How To Sell Your Car Privately

Around 7 million used cars change hands each year in the UK, many of them through private sales.

Most people prefer to sell their car privately to obtain the best price, although you must be prepared to invest time and effort into organising the sale. Indeed, you may kiss a lot of frogs!

There are six main aspects that are crucial throughout this process to make sure the overall transaction is legitimate, hassle-free and correct.

Including: what to do when selling your car, selling your car online, ensuring safe payment, the essential paperwork required, not to be tricked by fraudulent buyers and the safety aspects of when people come to view your car.
What to do when selling your car?
 Advertising your car is the first fundamental step to a victorious sale! There are various ways you can advertise, whether at a cost or for it be free depending upon how urgent it may be that you need to sell the car.
The most popular and effective ways of advertising cars (depending on the price of the car as well) are:

  • ‘For sale’ signs in local shop windows.
  • Car auction site, like eBay.
  • A ‘for sale’ sign in one of your car’s windows.
  • In your local newspaper’s classified ads section.
  • Car Buying service.
  • Car-selling websites.
Keep in mind with whatever option you choose, your advertisement must include this information and be as truthful as possible:
  • Colour.
  • Mileage.
  • Condition.
  • List of equipment/taxes.
  • Full-service history (or not).
  • The exact make and model.
  • The year of manufacture and registration identifier.
  • Your contact details.
Selling your car online
Advertising and selling your car online has several advantages and disadvantages:
  • Gives you access to a much wider audience.
  • Some online sites offer secure payment methods so you don’t have to worry about being scammed.
  • Allows you to give a lot more detail about the vehicle including pictures.
  • If selling on an auction site (like eBay) then you might not get as good a price as you hoped.
  • People will still want to see the vehicle before they buy or bid, so you will need to make time for these appointments, and time for “time wasters” or “no-shows”.
Here is a quick tip to remember: make sure all images taken of the vehicle you’re selling are of good quality and that you take numerous pictures at different angles.

Ensuring safe payment
When you’ve finished negotiating the price and both you and the buyer have agreed to the sale, you need to secondly agree on how they’ll pay the money to you.
There are four main ways that most buyers choose to pay: cash in full, immediate bank transfer using the CHAPS system, cheque to clear (do not ever release the vehicle to the buyer until you are in receipt of cleared funds) or banker’s draft.

  • Cash in full – Make sure you count the money most importantly, it is worthwhile meeting the buyer at the bank to ensure you can pay in the money immediately and the cashier will be able to check the notes are genuine.
  • Immediate bank transfer using the CHAPS system – remember to keep possession of your car until you’ve seen the money from the buyer has been transferred to the correct account.
  • Cheque– Do not hand over the car keys until you know your bank has cleared the full payment into your account. Banks most of the time will show the cheque money being transferred to your account by the next available working day, however, this does not account for the cheque being cleared. A common fraud is to present a cheque and get the bank to confirm the cheque has been paid in. The seller then releases the goods, but a few days later the cheque bounces because it is fraudulent. By then the seller has lost their goods. Cheques can take up to 2 weeks to clear. If your buyer wants to buy the car but can’t pay immediately, take a non-refundable deposit. £100 is the normal amount. This will help cover your costs if they pull out and you must re-advertise.
  • Banker’s draft a bank draft is safer than a personal check when accepting large payments. To get a banker's draft, a bank customer must have funds (or cash) available, and the bank will freeze or keep those funds in the bank's own account until the payment is completed.​
  • Finally, when you receive payment, you need to complete the essential paperwork to finalise the deal.

Essential paperwork

  • Write a receipt and make two copies – one for yourself and one for the buyer. It should include the date, price, registration number, make and model, plus you and your buyer’s names and addresses.
  • Complete and send the V5C to the DVLA. This is done by completing the new keeper details (section 6) and signing section 8. Complete and hand over the new keeper part of V5C to your buyer.
  • Give the new owner the car’s handbook, the keys (including any duplicate sets), the service logbook plus any receipts you have, and the MOT certificate if the car is over three years old. If you’re selling with a full-service history, buyers also like to receive old MOT certificates and other maintenance receipts.
  • And finally, keep a separate note of the buyer’s name and address.
Not to be tricked by fraudulent buyers
When selling your car privately, this can put you in the limelight to potential thieves posing as potential buyers.
Recently, the most common scams have been:
  • Someone posing as a car exporter, who asks you to transfer ‘shipping fees’ to overseas ‘buyers’.
  • Phishing emails from the so-called car buying and selling websites requesting login and payment details for your card.
  • Text messages expressing an interest in your car only for you to be charged at a premium rate if you respond by phone or text.
  • People wanting to buy your car using PayPal or similar e-payment systems – the account might have been set-up using false credit card details.
  • A buyer who pays by cheque and takes the car before the cheque clears, but the cheque bounces a few days later because it is a forgery or fake
  • A buyer offering to buy your car unseen who pays the full amount through PayPal. You’re then notified you’ve been overpaid and you’re asked to return the difference through a different online payment method. As you do this, the fraudster arranges for their original PayPal transaction to be reversed and you lose the money you’ve ‘returned’.

The safety aspects of when people come to view your car
The people coming to view your car will usually be complete strangers, it makes sense to take some basic precautions:
  • When arranging a viewing, consider having a friend or family member present.
  • Ask the buyer for proof of identity and check that they have a valid driver’s licence.
  • Always remove the keys from the ignition before leaving a potential buyer alone in your car.
  • Go with potential buyers on test drives and don’t hand over the keys until you’re in the passenger seat.
  • Be wary if a buyer brings some ‘tag-a-long’ friends – they might plan to break into your house while you’re out on the test drive.
  • Don’t hand over the car keys or documents until your bank has confirmed it has cleared the full value of the vehicle into your account.
  • Ask the potential buyer to check with their insurance company they’re covered to drive your car. Even if they have a “driving other cars” policy it will probably only provide third party cover. Contact your insurance company – you might need to get temporary car insurance for the test drive.
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