Our Guide On How To Sell A Car Privately

Selling your car privately can be a daunting prospect for many people but thanks to the internet, it’s now a lot easier to sell your car than it used to be. Within this article, we walk you through everything you need to know to ensure the private sale goes smoothly.

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how to sell a car privately
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A private sale of your car can be the best way to get the highest price but the time-consuming process to sell a car privately puts many people off. However, to ensure that you have a smooth transaction when you sell your car, we’ve written the below comprehensive guide based on our experience of buying and selling multiple cars over the years.

How To Sell A Car Privately

1. Ensure Your Car Is In Good Working Order

Possibly the most important part of selling a car is to ensure that everything is working as it should be. This includes the mechanics, electronics and anything else that may affect the car’s running and driving.

If you know something isn’t working as it should on the car, we always recommend being honest because this’ll reduce any time being wasted for both the seller and buyer.

For example, if the buyer spots a fault during the test drive of your car that wasn’t disclosed, the process of creating the advert and arranging the viewing would be a waste of time because they’ll no longer want to buy the car.

Repair Any Faults or Sell The Car As It Is?

Depending upon the component that isn’t working, you may want to consider fixing the problem yourself because it may increase the car’s value. However, if the fault is quite significant (i.e. requires a clutch replacement), you may want to list the car as “spares and repairs”. In short, by doing this, you are stating the fault in the advert and the car is sold as seen.

Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to fix the problem, we would recommend stating what the fault is and reducing the price of the car. If you reduce the price, you’ll want to make sure that you state that the price has been reduced to reflect the fault in your advert.

Confirmation of Your Car’s Condition

A great way to provide confidence to any potential buyers that your car is in good working order is to get a fresh MOT or have it serviced. Although this comes at a cost, it’ll make your car stand out from others on the market.

2. Clean Your Car Inside & Out

No one wants to buy a dirty car, which means that it’s important that you wash your car inside and out. Although this can be time-consuming, it’s worth your while in doing so because it’ll make the car look better in the photos in the advert. A clean car will also add to the “WOW factor” when any potential buyers see it for the first time.

If you haven’t given a car a thorough clean before, we’ve written a guide to washing your car but you can always get someone else to do it for you. If you have the time to do so, we also highly recommend polishing your car because this’ll clean the paintwork and also remove any light scratches too. If you want to give your car the full treatment so that it’s ready to sell, we would recommend that you get the following products:

The above are just the basics required to give your car a good clean but there are many other products you may wish to purchase. Alternatively, it may be more cost-effective to buy a complete detailing kit.

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3. Gather All The Car’s Documentation & Parts

After you’ve prepared the car ready to sell, you’ll then need to gather all the documentation you have for the car. The most important document is the car’s V5C logbook but if you can’t find it, don’t panic because you can apply for a new one via the DVLA or you can even sell your car without one. However, if you sell your car without a logbook, you’ll want to notify the buyer beforehand and provide a detailed receipt so that the buyer can apply for a new logbook.

Other forms of documentation that you’ll want to provide the buyer with include:

  • Receipts of parts, servicing and anything to do with the car
  • Stamped service book (or printout of the digital service record held by the dealership)
  • Old MOT details (this can also be found on the government’s MOT checker)
  • Spare keys
  • Car manuals and handbooks
  • Locking wheel nut
  • Details regarding the car’s tracker device (not applicable to all cars)
  • Spare parts or OEM parts (i.e. if you’ve modified the car with aftermarket parts)

Stating that you have all the car’s documents as well as any additions can be a great selling point. Therefore, it’s worth your while to spend time finding all the documents to help with the private sale of your car.

4. Set A Price & Advertise Your Car

Thanks to the internet, there are many places to sell your car online and we would recommend using multiple to increase the chances of a successful sale. However, before you do, it’s crucial that you set a minimum price for what you want to sell your car for. To come up with a figure, we would recommend that you analyse the market for similar makes and models but also use the various online valuation tools to get an estimated value of your car.

Our methodology when it comes to setting a minimum sale price is to use the valuation from We Buy Any Car or a similar online car-buying site. We will then set the figure retrieved as the minimum price that we want to sell the car for. This means that if the car doesn’t sell privately, we can then take it to We Buy Any Car (or an alternative) to sell the car. This way, if the car sells privately, we will achieve a higher price but if it doesn’t, we have a fallback to sell the car.

