We Give You The Low Down On Selling Your Car

For many people, the thought of selling their vehicle can be a daunting prospect. Should you take the easy way out and trade it in, or should you try to get a better price by selling it privately? Whichever way you choose, this section will help you to maximise the amount of money you can get for your car, with tips on how to decide the best time to sell it, preparing it for sale and setting the optimum price. If you do decide to sell your vehicle privately, there’s also some great advice on how to deal with potential buyers and the safest way to receive payment.

Whether you’re selling your car because you’re trading up to a newer one, downsizing to a cheaper one, or getting rid of it altogether and buying a bicycle, this article will hep you to sell your car quickly, safely and perhaps most importantly, profitably.

Deciding When to Sell Your Car

In the past, the time of year used to make a huge difference to the amount of money you could get when selling your car. However, nowadays, things are not quite so clear cut. Whilst 10 or so years ago, few people would consider buying a convertible car during the cold, damp winter, modern drop-tops are now so well designed and engineered that they may be used quite comfortably all year round. Likewise with 4x4s; off-road cars used to sell much better during the snowy and icy winter months, but with the rising popularity of 4x4s and SUVs, demand for these vehicles is now high all year round.

However, there are still some times of the year that are better than others to sell your car; particularly if it is in average (rather than mint) condition, or if it is a particularly common model. The two peaks in the new car market (1 March and 1 September) create a knock on effect in the used market as new car buyers trade in or sell their old cars. This causes a glut of used cars on the market, and so unless yours stands out from the crowd, it is probably best to avoid these times of year.

Deciding Where to Sell Your Car

Whilst the two major options to sell your car are through a dealer or by private sale, there has never been as much choice in places to sell your vehicle as there is now. Although trading your car in or selling through a dealer may be the easiest option, you will usually get the best price for your car if you sell it privately. However, you should take into account that selling privately comes with its own drawbacks – you’ll have to pay for advertising, deal with enquiries, meet buyers for inspections and test-drives and you’ll probably have to put up with a fair number of timewasters.

The list below details some of the most popular ways in which you can sell your car, along with their pros and cons.

Trade In

This is the quickest and most convenient way to sell your car. If a dealer is keen to sell you another car they may offer a good price for your old one, although in general, you’ll tend to get less than if you were to sell it privately.

At a Dealer

Second hand car dealers are always looking for decent stock, so if you’ve got a car they might be interested in selling, they may make you an offer. Although you won’t get as much for it as if you sold it privately, it should be a relatively quick, hassle-free sale.

Classified Ads

You can sell you car privately through classified ads, whether this is through your local or regional newspaper, a motoring magazine or a dedicated classifieds magazine. Bear in mind that the higher the car’s value, the further people will travel to see it; only advertise in a national newspaper if you’re selling an unusual or valuable car.

Online Classified Ads

Placing an advert online can be relatively cheap, and can allow your car to be seen by millions of potential buyers. It can cost as little as $5 to place an ad; some sites will run your ad for a specified number of week, whilst others will allow the ad to remain live until the car is sold.

At Auction

Auctions can be an interesting way to sell your car, giving you access to hundreds of potential buyers. The whole process is quick and simple, with no room for timewasters. However, you’ll usually have to pay a fee to enter your car into the sale (about $20), and you’ll also have to pay commission on the final hammer price (approximately 10% of the selling price).

At Online Auction

You could also sell your car via an online auction site; this option is becoming increasingly popular as you can set a reserve as well as an end date and decide on the terms and conditions. Not only that, but the fees are typically very low and gives you access to a huge number of potential buyers. However, you must make sure that you are realistic with your pricing and you set a reserve, otherwise you could lose out. You should also bear in mind that there are an awful lot of timewasters out there, so you’ll need to be prepared for a fair amount of hassle.

Setting the Asking Price

Setting the right price is the most crucial part of selling your car; set it too low and you’ll find yourself out of pocket, set it too high and you’ll get very little interest from buyers. However, a little research can help you to find the true market value for your car.

1. Researching the Price

To find out your car’s market value, you’ll need to have a look around at two things; what the official guide prices are for cars of your type and style, along with what other people are selling at.

