‘How to Sell My Car’ – The Complete Guide to Selling Your Car

After a home, a car is most likely the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy. Add to that the amount of money and time invested in maintaining a vehicle, the emotional attachment people have to them and their value as assets or collectibles and it becomes clear why finding the right option when selling is so important.

This is exactly why we have created the ‘How to Sell My Car’ guide, to clarify the different choices and to make sure all that time, money and emotional investment is not lost by helping you get maximum value. The guide is in three parts, firstly, expert information and statistics on second hand car sales, secondly a blog which looks at the pros and cons of different selling methods and finally a visual step-by-step checklist to go through when selling a car.

Elin and Joe.

Part One – What The Experts Say

Part Two – How To Sell Your Car For Maximum Value

Part Three – The 5 Step Checklist For Selling Your Car


Part One – What The Experts Say

We surveyed some of the top motoring journalists and experts from the UK and US as well as compiling useful statistics on used car sales to create the slideshow below. You can pause the slideshow to flick through at your own pace or just let it play.

Part Two – How To Sell Your Car For Maximum Value


Option One – Cash for cars companies.

e.g: www.webuyanycar.com, www.sellyourjamjar.co.uk, www.cash4cars.co.uk

Cash for cars companies have exploded over the last five years, you almost certainly will have heard their annoyingly memorable radio adverts or celebrity-narrated TV spots. The reason for their success is the same reason any customer service is successful, because it offers convenience and simplicity. They offer to take any car off your hands and have a step-by-step process that can be easily navigated.

You enter your vehicle’s details through their website, receive a quote in seconds, book an in-branch appointment and negotiate following an inspection. Designed to appeal to people without much experience of selling cars and to those who need a quick sale, they have formed a profitable niche in an incredibly competitive market. But how do they make money and how does that affect the value you get when selling them your car?

Well, once they have purchased a vehicle it ends up being sold on in the wholesale market through car auctions or through dealers, this should indicate how important to their business model it is to keep valuations low and negotiate hard. If they were to buy a car at the average market price, there’s no margin at all.

If you enter the process with your eyes open and understand how these companies work, it may be that their service works for you, they do have many satisfied customers. Some have also been criticised by consumer charity Which?, The Advertising Standards Authority and the Office of Fair Trading for misleading practices and advertising claims.

The Bottom Line: If you really don’t have the time to pursue the other options on the list or cannot find anyone to take your car, you may want to see what offers cash for cars companies will give you. But bear in mind that convenience comes with a cost, possibly in the £1000s.


Option Two – Adverts.

e.g. Autotrader, Exchange and Mart, Gumtree, sellyourcar.motors.co.uk

There are an overwhelming variety of sites that allow you to list your car for sale, some free, some charged and almost all offering interaction with potential buyers. Each site also has very clear and helpful guides letting you know exactly what information to post, but are flexible enough that you can sell your car in an individual way.

Autotrader is arguably the number one used car advertising site, much like similarly established car trader magazine Exchange and Mart they have now transferred all their business online after seeing print circulation decline by 90% over the last decade.

They have a large reach, in the millions, and boast 3x more buyers than the next closest competitor. You will have to pay, basic ads for cars less than a £1000 start at £9.99, up to £56.00 for a six week multi-platform advert. They also offer a free valuation service to help decide your asking price.

Gumtree offer free ad placements, but also feature a range of upgrades to ‘spotlight’ your car. Less well known sites like Preloved.co.uk and Freeads.co.uk have a smaller reach but are completely free and easy to use. Pistonheads.com has a classifieds section and are part of the same publishing group as What Car? Magazine, offering 30 day ads for £11.99.

One of the great strengths of advertising online is also one of the weaknesses, it exposes your car to a huge audience and makes it incredibly easy for people to get in touch, which unfortunately means spammers and scammers can get in touch and potentially waste your time whilst having no genuine interest in your car. They may be car dealers looking for bargains or worse people phishing or trying to sell you something.

This does not mean there aren’t plenty of genuine people out there looking to buy your car, but that sifting through the nonsense might take some time. Including a phone number on your ad rather than purely relying on email is wise, as genuine buyers will be happy to speak on the phone. Other than that, be wary of any contact that asks for details not purely about the car and don’t click any links sent to you.

There are also plenty of offline advertising opportunities, local papers or magazines, noticeboards or the crudest but simplest method – turning your car into a mobile billboard with some fluorescent card and a magic marker.

