How to sell a car

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Make selling your car easy with this advice from Admiral. With top tips on price, taking a good photo and staying safe, this is an essential read


As we move into a ‘new normal’ after the Coronavirus lockdown, thousands of employees continue to work from home and many of us remain cautious about travelling too far afield.

You might be tempted, therefore, to do something that would have seemed inconceivable before Coronavirus - giving up your car.

Going car-free or, at the very least, sharing a vehicle with other members of your household, might suddenly seem an attractive option. 

Whatever the reason for selling your car, we have some top tips to guide you through the process.

Selling your car privately is more than likely going to give you the best return, but it takes a little time and effort to get your vehicle sale-ready. 

In a competitive market, you're going to have to make sure your car stands out from the rest, so follow our top tips to help get you a quick sale.

Do I still need my car?

For many drivers, it’s now a valid question. The pandemic has led to a shift in lifestyle that, for lots of us, looks set to be permanent, with scope to work from home at least some of the time.

But try not to make a knee-jerk decision to sell your car that you might later regret. Public transport is not necessarily going to be accessible for a while, with reduced services and ongoing safety concerns. Read our guide to the alternatives to owning a car, bearing in mind it was written pre-pandemic. 

If you decide selling your vehicle is right for you, now might be a good time, with research from AA Cars indicating that the second-hand car sales market has surged back following lockdown.

Car repair franchise ChipsAway managing director, Tim Harris, said: “During any recession, new car sales always slow and we’ve seen that recently, with reports that purchases have plummeted by 97% - to their lowest level since World War Two. 

“Add to this that people are currently much more wary of using public transport and you are presented with a very lucrative time to sell a second-hand car. Due to economic uncertainty, fewer people can afford a brand new vehicle and will instead look around for previously owned cars which have been well taken care of.”

1. Check for outstanding finance

It's illegal to knowingly sell a car with outstanding finance so if you're still paying for your car, contact your finance company to get a settlement figure and pay this off in full before selling it. You may also be subject to early repayment and administration fees.

If you’ve already paid half the cost of the car or more, you have the right to return the car to the finance provider under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which is called voluntary termination. 

This can make sense if, for example, it has depreciated in value to the extent that remaining payments would add up to more than the current value of the vehicle. If, however, the car remains worth more than the outstanding payments, it’s probably better to settle the balance with the finance company and then sell the car.

If you’re struggling to meet your finance repayments after being furloughed or losing your job, speak to a debt advice charity for free and in confidence.

2. The price is right 

One way to a speedy sale is to price the car accurately in the first place, using a valuation website to correctly value your vehicle. Consider factors such as:

  • Mileage
  • Age
  • Condition
  • Features

And remember to leave a bit of wiggle room for haggling. Fixing mechanical niggles (keeping the receipts as proof) and making sure the MOT is up to date can also help attract the best price. 

3. A clean sweep

It goes without saying that an immaculate vehicle is more attractive than a grubby car with crisp packets thrown into the footwell - and, in these strange times, car hygiene has never been so important. 

Tim said: “Remove everything from your car, other than the essentials, to give the potential buyer a true idea of how much space the car offers. Once it’s been cleared out, dust, hoover and clean upholstery so it’s pristine. In many cases, paying for a professional valet will help you sell the car for more.

“Smells linger. Whether it’s pets, smoke, fast food or football kits – even if you can’t smell them, potential buyers will be able to! Don’t let pets in your car while you’re trying to sell it and smoke any cigarettes outside the vehicle. Air the car out by having windows open while you drive and invest in a ‘new car smell’ air freshener. 

“Think about touching up any minor dents or scratches to the bodywork. Second hand buyers want their new car to look exactly that – like new. Give your car a thorough wash so you can spot any damage to your paintwork, then hire a professional bodywork specialist to fix scratches, dents and bumps, which are the things a buyer will use to leverage on price.

"You should also remember to have your alloys and bumpers checked and spruced up, so the car is truly spotless.”

4. Advertising your car

Choose a bright, dry day to take photos of your car, taking advantage of smartphone filters to ensure the images are as sharp and shiny as possible.

What photos should I take of my car when trying to sell it?

Take a selection, including:

  • The whole vehicle from the front, back and sides
  • Close-ups of selling points such as alloy wheels or leather seats
  • The dashboard showing mileage 

Using a free, online car selling service or sites such as Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace can generate interest, and don’t forget tried and tested methods such as your local newspaper, the free ads, a notice in your local shop and ‘For sale' posters in the car window.

And, of course, social media is a fantastic way of putting the word out, asking friends and contacts to share. 

Information to include However you choose to advertise, include relevant information such as:

  • Car’s make, model and engine size
  • Fuel type
  • Mileage
  • Asking price
  • Details of MOT and any service history
  • Your contact number

5. Selling your car safely

If you're privately selling there are a few simple steps to make sure you, and your car, are safe.

Tim said: “Remember to stay safe if selling your car privately. Don’t meet people alone, and never let someone take your car on a test drive on their own.

"Never leave a potential buyer alone with your car keys and always meet them in public, busy places with a friend or family member in tow.” 

Ask the buyer for proof of identity and make sure they're insured to drive your car. If they can’t provide the documents to put your mind at rest, don’t be talked into letting them go for a test drive. 

6. Sign a contract

Make sure you’re paid in full before the buyer drives off into the sunset, using a same-day payment system such as CHAPS, which tends to be faster than BACS. It’s best to avoid personal cheques, which can be fraudulent, although banker’s drafts are safer as they're guaranteed by the bank. 

It’s wise to draw up a seller's contract, to be signed and dated by both parties, with each retaining a copy. You can also give a written ‘sold as seen’ receipt. You can create your own contract online very easily.

7. Notify the DVLA

Don't forget to tell the DVLA that you're no longer the registered keeper of the vehicle; you can do this online very quickly.

Alternatively, you can fill out the V5C (logbook). Complete and hand over the ‘new keeper’ part of V5C to your buyer, retaining the rest of the document to send to the DVLA yourself. Always keep a separate copy of the buyer’s name and address for your own records. 

Remember to contact your car insurance company too - you might be due a partial refund, depending on your policy terms. 

Looking into buying a new car for yourself? See how Admiral Car Finance could help you.

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