The dos and don’ts of selling your car
Parting ways with your trusty car can be a hard thing to do, even if you’ve got something new on the horizon. To help keep the process as smooth and stress-free as possible, here are our top tips on what to do – and what not to do – when selling your car privately:
- Clean the car thoroughly inside and out before you advertise it for sale. A clean car is a well looked-after car and getting rid of any dirt or rubbish will help you get the maximum value from the sale.
- Take the time to write an accurate description, including the car’s age/ year of registration, current mileage and details of its service history. If you’re still using the car until it’s sold, make it clear that the mileage will increase. Don’t forget to include your location, too.
- Be realistic about the asking price. Compare it to cars of a similar age, mileage and condition nearby and leave a small amount of wiggle-room for buyers to negotiate.
- Add pictures of the car to your advert – both interior and exterior shots should be included. Make sure you take the pictures outside your house or at the location the car is usually kept; avoid taking pictures in a public place such as a car park, as this could make potential buyers suspicious and put them off viewing the car.Take the pictures during daylight, ensuring the images aren’t obscured by any objects and there’s nobody in the car at the time – you don’t want to look like you’re hiding something! It may also help to include images from various angles to show the front, rear and sides of the car, and include at least one picture of the dashboard while lit, showing the odometer reading.
You can also use images to detail any superficial damage such as scratches to the paintwork or marks on the upholstery, which will mean there are no surprises when a buyer views the car. Your images are also a good opportunity to highlight details such as alloy wheels, optional extras and any special features like Isofix points which could help the car sell quicker.
- Consider renewing the MOT if it’s coming close to its expiry date. This will give potential buyers a clear and confident view on the condition of the car.
- Ensure a potential buyer is properly qualified and insured before accompanying them on a test drive.
- If the buyer wants to pay in cash, arrange for the money to be handed over inside your bank. This will ensure the money is not counterfeit and can be paid in straight away.
- If the buyer transfers money electronically or hands you a cheque, wait for the amount to fully clear in your account before handing over the keys – this may take a few days.
- Write out a receipt detailing the name, address and contact number of both the buyer and you as the seller. The receipt should also list the registration number and vehicle identification number of the car, as well as details such as the make, model, colour and condition of the car at the time of sale. It is also worth including a statement on the receipt that the car is “Sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee or any warranties, express or implied”. However, this doesn’t affect the legal rights of the buyer so you should ensure that your description of the car is accurate before selling.
Finally, don’t forget to include the agreed price and a note that payment has been received in full.Sign the receipt and ask the buyer to do the same. Both parties should keep a copy for their records.
- Notify the DVLA of the transferred ownership, following the instructions given on the registered keeper document (V5C), once you have sold the car.
- Give out personal or identifying information, such as the vehicle identity number, over the phone. This could give somebody the details they need to create a cloned or fraudulent advert. A genuine buyer will always be happy to come and inspect the car for themselves.
- Include in your advert any photos or scanned images of official documents relating to the vehicle.
- Allow a potential buyer to borrow, keep, or make copies of the vehicle documents until they legally own the car.
- Allow opportunistic thieves to drive your car away. If you change seats during a test drive, make sure you take the keys out of the ignition and only hand them over when you get back in the car.
- Sell a car that has outstanding finance without either settling the amount or gaining permission from the finance company first.
- Hide or mislead buyers on the condition of the car. For instance, if it is in need of substantial repairs you should be honest about this. Don't sell a car that is legally unsafe to drive – unless it's clear that the car is for scrap parts only and the buyer is aware of this.
- Fall victim to illegitimate Escrow accounts or false shipping companies recommended by the buyer. While this can be a legitimate and safe method of receiving payment, it could also be part of a common scam whereby buyers from abroad offer to purchase the car without seeing it first, insisting you use a certain Escrow account or shipping company which is actually a ruse set up by them. The buyer then claims to have sent payment and the "company" confirms this separately. One you allow the car to be taken away, the company ceases to exist and the funds are never transferred. Always research the company beforehand – you can check its legitimacy using the FSA register.
- Get caught out by fraudsters who insist on paying via PayPal or a similar digital payment system. Payments sent via this method can be reversed. A common trick used by fraudsters is to make an overpayment and request that you refund the difference via an alternative method. At the same time, the scammer sends a request to PayPal to reverse the original transaction. Accounts on e-payment systems may also have been set up using cloned or stolen credit card details, so it's worth bearing this in mind before agreeing to a sale.
- Leave the buyer alone with the keys while viewing the car, or let them drive the car away until you have received full payment and it has cleared in your bank account.
- Forget to give the buyer the spare key, service record, vehicle handbook and any relevant documents when the sale is complete.
While the vast majority of car sales are completed without any issue, occasionally things can go wrong. It's worth keeping this knowledge in mind to protect yourself, your money and your car in the process of selling. By following this common-sense advice, we hope you will make a successful and hassle-free sale.