Selling Your Car

In the past, selling a car meant placing an ad in the local newspaper, sticking a sign to the windscreen, and then sitting back as the tyre-kickers arrive at the door, chequebook in hand. Now, the process is much more complicated, with hundreds of different routes to go down.

car selling guide


Despite the rise in new car sales in the UK, millions of second-hand vehicles change hands every year. In 2015 alone, over two million used cars were sold, many privately, showing the scale and power of the market. It’s this moneymaking potential that has given rise to a wave of new businesses, keen to help motorists sell their cars quickly — and of course, share in the profit.

From traditional car classifieds like Autotrader, eBay and, to new car purchasing firms like We Buy Any Car and Trusted Car Buyers, there are now several channels to choose from, making it difficult to know which offers the best value for money.

To help you navigate the confusing world of used car sales, here we provide a complete guide to selling your car, including advice on different car valuation tools and tips on how to create a great classified advert.

Selling Your Car Privately — How to Get Things Started

Provided you’re able to spend time organising the sale, selling your car privately will almost always get you the best price. Before you start picturing pound signs, however, there are several things you need to do that require a little legwork — from valuing your car to determine an upper price point, to creating an attractive ad that will draw the attention of prospective buyers.

Valuing Your Car 

Don’t rely on guesswork when putting a price on your second-hand car; instead, use a professional valuation tool to calculate a fair and honest price.

Several websites offer free car valuations based on the make, model, age and mileage. These include:

While other valuation services are available, these are the ones considered the most impartial. CAP, in particular, is the UK’s leading car valuation tool, and many third parties rely on their database when pricing vehicles fairly.

websites to value my car

Valuing your car using any of these sites is quick and easy- they only need your registration, current mileage and contact details. Be as accurate as you can when listing the covered mileage, as a few hundred miles above or below the exact mileage could affect the result of the valuation.

We’d recommend valuing your car three or four times using different services to pinpoint an average price point. Make a note of the lower and upper prices quoted by each valuation provider, in case you need to refer back to these when a buyer is trying to barter you down to a price you aren’t happy with.

If you want to sell your car quickly, list it in the middle of the price estimation range, rather than at the lowest quoted figure. Not only will this attract more interest, it’ll prevent you from selling your car short if a buyer is happy to pay that price without bartering. Always give yourself room to negotiate by setting the price slightly above the lowest price you’d be happy with.

Choosing Where to Advertise Your Car

car ad

There are lots of places to advertise used cars for sale, making it tricky to choose the best place to host your classified. It all depends on how quickly you want your car to sell, as well as how much you’re willing to invest in advertising expenses.

Traditional methods of advertising — like placing an ad in the local paper, adding ‘for sale’ posters to shop noticeboards, and pinning a sign to the car before parking it somewhere with lots of footfall — are still cheap and effective ways of selling a used car. However, they don’t guarantee a quick sale, and fees for placing an ad in the paper can often cost more than online sites (particularly eBay and Gumtree).

If you want your car to attract more interest, you’ll need to head online and use one of the many classified car sale sites available. Fees for placing a car ad on these sites vary, so we’ve picked the three most popular options to give you an idea of how much it’s likely to cost.

Autotrader — The UK’s largest car classifieds site offers three different advertising packages, including:

  • Basic — £36.95, two-week advert, up to 20 photos.
  • Standard — £45.95, three-week advert, up to 20 photos, more search coverage on mobile.
  • Premium — £56.95, six-week advert, up to 20 photos, more search coverage on desktop and mobile.

eBay — The renowned auction site has emerged as one of the UK’s most popular car selling sites, with hundreds of vehicles listed. Like Autotrader, it offers different price points depending on how much you want to pay, and how quickly you want to sell your car:

  • Auction and buy it now ­— Both of these options cost £10, plus a 1% final value fee for selling a listed vehicle. You may also be charged a further fee if you choose to end an auction early.
  • Classified ad — Publishing a classified ad on eBay will cost £14.99, but you don’t need to pay the 1% final value fee if your car sells.
    Remember: If your buyer uses PayPal, you’ll have to pay additional fees, including 3.4% of the total sale and an extra 20p per transaction.

Gumtree — Classified and community selling website Gumtree is an affordable place to sell a car. For private sellers, hosting an ad on the site is free, though you can choose to pay for additional features that may help your ad get noticed. However, Gumtree doesn’t get nearly as much traffic as other car advertising sites, so don’t expect a quick sale.

(Fees correct November 2016)

These are just a handful of the car classifieds sites available, and we’d recommend pricing up others, including, and Exchange and Mart, before publishing an advert with a specific site.

Creating an Attractive Classified Car Ad

Once you’ve chosen a classifieds site which meets your requirements and price point, it’s time to create your ad. While it’s important to make your ad look as attractive as possible to prospective buyers, there are several things you need to include on your ad by law. These include:

  • The exact make and model
  • The year of manufacture and registration identifier
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Colour
  • Service history information
  • List of equipment/extras
  • Your contact details

If all of this information isn’t included in your car ad, it could put buyers off, so try to be as comprehensive as possible.

Provided you nail this basic information, there are a few additional tricks you can use to make your ad stand out and attract attention. We’ve listed a few helpful tips to boost your ad below.

Use Titles and Headings to Grab Attention

Depending on the advertising service you use, give your ad a persuasive title and subheading. Autotrader gives you the opportunity to add a subtitle, which you can personalise to attract the reader’s attention as they scroll through the results.

Listing unique features, such as ‘heated seats’ or ‘in-built sat nav’, can work to attract buyers. You can also go with something simpler, like ‘low mileage and full service history’. This is the chance to make your car sound like a unique and attractive proposition from the get-go.