With a figure in mind that you want to sell the car for and your chosen websites to list your car, we recommend following the below tips to create an advert.

Take Plenty of Photos

The photos of an advert are the first thing people will look at and it’s important that you make your car stand out.

In terms of the photos, we would recommend taking photos of the front, sides and rear of your car as well as multiple interior photos and a photo of the car’s engine bay and dashboard/speedometer.

It’s worth pointing out that many websites limit the number of photos that can be uploaded (usually 12), which means that you should only upload the best photos to the advert. If you feel that you need to upload more photos, you may be able to pay for a “special” listing but alternatively, you can state in the advert that more photos are available on request.

When you are taking photos of your car, choose a day when it’s not raining and a location that has plenty of space. You’ll also want to use a phone or camera that’s able to take high-quality photos in order to show off your car.

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Writing The Advert

Unless you are selling a classic car, most people don’t want to know about the story behind the car. Instead, you want to stick to the basics when writing the advert and include details about the following:

  • Exact make and model
  • Year of registration
  • Current mileage
  • Service history & work carried out
  • HPI status
  • Specification & trim level
  • Optional extras & aftermarket parts
  • Other important factors
  • Details of any defects and faults
  • Reasons for selling the car (optional)

We always recommend keeping your advert “short and sweet” and being honest with regards to any defects and faults.

Auction or Fixed Price

Depending upon where you sell the car, you may have the option to set the advert as an auction style of listing. If you do go down this route to sell your car, we highly recommend that you set a reserve price.

Ideally, you’ll want to put the reserve price as the figure provided by We Buy Any Car (or an alternative valuation tool) so that the auction doesn’t end at a price that’s too low.

5. Arrange Viewings

Once your advert is live, you may have a number of potential buyers asking to view the car. For peace of mind, we would recommend arranging the viewing to take place at your home or place of work. However, it’s important to note that the person doesn’t need to enter your home or workplace whatsoever.

During the arranged viewing, we would recommend the following:

  • Allow them to look over the car on their own but don’t leave them with the keys
  • After they’ve had a look, mention the car’s specification or interesting facts
  • Start the engine and open the bonnet
  • Offer them a chance to look over the car’s service history and other documents

Many people that come to view your car will often come with another person (usually a friend, family member or mechanic) so that they can check the car over with them. This is quite normal for a private sale but if you are worried, you may want to consider having another person with you for peace of mind.

6. Test Drives

During the viewing, the potential buyer may ask to test drive the car if they like what they see. However, before you allow them to test drive your car, you’ll need to ensure that they are insured to do so.

Therefore, you’ll want to see proof of their insurance and if they don’t have anything to hand, you shouldn’t let them drive your car. Although they may have third-party insurance to legally drive your car, you are in your right to refuse this type of cover. This is because if they crash your car, only the third party will be covered by their insurance and not your car.

Whether you let them drive your car on a third-party policy is completely up to you but if you require them to have their own insurance, ensure you state this before they arrive. Alternatively, you can offer them a test drive as a passenger whilst you take them for a drive so that they can experience the car.

Whilst you are out on your test drive, we highly recommend driving on a variety of roads. For example, if the car is a performance-based vehicle, a dual carriageway or motorway is a great place to accelerate to the legal limit. Ideally, a good test drive is around 15 minutes, which is more than enough time for the buyer to decide on the car.

Although obvious, you can’t allow anyone to test drive your car in the first place if it’s not road legal. This means that your car must be in a road-legal condition and have MOT, tax and insurance (unless they have their own insurance for it).

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7. Negotiations

After the viewing and test drive, the buyer may try to negotiate the car’s price and this is something you should expect to happen when you sell a car privately. However, to allow room for negotiations to take place, we always recommend having a figure in mind that’s slightly below the asking price. This’ll display to the buyer that you are trying to be fair but it’s important that you don’t jump at their first offer or be pressurised into accepting the offers that they provide.

8. Complete The Payment

Once you’ve agreed on a price, you’ll want to complete the payment before you start celebrating. The payment methods that are recommended when you sell a car privately are either cash or bank transfer.

