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How to sell a car in the UK

Over time you'll probably need to sell a car at some point, whether you're upgrading to something new, downsizing to something smaller, or because your lifestyle and transport demands have changed.

In most circumstances, you'll want to maximise your return on the car because the money will be used to help you buy a replacement, but you might just want to get rid of it as soon and conveniently as possible.

Either way, there are different ways to sell a car and several steps you can take to guarantee you receive the best deal. Nationwide Vehicle Contracts has put together a guide with everything you need to know about selling a car in the UK.

Not sure whether or not to buy or lease your next car? Check out our car leasing vs buying page and look at our extensive range of in stock car leasing deals at the best prices. 

Getting prepared - Top tips so you get the best offer on your car

Before you decide to sell your car, there are a few things you need to make sure are correct. Here are our top tips so you get the best offer on your car when you come to sell it.

Prep your paperwork

Having all your paperwork in place is essential when it comes to selling your car. First, you must have permission to sell the vehicle, either because you are the owner or because you have permission from the owner. Ensure that any outstanding loans have been paid off and that the car is yours to sell. You want to ensure you have all the relevant documentation as missing V5Cs can read as slightly suspicious, so be sure you have everything you need:

  • V5C logbook
  • MOT certificates
  • Manual
  • Full service history book
  • Receipts for any work done to the car

Prep your car 

Give your vehicle a good inspection as if you were a buyer. Don't dismiss any scratches or bumps as "okay" because your potential buyer could disagree. It's a good idea to get any minor scrapes fixed up as there's a strong possibility you'll make back the cost on the final sale price of your car.

Also, give your car a good clean inside and get it looking spick and span. You could choose a professional valet for a real deep clean or clean it yourself, but make sure your car is fresh and clean to impress potential purchasers. Pay special attention to the dashboard, steering wheel, seats, carpets, and windows, as these are the areas that a driver is most likely to see.

You should make sure to delete any personal data from your car's memory. For example, you might have copied your phone book to your car's memory, and a built-in sat nav might have your home, work, and friends' addresses recorded. You don't want to share that information accidentally, so remove it before selling. Make sure your data is completely removed by following the instructions on the unit or consulting the manual. If you're still unsure, call the manufacturer and ask for assistance.

Find all necessary keys and accessories 

Gather all the keys for your car, including the unique socket-style tool for unlocking alloy wheels. Also, re-fit any parts or extra accessories you may have removed, such as a boot parcel shelf or a tool kit.

Get the price right 

You don't want to sell your car for less than it's worth, and you don't want to overprice your car. Honesty is the best policy if you are upfront about your vehicle and answer all questions truthfully, your transaction should go smoothly, and the buyer will have little legal recourse should the car later develop faults.

Search for similar models posted online before you put your car up for sale or agree to any part-exchange deal. Look for vehicles with similar trim levels and ages. It will give you a more accurate estimate of how much your automobile will sell. 

You should also keep in mind that the price may have to be flexible as potential buyers may be looking at your car expecting a bit of room for negotiation. So, when deciding on a price for your vehicle, think about how you can make it competitive with other sales while also allowing for the inevitable bargaining.

Take a good quality photo and car profile 

Your car profile serves as an advert to any potential car buyers. However, unlike an advert, you shouldn't make it flashy or overly creative. Car profiles don't have to be long essays about how much you enjoy driving your car it should just contain all key information, clearly displayed.

It's also essential you take a good quality photo of your car. Potential buyers want to see your car from every angle, including the interior and exterior, as well as the front and back. Choose a location that is properly lighted and has enough space for you to photograph your whole car without others being in the frame.

Your car profile should include:

  • Good quality photo 
  • Make
  • Model
  • Age
  • Colour (black or dark blue, not 'midnight steel')
  • Mileage
  • Number of previous owners
  • Key features (power steering, electric windows, AC etc.)
  • Condition (recently serviced, never smoked in etc.)
  • Price

Tell DVLA 

Your car is no longer yours once it has been sold, so make sure DLVA knows this too. You can inform DVLA of a transfer of ownership online or by post. The buyer will also need the V5C until they receive a new one listing them as the owner.


used cars for sale

Sell your car to a dealer

When it comes to selling your car to a dealer, there are two options: selling outright and part-exchange, which is when you trade-in your car when buying a car from a dealer.

If your car is relatively new, has little mileage, and is in high demand, a dealer specialising in that marque or type of vehicle may be interested in purchasing it outright. However, well looked after vehicles are also valued by dealers, especially if it's a car they know they can resell quickly. Below we have listed some pros and cons of selling your car with a dealer:

Pros:

  • Hassle-free and easy - All you have to do is take the car to the dealer and they either make you an outright offer or a part-exchange offer to use towards a new car.
  • Don't have to worry about the paperwork - With documentation and log books, it can all get a bit complicated. With selling to a dealership, the dealer does everything for you.
  • Convenient and quick – If you want to dispose of your current vehicle as quickly as possible, then selling to a dealership is the best option as they handle everything.
  • Guaranteed to get the money – Regardless of your car's condition or how old it is, the dealership will pay for it instead of waiting for ages for a buyer or risking getting scammed. 