Price Guides

Official price guides may be found either incorporated into motoring magazines or as separate books. There are also a number of guides that may be found free of charge online.

It’s important to remember however that these prices are only a guide; there will be a number of prices given for each model year and registration to cover differing conditions of car. However, there are also many other variables other than the car’s condition to take into account (see below), which means getting the exact book price will be rare.

Trade Ins

Even if you intend selling your car privately, it’s worth visiting a local dealer to find out how much money you could get for your car by trading it in. This will give you an absolute rock bottom price at which you should expect to sell – anything above this can be regarded as profit.

However, don’t look at the prices you see on the garage forecourt as an indication of what you could receive privately; these include a premium for warranties, guarantees and the legal protection dealerships can offer buyers from buying through them, rather than privately.

Classified Advertisements

Have a good look through classified adverts on websites, in magazines and newspapers to get a good idea of the kind of money that other sellers are asking for models similar to yours. This will help you to see what the going rate is for most cars; particularly popular models, as there will be so many listed. Adverts are also a good place to look for older cars that may not be listed in standard price guides.

Owners Clubs

If you have an unusual or old car, it could be worth getting in touch with the relevant owners’ club to ask them to help you to value it. You may have to join the club or pay a valuation fee, but you should end up with a fairly accurate valuation. Enthusiasts will have a good knowledge of your type of car, and will be able to account for any extras, as well as the overall mileage and condition. However, particularly with classic or unusual cars, the price will also depend on the right buyer being around at the right time.

2. Price Adjustments

Once you’ve found the general range of prices you can expect for your car, you’ll need to look at what adjustments you’ll have to make. If you’ve got a particularly good example of a car, it will be worth a premium – but you have to work out just how much.


If your car is in reasonably good condition, and has covered fewer miles than average, then it will be worth relatively more. Unfortunately the reverse is true; you’ll have to reduce the price of a higher than average mileage car in order to get buyers interested. There are a number of mileage-adjustment tables available to work out how much you’ll need to deduct or add on.


You’ll need to be brutally honest with yourself about the condition of your car. If you don’t adjust the price accordingly if your car is a little worse for wear, than buyers will simply walk away when they see it.


On the whole, limited and special editions aren’t worth much more than the basic model, unless they have a great deal more additional equipment. However, some editions or colours may be particularly sought-after by buyers, so it’s worth finding out if this is the case.

How to Advertise Your Car

If you’ve decided to sell your car privately, then your advert is the only chance you’ve got to generate interest in your car. With all the other cars that buyers have to choose from, a poorly worded or vague ad will simply be a waste of space. What you do need to include are:

Type of Car

Give the exact make, model and specification of the car, including the engine, trim and bodystyle. For example, don’t just say “Audi A3”, put “Audi A3 2.0 TDi Sport, five-door sportback diesel automatic”.


Include the year and registration letter.


State the exact mileage; don’t just say high or low.


Avoid using the manufacturer’s colour name as this will mean little to many buyers. Say whether it’s light, mid or dark, then say what the basic hue is, along with whether it’s metallic or pearlescent. For example, “dark metallic grey” is a much more helpful description than “Atlantic Storm”.

Service History

Only include the service history if you have a proper recorded history. If it’s complete, put “full service history” or “FSH” and mention if the work has been carried out by a main dealer.

Previous Owners

State how many previous owners the car has had, unless there are a high number for the age of the car.


This is where you can really sell your car – mention key features such as alloy wheels, air conditioning, central locking, sat-nav and electric windows. This is your opportunity to set your car apart from the others.


Make sure you put a price – don’t just say “open to offers”. You can find out more about how to set a realistic price here.


If possible, include a colour photograph – this will make your advert stand out and give you a better response. If you’re advertising online, you may be able to attach a number of photos; add as many as you’re allowed to show the interior and exterior condition of the car.

What to Leave Out

Avoid using the following cliches; they’re meaningless and simply waste the buyer’s time:

  • Lovely driver
  • Beautiful condition
  • First to see will buy
  • One lady owner
  • Good condition for year
  • No time wasters