Car Advice

Top 10 tips on selling a used car

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 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.

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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 bother 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’s Practical Motoring’s top tips on selling a used car.

1. Get your car looking its best Either take the time to clean the inside and out and keep it clean throughout the time you’re trying to sell it – you can click here to read our guide on cleaning your car. 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.

2. Pricing Make sure you’re realistic about the price you put on your car. Do some research on car sales 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.

3. Work out where to advertise 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 down the ad and left the car online only. 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.

4. Get your paperwork in order 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.

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

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 then have a friend or family member accompany you.

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’.

8. Expect to haggle Before you even list your car for sale, make sure you’ve worked at the lowest price you would expect. 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.

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 the car is being ‘sold as seen’, and make sure you keep a signed copy for yourself.

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 instalments 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.

This article was first published in 2014, but we think it’s just as relevant today.


Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.