Cons:

  • You might not get as much money as if you sold it privately - The dealership still needs to earn money on the car, so they won't pay you retail value or as much as you could get if you sold it yourself.
  • The dealership may make up the difference by deducting it from your next car's discount - This means that if you trade it in, you'll lose out on that extra piece of savings.

Sell your car privately 

When it comes to selling your car privately, Auto Trader and other traditional classified sites are still popular places to sell used cars. If you want to sell sports, performance, or antique cars its best advertised in a specialist magazine or on a relevant website with low-value older car best advertised on local papers or free-ad websites such as Gumtree.

However, selling your car privately has become a lot easier than it used to be, thanks to the internet and online advertising. Social media has now become a popular way to sell your car as you can just take a few pictures on your smartphone and upload them to a social media platform in just a few moments. Below we have listed some pros and cons of selling your car privately:

Pros:

  • Sell for a higher price – You can set the price and usually get more than what a dealership offers. 
  • Room for negotiation - You can always negotiate a price with a private buyer and refuse an offer if the price is too low.
  • Reach a wide audience of potential buyers - There are many sites you can sell your car on now, which means you're more likely to get the price you want. This is due to the fact that it will reach a wide number of potential buyers.

Cons:

  • Takes longer to sell – it might not take as long as it once did to sell a car, but it still takes a while as you have to wait for a buyer rather than a dealership offering you a price instantly. 
  • People can be picky – Potential buyers will be inspecting the car inside and out, sharing some criticism. If the car isn't in the best condition, you might struggle to get the price you want.
  • Buyers want to negotiate - Potential buyers may try and knock down the price, meaning you might have to negotiate your price. That may mean no deal if someone wants to knock too much off.
  • Hassle of sorting and filling out all the paperwork – Not a major issue, just a hassle sorting out the paperwork, and the V5C form with the DVLA is down to you as it's your responsibility.

Sell your car to an online service

Nowadays, there are various options to sell your car online, all of which advertise it to a much larger audience than the traditional methods.

The various online options allow you to deal directly with buyers and manage everything yourself if you choose to. However, if you have better things to do with your time, you can now spend a few minutes inputting your car's details on a website, accept a quote from a specialised auto buying firm, and have the car picked up from your home.

With all these sites, which are the best? Selling your car to a car buying service or selling your car via a traditional ad?

Selling your car to a car buying service

Specialised car buying services have grown in popularity as they make selling your car straightforward, which is ideal for getting rid of it quickly. They're also useful if you don't want to haggle over the price of your car or are concerned about strangers coming to your house.

Using an online offer site to sell your car will typically not get you as much money as selling it directly to the customer, whether online or in person. Just like trading in a car at a dealer, the business must make a profit by selling the car to someone else.

Selling your car via a traditional ad

If you don't mind the hassle of paperwork and haggling over a price, selling your automobile directly to a buyer through an ad site like Gumtree or Auto Trader may be a good option.

However, be aware many sites connect you with the seller and leave it up to the two of you to work out the details of the sale and payment. Private sellers may be wary of handing over their bank account details, but you should also be cautious about collecting cash. As most car dealers stopped accepting cash payments years ago, private sellers have become a target for money launderers.

The best websites for selling your car in 2022

Motorway

One of the most efficient and fastest ways to sell your car to a dealer is to do so on the Motorway. Simply enter the vehicle's registration number, mileage, and contact information, and Motorway compiles offers from its network of partner dealerships before presenting you with the best value for your vehicle.

Motorway generates offers based on your location and works with many of the biggest car-buying websites. If you're satisfied with the offer, the winning dealer will normally come to your house to pick up your car or ask you to bring it to a nearby collecting site. The money is put into your bank account the same day as the car is delivered.

Cazoo

Cazoo is another great online service for selling your car. However, instead of sending cars to a trade auction like We Buy Any Car or functioning as a marketplace for other car dealers like Motorway, Cazoo is hunting for cars it can sell on its own. They claim instead of waiting for dealers to submit bids, you will receive an instant, guaranteed offer for your automobile.

With Cazoo you can either drop your car off at a Cazoo collection point or have it picked up from your home for a £50 fee.

We Buy Any Car

We Buy Any Car is the most well-known online car purchasing site in the UK, and it works similarly to Motorway in that you enter your car's registration and mileage to get a quote. You'll also be asked how many previous owners there have been and whether the car has a complete service history, all of which are taken into account when calculating the offer price.

There is no free automobile collection service, so you must drive it to the nearest corporate location. The final pricing will be subject to a personal inspection when you arrive at the outlet. They also charge a transaction fee of £50 for cars worth between £100 and £3,999 and £75 for cars valued at £5,000 or more. Plus, unless you are willing to pay an additional cost, you will receive your money within four working days. This costs £25 if paid the next working day or £30 if paid within 30 minutes after dropping off the vehicle.

Thinking of getting a new car?

Read our excellent personal car leasing guides to find out more about leasing. 

If you're interested in leasing a vehicle, view our latest car leasing deals, or give us a call on 0345 811 9595 to discuss your options.

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