How to Sell Your Car: A Guide to Selling Privately and to a Dealership

22nd Mar 2024

By Veronica Chiarelli

How to sell your car: A step-by-step guide to selling privately and to a dealership

There are a lot of steps and processes when it comes to selling a car. Even though most of the steps in this process are simple and obvious, it’s useful to have a how-to guide at hand to make sure you’re following all the steps and aren’t forgetting anything.

The most popular ways of selling a vehicle are privately and to a dealership. This guide will explore both methods, and will list all the steps you’ll need to take in order to pass on your car quickly and effectively.


Step 1: Make sure your vehicle is working and looking good

Silver Mercedes-Benz

When you’re thinking about selling your car, whether you choose to sell it privately or to a dealership, the first step is making sure that there’s nothing wrong with the vehicle mechanically or cosmetically.

Mechanical problems and cosmetic imperfections can decrease your vehicle’s value considerably. The best practice here is to have your car serviced to make sure everything is in order before you put it up for sale.

Repairing any problems you may have with your car will better your chances of making a sale quickly, and will boost up the amount of money you can charge for it. If, for some reason, you can’t repair the damages or don’t feel it’s worth the money and stress, it’s crucial that you disclose to the potential buyer everything that isn’t working properly.

Acting in good faith and being honest is crucial to avoid headaches and even legal problems in the future.

As long as cosmetic damages go, they’re less important to fix than mechanical damages. You’ll have to acknowledge the damages, and of course, take some money off the price if you choose to not have them fixed.

Some buyers may be put off scratches, specially if they’re looking into buying a fancy car. On the other hand, people searching for popular branded vehicles that lay on the less expensive spectrum of the market tend to care less about cosmetic damages, as long as they’re not too grotesque.

Step 2: Clean your car

Dirty car

How you present your vehicle will determine the way potential buyers perceive it. If you upload pictures of a dirty car, full of rubbish and personal belongings inside, and it clearly shows that the vehicle hasn’t seen a bucket of water and soap for a while, people looking to buy it can perceive it as worth less money than the exact same vehicle advertised and presented in a cleaner and neater way.

If you choose to sell to a dealership you should still consider giving your car a good scrub. Dealerships go above and beyond to present the vehicles they sell in the best way possible. This includes, doing cosmetic repairs and a very deep clean.

Taking a dirty car for the inspection means that the dealership will consider all the work that they’ll need to put in, in order to make the car presentable. They’ll also want to make sure there are no damages hidden by the dirt and rubbish.

Step 3: Make sure your documents are in order

Woman revising documents in her car

There are a number of documents you’ll need in order to transfer the ownership to a single buyer or to a dealership. Make sure you have a file with all of them before taking the vehicle to a dealership or start advertising on your own.

The list below bullet points the main documents you’ll need to have in hand before selling your vehicle.

  • Proof of purchase
  • V5C Logbook
  • Vehicle Service History
  • MOT Certificate(s)
  • Insurance Policy and Repairs
  • Parts Receipt
  • Warranty
  • Number Plate Retention (V317)

Step 4: Choose how you want to sell your car

Handshake between two men

There are two ways to sell your car: privately and to a dealership. There are advantages and disadvantages in both ways and you have to weight the pros and cons before deciding which way is better for you.

In order to help you make an informed decision, we gathered information and listed the upside and downside of selling your car privately or to an used car retailer.

Selling Privately

Woman holding a Mercedes-Benz key fob

Some of the most appealing advantages of selling a car in a private capacity is having the power of negotiation in your hands, being able to set the price you believe your vehicle is worth and keeping all the money from the sale to yourself.

What most people don’t realise is how timing consuming and how much work they’d need to put into this process in order to make an actual sale. The thing you have to keep in mind is that all the work a dealership would need to do in order to close a deal, you have to do yourself.

Find below all the steps you’ll need to take to sell your vehicle yourself.

Research how much your car is worth

Even though selling privately might give you the illusion that you can control how much you’re going to charge for your car, the reality is that you won’t be able to go crazy and charge an exorbitant amount of money for it because most people wouldn’t be willing to buy it.

Now, this is where things start getting a bit time consuming. You’ll have to research how much your car is worth and advertise it at a competitive price. You can easily find this information by googling your car’s brand, model, and year, and several sales pages should come up in the search.

Advertise your car

There are three main steps to put up an advert: finding where to advertise, taking photos of the vehicle and writing the sale copy.

