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Proper preparation gets the best price

When you’ve decided you’re going to sell or trade in your current car, you want to be sure you get the best price for it. So here are our top tips for a successful sale!

Find out what it’s worth

First, you need to know what your car is worth. Take a look at Auto Trader or Gumtree in your area — that’ll give you an idea. Make sure you’re comparing like with like — a newer model than yours, or one with a higher spec, will fetch more. To be on the safe side, it’s also worth checking a few different valuation sites to get an idea of the average price being offered. Try the likes of and

Tell the truth

Let’s start with the basics. Literally. If you’re advertising a car for sale, you’ll need to include:

  • Year of registration
  • Make and model
  • Colour
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Additional equipment and features
  • Length of MOT left

You’ll also want to describe the car as fully as possible. Naturally, you’ll want to emphasise its good points, and you should lead with those. But be honest. Highlight any scratches, scuffs, dents and dings, as well as any issues, like (for example) a broken or missing audio player. That way you don’t leave yourself open to haggling – or, however mistakenly, to breaking the law!

Be prepared

Get your car looking as good as it can. Give it a thorough clean, inside and out, or take it to your local hand wash and valet place — it won’t necessarily cost much and they know how to do a great job. If you can, repair any minor damage to paintwork and/or simple mechanical faults. If you can’t do it yourself, it’s worth checking how much it would cost to get it done professionally. Again, it might be a small cost that protects the price you’re looking for by removing a buyer’s excuses to drive the cost down.

Tips for trading in

If you decide to use your car as collateral when buying a new one, be aware that you won’t make as much as you might through a private sale. It’s the salesperson’s job to make the most profit they can, so be prepared. Have a figure in mind, but don’t say what it is. If you’re falling very short, it might be worth trying that private sale after all.

It’ll help if you try to trade in at the right time – like just before a new number plate comes out. Dealers are keen to get rid of pre-registered or older plate cars to make room for more desirable stock, and you might get a better bargain as a result.

To trade or not to trade?

Like everything else in life, there are pros and cons to trying for a trade-in deal.


  • It’s a one-stop approach, with only one place or person to deal with. Helpful if you don’t have the time, patience or inclination to deal with a private sale.
  • It’s fast. If you and your dealer can reach an agreement the car is off your hands immediately.
  • It’s less hassle — you don’t need to advertise, and you don’t need to worry about being defrauded by an unscrupulous buyer.
  • It cuts the cost of your next car. The amount your dealer agrees to will come off the cost or create a deposit for your new car.


  • You might not make as much money. It’s normal for the trade-in value of a car to be less than its cash price equivalent.
  • If a dealership offers a trade in, you’re limited to their choice of cars. With that said, you could always visit more than one dealership to ask about trade in deals.
  • Cash in hand could mean a better discount than a trade-in deal. Car dealerships have to dispose of the cars they buy. Cash in hand doesn’t involve additional work!
  • The dealer will try hard to convince you to take the lowest price possible. Don’t be swayed — if your car is really worth more, think again about how you’d like to dispose of it.

Dot the Is and cross the Ts

Pay attention to paperwork

Once you’ve sold the car, it’s your responsibility to tell the DVLA that you’re no longer the registered keeper. Use your V5C form, known as the logbook. You’ll see on it what you need to complete and where to send it. It’s important to do that right away. If someone else ends up driving that car, and they’re convicted of any wrongdoing, the points could go on your licence instead of theirs. You should also have two copies of a contract to be signed — one for you and one for the buyer. You can download a contract from the AA website.

Get the money up front

If you’re selling privately, the most likely payment method is cash. But if someone wants to pay by online transfer, or by cheque, make sure the funds are safely in your account before transferring ownership.

A final word

Selling a car doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s basically just about common sense — and our top tips. There are four key things to remember:

  • Do your research. Remember, knowledge is power!
  • Don’t be in a hurry — walk away if the deal’s not right.
  • Do use your common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it feels off, walk away.
  • Don’t be bullied by someone in a hurry. That’s their problem, not yours!

Disclaimer: This article contains links to third party websites. We don't control these websites and aren't responsible for their content.

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