How Do I Sell My Car Privately? A Step-By-Step Guide

When the time comes to sell your car, you have a few different options on the table. Dealerships and car buying sites can provide a quick, convenient service, but they'll often charge fees and are likely to settle for a lower price than your car could fetch. Selling it privately is another alternative. This process can be a bit more complicated, but it's the best option if you want to get maximum money for your motor. So, what do you need to do when selling a car privately? Just take a look at our step-by-step guide below to get all the key info.

Wash car

What documents do I need to sell my car?

First things first, it’s important to get the ‘boring stuff’ sorted. The buyer will need to receive all the paperwork you have relating to the car. Not only is this documentation crucial for the future ownership of the vehicle, but it’s also important for trust and security – and that can also mean getting a quicker sale and a higher price. Make sure you find:

  • All MOT certificates. Try to find every certificate that you have for the vehicle.
  • Any service history documents. If possible, you should also find receipts for any work that has been carried out on the car.

These are the essentials, but if you want more information on the documents to have when selling your car, we’ve got a handy guide here.

Preparing your car for viewing

Once you’ve found all the important documents that you need for the sale to go ahead, the next thing to do is get the vehicle ready for presenting to potential buyers. As you’ll probably know from your own experience as a buyer, first impressions are crucial with such a major purchase – you’ll want to give it that all-important curb appeal to grab a buyer’s attention. Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that count: it can be really worthwhile paying particular attention to anything small the buyer will notice when approaching or getting into the car. Here are a couple of musts:

  • Fix any major dents or scratches. It might not be practical to get every little bump sorted, but anything that’s clearly visible will have a major impact on the price the potential buyer is willing to pay. This loss in value is likely to be greater than the cost of the repair.
  • Clean the car. It’s definitely worth visiting a car wash (and splashing out on a wax) to get all the surfaces looking as shiny and appealing as possible. Then it’s time to whip out the vacuum and sort out that interior. Make sure it’s tidy and organised too, with nothing but the essential driving items inside – no crisp packets, water bottles or stray phone chargers. If there are any odours lingering, try giving the upholstery a deeper clean and picking up a mild air freshener.

After you’re done with this essential prep, you should approach the car as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Try to imagine how a potential owner might look at it. This will help you pick up on anything you might have missed.

Photograph car

Take some good-quality photos

Once your car is looking its shiny best, it’s time to take some pictures for your ad. The more photos you have, and the better they are, the more confidence you’ll build in a prospective buyer’s mind. Some important things to remember are:

  • Park your car in a nice location. This will make a strong impression in a photo, particularly if the lighting is good. Shooting around sunset is ideal.
  • Use the best camera available to you. Phone cameras are very impressive these days, but to get the most out of them you’ll want to shoot with favourable lighting, make sure every picture is fully in focus and avoid any errors like a finger across the lens or an odd reflection in the windshield.
  • Try shooting from multiple angles. This gives more information about the car and reassures anyone looking that you don’t have anything to hide.
  • Take interior and detail shots. Alongside pictures of the outside of the car, it’s definitely a good idea to include photos of the cabin, particularly the driver’s seat, backseats, and boot. You could also take pictures of the mile gauge and the tyres. The more info you provide, the more grateful and confident a prospective buyer will feel.

Before moving on to set up your ad, you could take a look through this in-depth checklist on preparing your car for a quick sale, just to make sure you’ve covered everything.

Where is the easiest place to sell my car?

If you’re ready to advertise your car for sale, there are multiple options available. Gumtree Motors is one of the best online platforms for selling your car privately. It has a simple, user-friendly interface, so creating your advert will be straightforward. You’ll also have the eyes of thousands of users from all across the UK, which increases your chances of getting a quick sale. You can set whatever price you want for the vehicle, and you won’t have to pay anything for your listing.

Other online platforms for car sales include:

  • Auto Trader. One of the leading marketplaces, it has plenty of users, but listing fees can be a little pricy. Depending on the type of listing, you’ll probably have to pay at least £10 to create your advert.
  • eBay Motors. A free online marketplace for cars. You can choose to sell your car for a fixed price, or set up an auction.
  • Craigslist. This is another platform where you can list for free. Scams are more common, though, so exercise caution.

How do I sell my car to a private person?

If you’ve gathered the necessary documents, prepared your car for sale and set up your listing on a site like Gumtree, you’ll be all set up to sell your car to a private person. But once you have some prospective buyers, it’s important to screen them thoroughly. Listing a lower-priced vehicle can see you getting lots of replies, so it might be worth setting up a new email address, or a new phone number through Google. If not, make sure you’re organising your voicemail/inbox efficiently. There are a few things to be aware of:

  • Ignore anyone you suspect to be a dealer. If you get a reply that seems like it’s been sent to multiple different people, it’s possible that they’re just buying cars to flip them. In this case, they’re likely to try and negotiate a lower price than you’re prepared to accept.
  • Review the important information. When you reach out to people, via email or over the phone, make sure you clearly reiterate all the most essential details about the car. This prevents any confusion or loss of trust, and it means that you won’t be wasting each other’s time.

Once you’ve found the ideal buyer, remember that you’ll need the documentation listed above ready when completing the sale.

Closing the deal

Your ad has caught the eye of a buyer, so what are the final steps when selling a car privately?

  • Viewing / test drive. The buyer will probably want to take a look at the car before they buy, and it might be necessary to organise a test drive. If they do want to test out the car, make sure that you go with them. It’s also worth bringing a friend along with you to the first meeting. While they’re driving, resist the urge to sell them on the car. Just answer any questions they have.
  • Inspection. When they ask for an inspection, you can reassure them that maintenance has been carried out. If the prospective buyer insists on taking the vehicle to a mechanic, it should be them who pays for the service.
  • Payment. Once a deal has been arranged, make sure you get your payment in full before handing anything over. Try to get a bank transfer if possible. If you’re accepting payment in cash, count it out first, and deposit it in your bank. You’re then ready to hand over the keys and the papers.

Now we’ve gone through the steps to selling a car privately, you’ll be ready to get yourself the deal that’s right for you. It’s not fun to get stuck with a set of wheels that’s becoming a burden, but equally, you don’t have to accept a raw deal and undersell your asset. Follow our steps and you can sell with confidence.

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