Accepting cash for your car is a popular method of payment but you’ll want to count the cash carefully and if possible, have someone count it again as confirmation. Alternatively, if you are worried about any forged notes or counting, you can meet the buyer at a bank so that the cashier can count and check the notes for you.

Accepting payment via a bank transfer is our recommended method but it can take some time. For example, certain banks may restrict the amount of money you can transfer, which means the buyer may need to get in touch with their bank beforehand. The buyer will also need to set up new payee details, which takes time too.

Regardless of the payment you accept, you should never allow the buyer to drive off with your car without paying the full amount.

9. Write Receipt & Invoice

Although optional, we always recommend that you provide a written receipt to the buyer that’s duplicated so that you can keep a copy for yourself. The contents of the receipt should include the following:

  • Registration number
  • Make and model
  • Current mileage
  • Agreed sale price
  • Signature and printed name of both parties
  • Date and time of sale
  • A statement such as “sold as seen without guarantee“.

The reason why receipts for a private sale are important is because it makes things clear for both parties. It also means that if the buyer was to receive any speeding or parking fines after driving away, you’ll have some evidence that you had sold the car before the offence took place. This is important because there can be delays with the DVLA paperwork.

10. Complete The Private Sale

Before the buyer drives away, you’ll want to transfer ownership of the car and complete the “new keeper” section of the logbook. With regards to the ownership, you can transfer it using two options. The first option is to inform the DVLA by sending out the completed logbook by post but we highly recommend the second option, which is to transfer a car’s ownership online. This is because it’s instant and you are also provided with email confirmation.

As well as informing the DVLA of the sale, you’ll also need to complete the “new keeper” section of the logbook and give it to the buyer. This is important because it can be used as proof of ownership until the buyer’s new V5 arrives. It can also be used to retrieve a new logbook in case the V5 isn’t received by the buyer at their address.

Once the sale is complete and the buyer is happy, all that’s left to do is wave goodbye to your old car and congratulate yourself on selling your car privately.

how to sell a car

No Luck Selling Your Car Privately?

If you’ve tried to sell your car privately but had no success, don’t be too disheartened. There are a number of reasons why the sale may not have been successful, which can include:

  • The price is too high
  • Lots of competition
  • Time of the year
  • The car has defects
  • Lower specification than others

From our experience, the car’s price is often the main contributor to it not selling. Although it can be something you don’t want to do, lowering the asking price is the easiest way to increase the interest in your car and speed up a sale.

However, it’s important that you don’t lower the price too much because there may be car-buying services (such as We Buy Any Car) or dealers that may want to buy your car at a reasonable price.

Alternatives To Privately Selling Your Car

If you simply don’t want the hassle of a private sale or you’ve tried and had no success, there are many alternatives that you may want to consider. For example, car-buying services (as mentioned above) such as We Buy Any Car as well as alternatives to the brand are highly recommended. However, it’s important to note that if you use a car-buying service, it can result in a much lower price paid for your car.

Another alternative to consider is to sell your car to a dealer via a Sale or Return (SOR) agreement. This type of sale works by agreeing on a price with the dealer, who’ll then try to sell your car for more in order to cover the preparation work, warranty and of course, their cut of the sale. We highly recommend Sale or Return agreements for premium cars because the dealer can offer finance options to any potential buyers in order to complete the sale.


Selling your car can be achieved in a number of ways but a private sale is the best route to choose if you want to get the highest price for your car. The main drawback is that it can be time-consuming as you may have to deal with the various “time wasters” or “tyre kickers”. However, as long as you have the time and patience, we would highly recommend that you attempt to sell your car privately before using a car-buying service.

The only time we would avoid selling a car privately is if the value of the car is high (i.e. over £50,000). This is mainly because people may need to sort out finance for the car. Therefore, instead, we would recommend using a dealer to sell the car for you (on a Sale or Return (SOR) agreement) because they can offer any potential buyers finance for your car, which would therefore increase the chances of your car selling.

Hopefully our guide on how to sell a car privately has given you the confidence to give it a go yourself. However, if you feel that you need further information, feel free to get in touch and we will try to provide our assistance where possible.

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