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Tips for Selling Your First Car Privately

For some people finally saying goodbye and selling your first car can be as daunting as buying your first car. However, this doesn’t need to be the case, and remember most motorists will have to do it one time or another. It used to be hassle to sell your car, however, with many online trading options it has quickly become very simple.

Whether you are trying to get the best trade-in value or selling your car privately our tips for selling your car, will help you prepare your car for the advert, and ensure you get as much as possible for your car.

Prepare care for sale

In our opinion this is one of the key areas. You need to make your car presentable and desirable. This may seem obvious but give your car the biggest clean you have ever done before. Clean the cars complete exterior including the wheels, vac and clean the seats and don’t forget the boot!

Nobody wants to buy a dirty car, and you want to ensure your car looks as good as it can do on the advert pictures you will take. As well as attracting more viewings with a clean car, it will also help the buyers see the car clearly, and no matter what people say first impressions count when you are trying to sell a car.

Depending on the car, and the value associated with it, you may want to check the MOT due date and cosmetically check for scratches, dents or kerbed wheels. If you are selling a ‘cheap run around’ this may not be as important, but on premium cars these types of cosmetic areas can discourage potential buyers.  However, it’s your decision to make, and after all is the overall value of the vehicle worth paying for these to be fixed.

Know your car

This may seem another obvious step, but its surprising how many people don’t really know their own car. As well as the usual make and model information, make sure you know all the additional options on the car, and changes or additions you have made, even down to the car’s mileage and Vin Number.

As customer will contact you, and ask these questions, and the last thing you want to say is that you are unsure. By knowing the answers, you seem more trustworthy and knowledgeable and give the appearance that you have looked after the car.

For an added extra you could complete a car check, and have this available for any potential buyers. This will provide them and you with the complete history of the vehicle and increases the trust factor as you are being as transparent as possible with the sale of your car.

Where Advertise your Car

Advertising your car has become a lot easier in recent years, however deciding where to sell your car will be based upon your target audience.

Everybody is aware of the massive online car trading websites such as AutoTrader, Ebay Motors and RAC Cars. However, each of these sites have difference charges, and in some cases, this depends on the placement of your advert and value of your car. So please ensure you check and compare different sites.

It is always worth thinking outside the box and thinking about the make/model of your car. For example, if you are selling a Mini, try advertise on the Mini Forum Classified sections, or Facebook groups.

If you do not want to sell your car online, they are always the good old-fashioned options. Place a note in newsagents or community boards. In addition to this, put a sign in the back and side windows of your car whilst you’re driving, or leave it parked on a busy road, in a suitable place, for more exposure and drive past traffic.

What information to include in an Advert?

This is the second most important part of getting potential buyers to call you. After the car is cleaned, take good quality photos of all areas of the car. Ensure you take these pictures in good light, weather and location. As with homes, location is important, and you won’t get many clicks on an advert showing a car in a dingy alley.

 Take a selection of close up and wide-angle pictures, as this will give people a chance to see the condition of the car better. Remember to include photos of inside the car, front seats and back, as well as inside the boot.

Some people find it hard to write about their car for the advert, however, in most cases a lot of online car selling sites will autofill a lot of information for you. However, make sure you cross reference this and make sure the essential details are correct such as mileage.

Now it’s time to write your advert description. Try to keep it simple, as buyers won’t read an essay on a car, and importantly be honest with your description. On an older car people will expect a few scratches, however, this does not mean you need to go around taking pictures of each one, just include a short line within your advert saying something along the lines of general wear and tear. However, when it comes to the bulk of your advert ensure you include these essential parts such as general condition, any additional extras (such as sat nav, cruise control etc), as well as any service history you have the car. If you have the history of the car, this can give you an advantage over other sellers.

How much is my car worth?

Putting an exact value on your car can be tricky. You can complete online free valuations on many websites; however, these tend to give you a ball park figure as will not include any additional extras your car may have and, in some cases, don’t take your cars mileage into consideration. All these can impact the overall value of your car.

The best method is to look at like-for-like cars in the areas you are advertising. Use the sites filters to ensure you can easily find similar cars to yours.

Importantly, think about milestone figures. A milestone figure is a rounded number like £6,000. If you like your car for £6,095, this won’t get found within this search, however, make sure you include a small degree of negotiation movement. Buyers will try to haggle with you, so if you allow for a little movement beforehand, you can both feel comfortable with the sale. You can what you ‘really’ want, whilst they believe they have knocked a little off the price.

That said, if you have been honest with your description and condition of your car, anybody who view the car will have little reason to negotiate.

Have your documents ready

Once your advert is live, make sure you get all the documents and receipts for your car easily accessible. Along with the cars V5C documents, print outs of any car history checks, service book, MOTs, repair bills will all be helpful and attractive to potential buyers.

The Viewing

This is where the exiting time starts, the phone has rung and you got somebody who wants to view the car.

We would advise having the viewing at your home. Its less hassle for you, and you will be more comfortable showing the car in your usual environment. This is also good from a buyer point of view, as they will again want to see the V5 document, and ensure they are at the place the car is registered.

If you are concerned about having people near you home for a viewing, ensure you have other friends or family members with you. However, you only need 1 or 2 people, you don’t want to scare the buyer away with you all stood around like a gang.

Before they arrive, give the car a quick check. Ensure its clean and tidy. If it has not been run for a while, take it out for a 30 min drive to get it up and running again and ensure you have petrol in the car ready for a test drive

Once they arrive, and they begin to look around the car, give them some time on their own. Don’t leave the keys with them! After 5-10 minutes, go back out and then you can start it up for them and head out on a test drive, on their request.

The Test Drive

Before you let anybody drive your car, ensure you see proof that they are insured. If they are unable to provide this, do not let them drive your car. In this case, you take them out in your car.

In some cases, the potential buyer may only be insured as a 3rd party to drive your car. This means they can legally drive your car, but if they crash your car WON’T be covered. It is your decision if you are happy with this risk. If the car is of high value, it may not be worth the risk.

For test drives, expect the car to be driven for around 20-30 minutes on different road types and speeds. However, if they are driving do ensure you do not let them take your car for a joy ride.

The Sale

We have touched on negotiations above, so you should have given it some through already. The key to this is to have a figure in your mind you will accept, usually this is anywhere from 2-10% of the asking price. However, let the buyer bring this up, do not open negotiations willingly with them. If you have done everything in this guide your car should already be desirable to the buyer and this shows as they have taken the time to come and view the car.

If they do open with an offer, is it what you want? If yes, then try get a bit more, but don’t push too hard. If not, how far aware are you from their valuation, and can you agree on a figure?


This part is usually overlooked in guides, but it can be important. Cash is one of the best ways to be paid. Count it carefully and have somebody double check it for you. If you are concerned about the fake notes, you can ask them to meet you at a local bank to conduct this.

Alternatively, you can arrange a bank transfer. Sometimes this is easier, however, do not let them drive away with the car until the funds have cleared into your account.

Finish the Paperwork

Once you have agreed the sale, and being paid for the car, it’s time to do the final step. The Paperwork!

First thing is to create a receipt for both you and the buyer, and get you both to sign and date each copy. They are a number of templates online you can use, or you can easily create your own. Ensure you include the make, model, reg number, mileage of the car, and importantly ensure it includes the agreed price.

The final thing would be complete the V5 registration document and notify the DVLA that the registered keep of the car is changing. You can now do this online to make it easier!

Once that’s done, it’s now time to hand over the keys and any paperwork history and say goodbye to the car!

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