sweeter by a healthy injection to your bank balance, of course.

Selling a car might be a bit daunting if you’ve never done it before, though. Figuring out where to sell it, how to price it, and what paperwork you’ll need can be confusing. Luckily, we’ve got you covered👇

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Where to sell your car

One of the biggest choices you need to make when selling a car is where you’re going to sell it. Here are your options:

Private classified ads 📰

There are lots of ways you can advertise the sale of your car. You can use a website like AutoTrader, Gumtree, or even Facebook Marketplace.

Some places will charge you to advertise your car, while others are free. Free options might be better for selling a car more locally, whereas paying to advertise it might give you more options further afield.

Some websites, like AutoTrader, are free to advertise your car for a set amount of time, then start charging after that point. The longer you want to advertise your car, the more you pay.

Local papers are also a good idea.

Car buying websites 💻

There are a lot of car buying services out there these days. The most well-known is probably webuyanycar – a business built around making it super quick and easy to sell a car. (There are also more niche sites like webuysupercars).

With sites like these, you put your car’s registration into their website and get an instant valuation. You then take your car to one of their local depots to have it assessed. If all’s well, you get the money straight into your account (there might be some admin fees), and that’s it – car sold.

However, you’ll almost definitely get less money for your car by using a site like this than if you sell privately through an ad. Also, it’s not unusual for the evaluation you were given online to be lowered once your car’s been looked at in person.

There are other sites, like Motorway, that give you a valuation for your car but then put your car up for auction among car dealers. If you say you’re happy to accept the highest offer your car gets collected for free. Again, you’ll probably get less money going with a site like Motorway than selling your car via a private ad.

Some people prefer to get less money for the convenience of using a car selling service. It’s quicker and means you don’t have to spend time having people come to view your car and things like that. Which route you choose just depends on what your priorities are.

Auction 🙋‍♂️

You can sell your car at an auction, but you’ll probably get less than just selling it privately to a single buyer.

To sell at an auction, you’ll need to pay an entry fee. And you’ll need to set a reserve price – that’s the lowest price you’d accept – for your car.

Car dealer 🚗

Car dealers are often keen to buy quite new cars that are in good condition with low mileage.

Local traders might also be keen to take on slightly older second hand cars, knowing they can sell them on to make a profit quite quickly.

Selling to a dealer can be a good option if you want less of the hassle of selling, but don’t want to go as low on price as with a car buying website like webuyanycar.

Word of mouth 🗣

Of course, there’s always the old school word of mouth approach. You can try asking friends and family if they know anyone who’d be interested in your car as a first port of call. If you have no luck, you can then choose another way to sell your car.

Selling your car can take time and effort - but land you a nice little lump sum
Selling your car can take time and effort - but land you a nice little lump sum
Car sharing 🚗
Use temporary insurance to share a car with friends and family. Find out more.

Getting your car sale-ready

Before you sell your car you should:

  • Make sure it’s clean inside and out – you could take it to a valet service if you want a really professional job doing without the hassle
  • Repair any minor damage to the paint work, or other minor faults (you don’t have to do this but you might get less money if you don’t)
  • Get your car MOT’d – it’s a good idea to do this even if it’s not due for an MOT (but especially if the MOT is due in the next three months)
  • You could also get your car serviced, which covers even more than the MOT so will reassure buyers that your car is in tip-top shape

Deciding the sale price of your car

It’s important to price your car realistically. Too high, and you won’t get many – or any – offers. Too low and you’re losing out on money you could have easily had!

To decide what price to sell your car at, look at other similar cars of a similar age and mileage online. This’ll give you a good idea of the average price for a car like yours.

You could also use a website like webuyanycar to get a valuation of your car. Compare this with other similar cars up for sale to see if it’s realistic.

Remember - your car is now used, so you shouldn't charge forecourt prices. But do consider changes you've made to the car that may have increased its value.

Keep in mind that many buyers will try - or even expect - some haggling to bring the price down. So make your mind up in advance whether your fee is absolute minimum, or whether you've got some wiggle-room. Don't get intimnated by persistant hagglers, though - remember, it's your car, and you get the final say.

