Male and female with two young children packing up red car.

How to sell a car privately

Selling a car privately can be a really smart decision. But, there is the possibility of some risk too. Here's how to avoid the pitfalls and make sure that getting the best deal is hassle-free – and stress-free too.

Why now is the best time to sell your car

Right now, the market for second-hand cars is booming in the UK. Demand has pushed up the price of the most popular used vehicles by up to 57% since 2019. So, if you've ever wondered how to sell a car privately, you should find all you need to know right here.

Start by knowing what your car is worth

Before you take any steps towards selling your vehicle, you need to have an idea of what the sale price will be. The price of your car is determined by the make and model, but factors such as age, mileage, condition and service history also play an important role.

You can look on sales sites such as eBay and AutoTrader to find prices for vehicles similar to yours. Or, you can ask a professional car dealer for a valuation. However, the price a dealer might give you and the price a private buyer might be willing to pay will not be the same.

How quickly do you need to sell?

Even if you know how to sell a car, the process takes time and carries some risk for you. Before you start making an ad for your vehicle, it's worth asking yourself what matters most to you: getting the most money, making a quick sale or getting it all done with the minimum of effort and fuss.

If you need to sell quickly or don't have time to deal with enquiries from prospective buyers, you might decide to sell to a dealer – even if this means accepting less than you would receive from a private sale. Finding a buyer and managing the sale yourself will definitely take up more of your time and require more leg work on your part. So, you should be realistic about how much time you have to dedicate to this.

Exploring your selling options

When it comes to selling a car, there are different ways to do it. For example, you might choose to sell to one of the large online buyers who'll guarantee a sale instantly, such as WeBuyAnyCar or the Car Buying Group. Before you agree to this option, you need to understand exactly what you'll get and how this compares to the vehicle's market value.

Part-exchange is another option that will save you the trouble of selling your vehicle. If the garage or agent accepts part exchange, you can just put it towards the cost of your new car. This can be a hassle-free option, but you really need to know beforehand what your car is worth to avoid being short-changed. This might mean doing a bit of negotiation with the buyer, which you may not be comfortable with.

If you do want to sell your car privately, decide where to advertise it and make sure your ad is as attractive as possible. You could consider placing an ad on a car-buying site like AutoTrader, using classified sites like Gumtree or the local press, or advertising your car on social media like Facebook Marketplace.

Start by giving the car a professional clean inside and out, and consider patching up any minor faults, such as scratches or stains. It might be worthwhile getting a fresh 12-month MOT to prove that the car is roadworthy, and make it more attractive to potential buyers. Remember buyers can now search a car's MOT history to see what issues it's had in the past.

Get all the car keys, spare keys and locking wheel nut tools if you have them. And make sure the spare wheel and jack is still in place.

Take pictures showing every angle of the vehicle, inside and out, including any big selling points such as alloy wheels or leather seats. Make sure you include a photo of the dashboard to show the mileage reading.

Your ad should include all of the following:

  • The make and model
  • Fuel type
  • Mileage
  • Your asking price
  • Details of the service history and last MOT
  • Your reason for selling
  • Your contact details.

To sell your car, you'll need to show it to prospective buyers. There are some rules you should make sure you follow when you're meeting a possible buyer. Always accompany prospective buyers on a test drive. Never leave them alone with the keys and always meet in a safe place. This might be a public place, like a supermarket car park, or at your home. If you do meet at home, make sure there are other people around.

You need to see proof of the driver's identity and proof of insurance because they need to be insured to test drive the car.

Can the buyer return a faulty car?

Here's what you need to know – the law approaches sales by a private individual differently to sales by a professional dealer. This means the responsibility is on the buyer to check a vehicle carefully for faults before buying from a private seller.

However, you could be in trouble if you don't have the right to sell the vehicle (for example, you're not the registered owner or a finance agreement prevents you selling the car), or if the vehicle isn't roadworthy, or it doesn't match the description you provide (for example, if the mileage is incorrect). You should be careful not to make any statements that are misleading or incorrect about the vehicle, as this could result in a buyer bringing a claim against you if something goes wrong.

In the eyes of the law, private buyers have limited options to put things right if the vehicle develops a fault soon after the sale. However, if you sell the vehicle from your home you need to consider whether a dissatisfied buyer might turn up on your doorstep, insistent on getting their money back. The best approach is to be open and honest from the start.

Protecting yourself from scammers

Criminals often target private car sales because of the large sums of money involved. So, make sure you know how to protect yourself when selling a car privately.

The most important part of the sale is the transfer of funds. Criminals sometimes set up bogus car shipping companies to trick you into handing over your vehicle without receiving payment. Always check out third party services carefully before passing over the keys.

The good news is bank transfers can be made immediately, and CHAPS payments have the added security of being irreversible. If a seller wants to pay by cheque, ensure it clears before you transfer the vehicle. If a cash payment is chosen, arrange to be given the cash outside your bank so you can deposit it immediately.

Some cars have a built-in sat-nav or infotainment system, which may contain sensitive or private data. Make sure you delete things like names and addresses from these before selling your car, too.

Managing the documents

When you've received the money, you can give the new owner both the car and the V5C/2 section from your papers, which is a temporary proof of ownership. You'll then need to tell the DVLA of the sale either online or using the V5C form so the registered owner can be updated.

It's important to notify the DVLA of the change of ownership as soon as possible. Otherwise you may receive speeding tickets, parking fines or even criminal proceedings that might have been caused by the new owner. Telling the DVLA will also trigger a refund of any remaining car tax for the vehicle, so it's in your best interest to do this straight away.

For lots more useful tips, head over to our handy guides section.

All information is correct at the time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.

Car insurance

Our Direct and Premier policies are 5 Star rated by Defaqto, so why not get a hassle-free car insurance quote today.

Get a car quote

Log in to MyAccount

Log in to MyAccount to manage your policy online. You can view and download documents at your convenience. If your policy number starts with 'XA' you can also make payments and changes to your policy online.

Log in to MyAccount