Finding where to advertise

These days most people search for a car online and only get in touch with the seller if they’re interested in seeing the vehicle in person. There are several popular websites and apps you can choose from.

You can choose to advertise in one of them or as many as you'd like. The main thing to have in mind is that different websites charge different seller fee (which are usually aligned with the amount you’ll be charging for your car).

Social media can be useful in this situation as well. Facebook Marketplace is becoming ever more popular, and there are dedicated Facebook group to sale of vehicles. This last option could be a good alternative as there are groups for different niches of vehicles such as classic cars and off-roaders.

If you don’t feel safe selling your vehicle online, you can always advertise it the old fashioned way by sticking a notice on a newsagent window or put up a sign on, on your vehicle’s window, with the price you’re asking for it, the mileage and your contact details.

Taking photos of the vehicle

The saying ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is extremely accurate when it comes to the sale of a car. The photos you choose to display on your advert are going to be what catches the potential buyers’ attention.

In order to increase clickability on the ad make sure the pictures follow the guidance below:

  • Multiple angles (of the inside and outside of the vehicle)
  • The car is in a well illuminated environment
  • Show how big the boot is
  • Pictures of underneath the bonnet
  • Turn on the vehicle and take a legible picture of the dashboard
  • Picture of the infotainment system lit up
  • Close-ups and whole car

Writing the advert

The first step is having your vehicle’s registration number at hand. This is the first information you’ll need when listing it for sale. After that, most websites will auto-fill the car’s brand and model based on the reg number but it’s important to always double check before going ahead with the writing.

The title should be simple but effective. You should make it as obvious and searchable as possible to attract more viewers to the ad. We usually recommend following the title structure below:

Year + Brand + Model + Trim

The description should be short and to the point. You don’t want a potential buyer to lose interest mid-way through what you have to say about this vehicle you’re trying to sell. We don’t recommend more than 75 words.

Remember to always be honest and disclose any damages or cosmetic imperfections your vehicle may have. Describe the vehicle’s condition and history succinctly, and in case you’ll add in information about damages, try to not undersell it and make it seem like it’s worst than it actually is. Be honest, but keep in mind that you still want people to buy it.

Arrange viewings and offer test drives

As people get interested in buying your car, you’ll start getting requests to view it. Most private sellers arrange this type of visit in their home address. This facilitates some of the selling process, because it’s not uncommon for buyers to want to check if the address shown on the vehicle’s documents match where you live.

It’s also common for buyers to bring a friend, family member or even a mechanic to check out the condition of the vehicle when they come for a viewing. Don’t be alarmed by having a pair of people coming for a viewing at the time.

If you feel uncomfortable being on your own with strangers, have someone there, that you trust, to accompany you in this process. It’s also not necessary to invite buyers into your home. This process can all be done outside, and there’s no need to invade your privacy.

You can give people time alone with your car so they feel more comfortable checking it out and inspecting it by themselves. It’s important to keep in mind that, even though you’ll be granting a possible buyer space to see the vehicle on their own, it is never recommended to leaving the keys on the ignition or letting them keep the keys.

If a test drive is requested you can be sure that they’re highly interested in purchasing your vehicle. Before they can road test the car though, there are a few things you need to check:

  • Insurance: it’s a legal requirement for the car and the buyer to be insured. You can ask for proof of insurance and check if they’re insured to drive third party cars. There are options of test drive insurance available.
  • Be taxed: failing to have your vehicle taxed (even if you haven’t been using it for a little while) may cost the buyer £1,000 in fines

Another thing to remember is not to let the buyer alone with your vehicle. Not even when they test drive it. Go with them in the back or passenger seat, just to make sure everything’s going well and you can use this as an opportunity to chat to the test driver and answer any questions they may have that could lead up to a sale.

Negotiate and sort out the payment

It’s important to be prepared to negotiate the vehicle. It’s not uncommon for buyers to ask for a discount, but you should wait for them to mention the negotiation. Be open to hear their offer out, but always have in mind the lowest value you’re willing to go with and don’t go under it.

In order to avoid losing money, it’s common practice for sellers to boost up the selling value from three to ten percent of the total of car’s value. This should give you plenty of room to negotiate and come to a common ground where you and the buyer will be happy with.