Be Comprehensive with the Features List

When listing the features of your car, it’s important to be as specific and comprehensive as you can. Not only will including all the features make your car look more attractive to potential buyers (particularly if it has sought-after technology like DAB radio and Bluetooth), it’ll actually help the right buyers find your car when they’re filtering their search criteria.

For instance, if someone is looking for a 3dr Ford Fiesta ST with cruise control and parking sensors, your ad could appear at the top of their search results if you’ve included a full list of features — making them much more likely to click on your ad.

Get the Most Important Information into the Description First

When car buyers are browsing through page after page of classifieds, they want the facts first and the niceties second, so try to include key information about your car at the top of your advert description. Information on mileage, service history, condition and equipment will be of more interest to buyers than what a faithful little runabout it’s been over the years, so try to keep the sentiment until the bottom half of the ad, when their attention has been grabbed.

Use Great Photographs

great car photography

It doesn’t matter how persuasive your description is, if the photographs of your car aren’t up to scratch, the ad won’t get as much interest. Using high-resolution images is an absolute must when it comes to advertising your car, and it pays to spend a while making sure that every aspect of the car is covered — including any special features

Make sure you use all of the photo allowance offered by the advert hosting service to showcase the best (and worst) bits of your car. Your goal is to give buyers a comprehensive view of your car, so that they’re already half-sold when it comes to viewing it in the flesh.

Safety Tips when Selling Your Car Privately

While selling a car privately normally offers the best return on investment, it can leave you exposed to fraudsters and criminals who prey on unsuspecting sellers. With the rise in online car sales through sites like eBay, online car fraud is on the up, so it’s important to take care when dealing with buyers over the internet.

Here, we provide a few tips to help you stay safe when selling your car privately online — including some of the latest scams targeting private car sellers.

Safe Payment — What Are the Options? 

Like traditional forms of private car sales, there are a number of options available to ensure a safe transaction between you and the buyer.

Cash – Many private sales are conducted on a cash-in-full basis, in which you and the buyer meet after contacting one another online, and receive cash in hand for the value of the vehicle. If a large amount of money is changing hands, it’s a good idea to carry out this type of transaction at the bank, so that the money can be paid directly into your account.

Cheques – Cheques and banker’s drafts also remain a popular option for private car sales, though they are one of the riskiest payment options available. If you have any doubts about the buyer, don’t hand over the keys until you know your bank has cleared the funds. If a cheque bounces after they’ve collected the car, you could be out of pocket and without a car.

PayPal – The latest payment option for used car sales is PayPal, which is usually reserved for cars listed on eBay. While PayPal payments are fast and convenient, there is a risk of fraud from criminals giving false credit and debit card information. We’d always recommend meeting the buyer before agreeing to accept payment via PayPal, and withholding the keys until the funds are safely in your own bank account.

Staying Safe While Selling

staying safe when buying car

While most online car-buying transactions go off without a hitch, there are some scams that sellers have encountered, so it pays to be savvy and know how to spot anything dodgy. Here are just some of the most common frauds targeting private sellers online.

The PayPal Scam — This involves the buyer sending the full amount via PayPal, before they’ve even seen the car. The seller then receives a notification saying they have been overpaid, along with a request to refund the difference via an alternative payment method. Once this is done, the fraudulent buyer reverses their original PayPal payment, and the seller loses the refunded amount.

Text Message Scams — This scam is difficult to detect, and is causing a real headache for online car dealers. When advertising a car, the seller receives a text message expressing interest in the vehicle. As they respond, they’re charged at premium rate which goes straight into the pocket of the fraudster.

Email Phishing — Email phishing scams are prevalent throughout the internet, and can affect private car sellers. This is when fraudsters contact a seller using a seemingly authentic email account, and request private information, including card details. Never respond to any emails which haven’t come through a trusted source.

Car Purchasing Sites — A Good Idea?

Over the past decade, several firms have emerged in the world of used car buying promising to take used cars off our hands for a great price. The most successful of these, We Buy Any Car, has reportedly bought over 750,000 cars since British Car Auctions (BCA) launched the company in 2006 — making it easily the biggest automotive purchasing business in the UK.

And given the supposed benefits of selling your used car to firms like We Buy Any Car, it’s easy to see why so many motorists are choosing this option over traditional classifieds. Ease, convenience, free valuations and a guaranteed price are offered by all the major car-buying companies, meaning that drivers can quickly get rid of their old car without the hassle of creating an advert and managing the sale. What’s not to like?

Selling your car to a service like We Buy Any Car is straightforward: you pop your registration number into the site, enter a bit of information about your car and are given a guaranteed valuation and price based on the information you’ve entered. Then, you must arrange a vehicle inspection with a WBAC engineer at one of their nationwide centres, who will look over your car and its full service history to make sure they’ve quoted the right price.

Sadly, this is when We Buy Any Car’s proposition comes unstuck. According to a recent report, 96% of We Buy Any Car customers received less than the original online valuation following the engineer’s inspection, with many valuations lowered by over £100. Small dents, faint scratches and missing stamps in the vehicle’s logbook are among some of the factors which diminish a vehicle’s value in the eyes of We Buy Any Car, and in the past the company was accused of instructing its inspectors to try to knock around 25% off the quoted value of each vehicle (though the firm has since said it has stopped this ill-practice).

If you’re considering using a car-buying service to get rid of their old car, do your research carefully and don’t be afraid to walk away if the quoted price isn’t what you expect following the vehicle inspection. Some services may be more honest in their approach to vehicle valuation than others, so if you have the time, go through several different services until you find the best price.

At Holts, our handy DIY car care products are designed to keep your car in tip top condition for longer, no matter what its age and mileage. For more information, visit the homepage.