Viewings and test drives

Once your advertisement is live you’ll need to arrange some viewings. Here are some tips for showing your car to potential customers:

  • Get each person’s contact details, including their name and address, when they come to view the car – especially if they’re going to be test driving it
  • Never give the person the keys to the car
  • Always go with the person if they want to take the car for a test drive
  • If you don’t feel comfortable letting someone drive the car, tell them they can ride in the passenger seat while you drive
  • Make sure the person is insured to test drive a car (here’s a quick guide on using temporary insurance to get test drive insurance!)
  • If you swap seats part way through a test drive, make sure you take the keys with you when you get out of the car
  • Never get in a car alone with someone if you don’t feel comfortable or safe doing so – take a mate or family member with you
Make sure you get the best deal when selling your car
Make sure you get the best deal when selling your car

Selling your car - paperwork

When you sell your car, you’ll need:

  • The car’s V5C document – you need to tell DVLA you’re no longer the owner of the car by filling out the V5C document and sending it to them. You need to give the green new keeper slip from the V5C document to the new owner. You can also tell DVLA about a car sale online
  • Any car tax you’ve already paid will get refunded automatically when you tell the DVLA you’ve sold your car
  • Receipts – create two receipts for the sale, one for you, and one for the new owner
  • Service history – your car’s service book shows how many services your car’s had, so it can be handy to give this to the new owner
  • MOT history – it can be useful to give MOT documents to the new owner, but they can also find out about MOT history online using a tool like Cuvva’s free car check tool

It might be helpful to remind your buyer they need to make sure they’ve got the right insurance to get the car home, too - like our handy drive away car insurance, for example!)

What happens if you’ve lost your V5C?

You can still sell your car if you’ve lost your V5C logbook. You just need to make sure you head to the DVLA website to tell the DVLA about the transfer of ownership.

You should also organise some other sort of proof of sale.

And you’ll need to tell the new owner that they can’t tax the vehicle until they’ve ordered a new V5C logbook.

If you’re not too strapped for time, you could order a new V5C yourself before selling your car (head here to do that).

You might find it a little bit more tricky to find a buyer without a V5C logbook.

Test drive insurance 🚙
How to sort temporary insurance for a test drive. Find out more.

Can I sell a car I’ve got on finance?

You can’t sell a car that’s on finance unless you settle the amount that’s left to pay. But this is actually easier to sort than you might think.

Major car dealerships are really used to settling finance on cars so they can buy them. This means you could take your car to one of these dealerships to sell – even if it’s got outstanding finance.

The process involves getting a settlement figure from whoever the finance is with. They have to provide this within 12 days, and it’s valid for 10 days (so the sale needs to get sorted within that time frame).

Car dealers are generally pretty familiar with this process. So they should be able to help you organise everything.

You definitely can’t sell a car to someone without settling the finance first. The car’s technically owned by the company the finance is with until you pay off whatever’s owing.

Should you repair your car before selling?

You don’t have to repair your car before you sell it, but you’ll get much less money if you don’t. It all depends on if you just want to get shot of it as fast as possible, or make as much profit as you can from it.

If the car has some problems but still runs safely, you might be able to sell it to a private buyer who’s looking for a good deal. They just need to be happy to fix the car themselves.

If it’s not actually running, you’ll only be able to sell it to a trader or mechanic.

If the car is totally beyond repair, you can’t sell it for use on the road but someone might want to buy it for parts.

Buying instead of selling? 💰
We've got a guide on that, too! Find out more.

When do you cancel your insurance after selling a car?

You need to cancel your car insurance as soon as you sell your car - unless you plan on transferring the insurance to another car.

If you just leave it, you’re not only paying for something you don’t need, a claim might end up getting made against your insurance if your old car’s in an accident.

Unfortunately, most insurers do charge cancellation fees.

We have a full guide to cancelling car insurance, if you need more info - with dedicated explainers for how to cancel with a bunch of insurers, like Aviva, Admiral, the RAC and the AA.

Interested in sorting test drive insurance for a potential buyer?

Or are you interested in finding out how much you could save by using temporary insurance to car share with family or friends?

Whatever you’re after, it only takes a few minutes to get a quote.

Updated on 3rd April 2023