The Bottom Line: Advertising your own car and hoping to sell to another private individual is the most likely way of getting back the full value of your motor. If you can afford the time and effort and are not driven mad by time-wasters, you can cut out the middle man and keep the savings for yourself.


Option Three – Auctions

e.g BCA, eBay.

Car auctions are a crucial part of the used car market in Great Britain. Although the vast majority of auction trade is wholesale, private sellers are also welcome at car auctions around the country. Auctions act as almost a perfect halfway point between a private sale and selling to a dealer – none of the hassle of a private sale, but without having to personally handle negotiations.

The biggest car auction company in the UK is BCA (British Car Auctions), they sell over a million cars across Europe each year and have 19 auction houses around England, Scotland and Wales. Their Sure Sell service will do all the work for you, including collecting the car, cleaning it, valuing it and auctioning it. They will sell virtually any car, with a few restrictions and deposit the money within 3-5 days.

The risk is of course that you can’t control the exact price your car will sell for, though you can set a reserve price, and if your car doesn’t sell you will have to pay for it to be relisted or returned, as well as still paying a not sold fee. As a test I entered my postcode and a car valued at £1500, the quote I was given to sell the car at British Car Auctions Enfield, with valeting and a mechanical report, came to £183.60 (£264.00 with collection) if the car sold at full value and £144.60 (£305.40 with collection) if the car didn’t sell and had to be returned. So although it’s an effortless service, the costs can add up and considering the car will be sold to trade, you’re essentially adding another middle man to the process, reducing your cut of the car’s value even further.

The other auction alternative is of course eBay, which has become a huge player in the used car market. It costs £10 to list a car and then 1% of the final selling price (up to a maximum of £35) and has one of the best interfaces for adding information, photos and interacting with potential buyers. It does suffer the same problems other listing sites have of time-wasters and phoney bidders, but its flexibility and relatively low listing prices are benefits.

The Bottom Line: Auctions are riskier than the other methods as you’re relying on offers rather than negotiations, they do offer convenience and the ability to set a minimum price, but the fees can add up if your car fails to find a buyer.


Option Four – Part-Exchange

e.g Perry’s, McCarthy Cars, Evans Halshaw, Truecar.com

Naturally part-exchange means you’re on the lookout for a new car and so would not apply to people simply looking to raise money from a sale. Going to a dealership can be daunting as you’re negotiating with professionals who spend all day dealing with cars and will know exactly how much yours is worth. But the important thing is not to try and outsmart a car dealer, but to negotiate and agree a value that you’re happy with and that allows you to avoid the hassle of a private sale.

The appeal of part-exchanging is the simplicity, if you’re setting out to buy a new car, nothing’s easier than swapping your old one while you are there, combining the buying and selling into one deal. It’s also the case that if you’ve done your homework you should be able to find a dealer that has a good reputation and that you can trust when trading in your car.

The complex part of this approach is getting the best out of both ends of the deal, i.e making sure the amount of money you have to pay on top is as small as possible. When negotiating prices, you will be trying to get a discount on the new car as well as getting the maximum value for the old one and so it’s not as simple as finding the dealer who values your current car the highest.

If you can, negotiate a price for the new car before introducing the idea of part-exchanging your old one, that way the price won’t be inflated to compensate for them buying the old one. You can always walk away, and don’t forget that with a private sale you can do for yourself exactly what the dealer will be doing with your car.

The Bottom Line: A part-exchange is a simple way of cashing in your old car, but will require skilful negotiations and will mean taking less than the maximum value of your car. Cash speaks volumes and selling your old car first may give you more power when agreeing the deal for a new one.


Ultimately the choice of where to sell your car comes down to how much time you are willing to invest to get the maximum value. There are plenty of options for a quick sale if you are willing to give up 100s, even 1000s of pounds or if you fancy a private sale it may lead to hassle, time wasted and snowballing costs, but does give you greater control and better chance at keeping the price high.

Whichever you choose, being informed about the value of your car and the market for it is key, so do your research, explore as many different avenues as possible and remember that while the car is still your asset, it is still you that’s in control.

Part Three – Sell My Car – The 5 Step Checklist For Selling Your Car

We’ve created this handy visual guide to help remind you of the important steps to take when selling a car. You can click on the image to see a larger version.

Sell My Car - The 5 Step Checklist For Selling Your Car
How to Sell My Car – The 5 Step Checklist

[With thanks to Ray Paulsen, Rory Reid, Jon Bentley and James Foxall for their quotes.]


If you are interested in borrowing against your luxury or classic car, contact Borro today.

About the Author: