Found your new dream car but need to sell your old one first? Read our top 10 tips on selling a used car.

HAVING SOLD THREE cars privately I’ve experienced both the pleasure and pain of dealing with the public when selling a used car. Indeed, two out of three of my used car sales were smooth and simple, but the third was a nightmare, although I’m positive it had everything to do with the type of car I was selling…

What type of car was it? It was a Subaru Impreza WRX and it was less than 18 months old. I’d lusted after one ever since the boxy-looking thing stepped out of the forests of WRC and into showrooms Down Under in 1994. But after 18 months of owning a 2008 model, which had been purchased brand new, it was time to say goodbye; the experience had been tainted by constantly having half-wits try and drag off either my wife or I at the traffic lights. And in one particularly nasty incident that saw the police called, my wife was followed all the way home from work. The car had to go.

Being a WRX that wasn’t going to be easy. After washing, polishing, photographing and listing the thing on the Internet I was bombarded by tyre kickers and morons. One of whom eventually bought the thing but only after two weeks of haggling (with me refusing to budge on the price) and several unscheduled visits to my house where he and his mates demanded to ‘test drive’ the Rex. I refused.

Eventually, a deal was done and money paid. The WRX was his and I don’t mind saying that I wept a little, not the least because the buyer hadn’t bothered to insure his new purchase and nor did he seem to know how to drive. He and his mates piled into the Rex, turned it on, revved it to redline, dumped the clutch and screamed off down the road. I stayed out the front and listened for a bit, feeling sure he’d blow the thing up in the first few minutes of owning it.

Fast forward to now, and no matter how many marketing dollars the car sales websites spend trying to convince us how easy it is to sell a used car, it isn’t. But being forearmed is forewarned, as they say, so here are Practical Motoring’s top tips on selling a used car.

Tip 1: Get your car looking its best

Take the time to clean it inside and outside, and keep it clean throughout the time you’re trying to sell it.

And if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the dirty work yourself, engage a mobile car detailer to give your car a thorough clean on the inside and out. Like selling a house, presentation is everything and will help you get a little extra money for your car.

Tip 2: The price is right

Make sure you’re realistic about the price you put on your car. Do some research on classified websites to gauge the market – an overpriced car will put potential buyers off. And if you are pricing your car above the market, make sure you explain why; are you selling it with accessories that weren’t standard? List any extras your car has to ensure it isn’t overlooked by potential buyers.

Tip 3: Advertising

This is really important. Obviously advertising online these days is quite cheap and easy to do, but you have to be careful. When selling my WRX I listed my phone number on an ad I’d made up myself and stuck onto the rear window, and I got all manner of prank calls. I eventually took it down and left the car online only. Most online services don’t give your mobile number out unless you want them to.

No matter where you choose to advertise your car, do be careful about the details you put in your ad, and certainly don’t include your home address. That said, as mentioned in tip number two, do list any and all extras your car has, and be honest.

Tip 4: Be honest

Make sure you’ve had your car recently serviced and that any minor faults have been fixed before you list your car for sale. If you haven’t, make sure you inform potential buyers of any faults the car has that you’re not prepared to have fixed – you’ll probably have to adjust the price down. I made sure all my cars had 12 months registration on them before selling because I think that makes them more attractive to a buyer, but you don’t have to do that. Again, be honest about the amount of registration remaining when asked.

Tip 5: Get your documents in order

Make sure you’ve got your owner’s manual, logbook and service records, ready for a buyer to inspect. If you’ve spent money on new tires, or will be selling it with driving lights or a bullbar (in the case of a 4WD) make sure you include all your receipts.

Tip 6: The meeting

When I sold my WRX I gave out my home address to potential buyers and I don’t think that was necessarily the smartest thing in the world to do. So, my advice is to meet potential buyers somewhere with the car. It might sound paranoid, but you can’t be too careful. And, if you’re particularly nervous, have a friend or family member accompany you.

Tip 7: The test drive

Make sure you see a potential buyer’s driver’s license before letting them get behind the wheel of your car. And, never, ever let them drive it without you in the car. It’s worth checking with your insurance company to see if a potential buyer is covered in the event you have an accident while on the ‘test drive’.

Tip 8: Expect to haggle

Before you even list your car for sale, make sure you’ve worked out the lowest price you will accept. Selling a car has the potential to become the hardest bargaining of your entire life, so be prepared. To and fro with potential buyers on price but ensure you stick to the price you won’t go past. Once you reach it, simply tell the buyer that that’s the final price and they can take it or leave it. Be strong at this point… It’s your car, remember, so don’t accept less than its worth.

Tip 9: Receipt

Once you’ve agreed on a price and the buyer has committed to buying the car from you, then provide them with a receipt stating that the car is being ‘sold as seen’, and make sure you keep a signed copy for yourself.

Tip 10: Done deal

Never ever hand over the keys to your car until you’ve been paid in full. The buyer of my WRX paid me in installments for it and wanted to take possession after the second payment. I refused but had a signed receipt and photo of the odometer saying that I wouldn’t drive the car once payments had commenced. It gave both of us peace of mind. Oh, and if being paid by cheque (yes, people still do use cheques), make sure you wait for it to clear.

Have any horror stories or words of advice to others selling a car? Comment below or join our Facebook group page.

4 Comments

  1. Heathr Keens
    December 31, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    For those looking to sell your car then it’s worth listing
    it on as many places as you can to get as many potential buyers to be notified
    it is for sale. The thing with selling a vehicle is it is a matter of reaching
    out to those people who might be interested. If you can afford it then list it
    with one of the big high cost websites like Car Sales and pay the $60 or
    whatever they charge plus Gumtree and also consider some of the new smaller car
    sales sites like new car flipping site SydneyAutos who offer
    full free listings that you can edit anytime. Keep in mind it is mainly for
    Sydney but I see other ads from outside of NSW as well. Autotrader magazine
    might be good at this time of year too with many people flicking through it
    while on holiday. Even local newspapers can be good for targeted local buyers.

  2. February 10, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I love the comments about full disclosure of any issues. I always give full disclosure and pride myself on it. The last thing I want is someone ringing me after I’ve sold a car saying that I’d pulled a fast one. I’d rather they know EVERYTHING before they buy the car. It can be hard though. Even at the lowest end of the used car market, people still want a car that’s in brand new condition, even though they’re paying next to nothing. Reality needs to sink in with some buys.

  3. Jasan Deen
    October 17, 2017 at 12:48 am

    The first thing you need to do when you decide to sell a car is to get it cleaned and detailed. Post the car pics on the internet. According to research, the more pictures you have the better chances of your car being sold. A clean car would attract potential car buyers.

  4. June 25, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Fabulous blog you have written, it has enhanced my skills and will be helpful in the future. In this post you provided us the best knowledge cars. Thanks for sharing this type of information.

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober