Should I sell?

It can seem only natural that, if your car is still reliable, drives wonderfully and looks like new, it makes sense to hang on to it. Wrong. These are precisely the reasons you should be selling. Waiting until your car passes its best will cause you to lose money, either because you start having to fix the things that are going wrong or because your car’s value is plunging. Here are some tips:

  • Sell your car while it still has a low mileage; typically under 40,000 miles for a car less than three years old and while it still looks clean.
  • If your car is older than five years, high mileage is not so important: condition, history and originality are.
  • Don’t form an emotional attachment with your car and keep it too long.
  • Sell your car when most people are looking to buy a used car and supply is low: Avoid selling it after Christmas when everyone is broke and immediately after a registration place change when car lots are awash with trade-ins.
  • There are three main ways to sell a car: privately, at auction or traded in at a dealer. There is another lesser-known option, called dealer sale or return, where a dealer sells your car for a share of the profit, but this is rare (usually only franchised operators dealing in your make of car will do this).

How Much is My Car Worth?

It is vital to know the correct value of your car. Do your homework by looking up values in one of the many guides available in newsagents and make adjustments for mileage and condition.

Don’t be confused by the value of cars sold by dealers. They all include warranties for the purchaser and will have been specially prepared by professionals, so their values are likely to be 10-15% higher than an equivalent model sold privately and 15-20% higher than the trade-in value.

Look in used car columns for similar cars and see how much they are advertised for, and you could even look around used car forecourts to see how much they are charging.

If you’re selling privately, build in a little leeway for haggling. If you’re selling at auction, you should expect to get trade value only. If you’re trading in, you might get a little bit more, depending on what you are buying.

Maximising My Car’s Value

You want to get as much for your car as possible. These tips will help you realise its full value:

  • Prepare your car well: a thorough interior and exterior spruce-up from a mobile valeter costs £40-60 but it’s money well spent.
  • Have all your papers in order: As well as the registration document and MoT, bring together all your bills, receipts, service history and repair documentation in a folder. It’s bound to impress.
  • Don’t spend hundreds fixing bodywork damage and paintwork: Sick with repairing windscreen cracks (around £40), removing shallow dents (around £80), repairing leather upholstery (£50) and polishing alloy wheels (£40 per wheel).
  • Consider getting a new MoT for the car: it can be a good selling point.
  • Make sure everything works and that the car starts first time.

What is Most Important To the Buyer?

The factors that people use to judge used cars are primarily defensive. They want reassurance that the car is what appears to be. Thus full service history and the trustworthiness of the seller are the two most important factors. Older buyers place much more importance on recorded mileage and the trustworthiness of the seller, whilst younger buyers rely more on full service history.

Selling Privately

This is the best option if your car is clean, with an up-t0-date MoT and not requiring major work. It’s always worth a try as a first option because you will get the best price privately. Keep your ad short and to the point and avoid trade terms like immaculate and drives superb.

Include information on model, age, mileage, colour, length of MOT/tax, service history, condition and specification. Good places to sell include newspapers classifieds, specialist publications like Auto Trader and free ad papers. As a downside, there is the hassle of having lots of prospective customers coming round to try the car out.

Car buyers are also notorious for failing to turn up for appointments, so it can be a time-consuming and very frustrating business. You can find easily yourself dealing with a crook, as well.

Never let anyone take a test drive on their own and don’t get out of the car during the test drive leaving the keys in the ignition – it may be the last you see of the vehicle. And never let them take the car away until their cheque has cleared. They may whinge at the delay, but not half as loudly as if you found you were holding a rubber cheque!

Selling at Auction

This is probably the method with the least hassle involved. It’s easy to do and you get a quick sale, and there’s no comeback as long as you describe the car accurately.

The downside is that you won’t get anything like as good a price as selling it privately: trade-in value at best. The better your car looks, the more it will fetch, so spend some effort to make it look tidy.