Once the negotiation is over, it’s time to discuss how the payment is going to occur. There are currently three payment methods you can accept:


Accepting cash is the oldest payment method accepted, but usually one of the most efficient and harder to fake or scam. However, it’s always best to play it safe. Don’t forget to double check they’re giving you the full amount and you should count more than once if necessary.

Another pair of eyes couldn’t hurt, so ask someone to be with you and check it for you once again.

Ask the buyer to meet you at your local bank, that way the cashier can check the notes making sure they’re all legit.

Bank Transfer

This is by far the most used payment method used nowadays. It takes a bit more time than cash, but it’s also a safe way of making sure you’ll be getting the money in a timely manner.

The transfer can be held up due to weekends and bank holidays, so it’s important to make sure you don't let the buyer have the vehicle until the payment has been cleared in your account.


This payment method is falling out of use as not many people carry a cheque book around anymore. Just as this is an old fashioned way of purchasing things, it’s also the one that takes the longest and makes you more susceptible to be scammed.

You should only accept cheques if you can verify that it has funds, otherwise, like with bank transfers, don't let the buyer have the vehicle until the payment has been cleared in your account.

Sort out the paperwork

Now that the payment has been cleared, it’s time to sort out the paperwork. You’ll be responsible for drafting a receipt to transfer the ownership of the vehicle to the buyer. There are several templates of this type of document online you can use. The document should have the list below of items you’ll need to fill out with your vehicle’s information:

  • Make and model of the car
  • Registration number
  • Mileage
  • Agreed price of the car
  • A note saying that the car is ‘sold as seen’ (this should prevent the buyer bringing it back to you if there’s an issue)

Print two copies and sign both of them. The buyer should also sign both copies. Keep one to yourself and give the buyer the other one. Handover your vehicle’s history documents and complete the V5 registration document (this will notify the DVLA that you sold your vehicle), and you’re all done.

Selling to a dealership

Woman holding a car key fob out of the window

Selling your vehicle to a dealership will save you several steps mentioned in the ‘Selling Privately’ section and as a consequence will be quicker and easier. The process is straightforward and you can start it online.

Getting a Valuation

The first step you need to take is to get your vehicle an valuation. Here, at Evans Halshaw, we offer this service online and you can start by providing your vehicle’s registration number. This will give you an estimate of how much your vehicle is worth.

Part-exchanging a car

Now that you know how much your car is worth, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to sell it and get the cash or if you’re looking into buying another vehicle, you can use your old one as part-exchange for the payment of the new car.

After the online valuation, you’ll need to take your vehicle in for an inspection. It’s recommended that you present your car in a pristine condition. Give your car a good scrub (like mentioned on step 2 of this guide) and make sure there are no personal belongings on the rear seats or boot. Remember, the better your vehicle looks, the more you should get for it.

After the inspection in person, the sales assistant will make an offer. This is where the process could be quite limiting. Selling privately gives you more power to negotiate once you’ll be dealing with another person and not a business. However, don’t feel like you have to accept whatever value the dealership presented to you. You can still try to negotiate for a higher value.

After you’ve accepted the offer, chosen your new vehicle and have agreed to the finance plan (PCP or HP, for example), you’re ready to sign the papers and take ownership of the new vehicle. Don’t forget to request a copy of this document.

You’ll have to disclose to the dealership if you have outstanding debt onto your vehicle. There are ways of settling a car finance agreement. We have an a step by step guide on how to sell a car on finance.

Handover your vehicle’s history

Even if you’re selling your car to a dealership, you’ll need the documents listed in step three. Make sure you have the documents in order and ready to hand over when you take the vehicle in for the inspection.

Sign the contract and transfer ownership

The final steps are signing the contract indicating the sale of your vehicle to the dealership and transferring the V5. The contract you’ll be signing should have the same information as if you were selling the vehicle privately, plus any additional data, such as finance agreements.

After the paperwork is sorted, the dealership will make the payment (which should be via a bank transfer in most cases).

Sell your vehicle with Evans Halshaw

Selling your vehicle to a dealership has many advantages. Not having to wait for a buyer, set up an ad, worry about taking the pictures, negotiating and setting up the payment with an stranger are definitely points to keep in mind.

If you're looking to selling quickly and avoiding the hassle and all the steps selling privately entails, get in touch with your local Evans Halshaw dealership.

For more selling advice, head over to our blog section which is updated regularly with current information and relevant tips and tricks to keep you informed.