SELLING your car can seem like a chore, but it really needn’t be given the options now available and new innovations to make the process as easy as possible and make sure you get the best price for your car.
The biggest question many people have is “how much is my car worth?”, and getting an accurate valuation is a crucial first step to figure out how much money you have tied up in it.
These all-important residual values are a key calculation, both for owners selling cars privately and for the manufacturer finance schemes many people use to buy a new car in the first place. So, how do you get a car valuation, and what are the best ways to make sure you get the best deal when selling your car online?
How do I find out how much my car is worth?
Back in the day the printed price guide was king, and dealers lived by their well-thumbed copies of industry guides to figure out the value of a used car. Inevitably, the process is now online, with various calculators that can put a price on your car, and compare it accurately against others of a similar type and specification.
Age, mileage and the number of owners are as important as they always have been, and will always figure in the initial calculation of how much your car is worth. These may appear crude measurements but are key metrics the trade uses when valuing cars. The need to protect these residuals is one reason many finance deals place annual mileage limits on cars, given dealers need to know how much value there will be when they take the car back at the end of the agreement.
Condition is important, too, and a car with low miles that’s had a hard life and is covered in dents and scratches will obviously be worth less than one that has a bigger number on the odometer. But trade pricing will often factor into the necessary refurbishments anyway, so age and mileage remain critical for setting a value for your car.
You can do this yourself by searching online classifieds and using the filters to pick out models with equivalent mileage and trim. Or you can enter your registration and mileage into online calculators that cross-reference against industry databases. The more information you include the more accurate the valuation then becomes.
Should I sell my car privately or part-exchange?
This is entirely up to you, and whether you have the time and inclination to manage selling the car yourself, or prefer to simply hand it back and move on to the next one.
Selling privately should see you get a better price for your car, on the basis the full advertised value (of the car) goes straight into your pocket. It also means you have control over the process and get to value it based on the actual condition, rather than an algorithm.
The trade is also pretty conservative in the type, age and specification of the cars it will accept for part-exchange, and if your car is older, has more miles than average or is an unusual or quirky type, you may do better with a private sale. This is particularly true of classic or specialist cars.
Selling privately can be a hassle, though. You obviously have to be able to field calls and emails from prospective buyers, organise viewings, manage the paperwork and find a secure way to take payment if the sale goes through. There are potential pitfalls at every step of the way, and plenty of sharp operators out there ready to take advantage of them. And if anything does go amiss you’re on your own.
While you won’t get as good a price for a part-exchange this may be worth it for the lack of stress, and the security of dealing with a business with all the processes in place to manage the transaction. The way most finance deals are set up it’s also geared to be a painless way of upgrading from an old car to a new one.
Sell my car online: How much should I sell my car for?
Be realistic. Unless your car is a collectable classic, still on ‘delivery miles’ or especially exotic, you have to pitch it in line with others like it in the market. And for mainstream models buyers will always filter by cost in the first instance, so don’t price yourself out of a sale.
Advertised prices for similar models to yours are a good guide, though. If you’re looking at cars for sale with dealers or retailers, you need to factor in that this ‘forecourt price’ includes their mark-up, so the part-exchange price or trade value you’re offered may be considerably less.
This is where sites like Motorway can get you a great deal when you sell your car. You enter the details of your vehicle with a selection of photos and it gets circulated around a network of several thousand dealers. Any dealers who like the look of what they see can bid, and if you choose to accept your highest offer the whole sales process is taken care of – through to the point the car is collected from you and the money goes into your bank account.
It’s a great, hassle free way to get a fair price for your car, and Motorway reports that sellers could make up to £1,000 or more than they would by selling through other channels like part-exchange.
Can I sell a car with outstanding finance?
Yes, you can. But you have to be sure you can pay off any outstanding finance, be that through the sale of the car or other means. The many and various finance deals available through dealers are obviously designed to keep you in the system, and one attraction of doing so is that a salesperson can sort all the paperwork.
You’re not obliged to keep the relationship going of course and may be just looking to sell the car and move on. In any case a dealership will know what to do and clear any outstanding finance as part of the purchase, which they legally need to do before the car can be sold on.
You can of course do this yourself, or when selling outside of the dealer network. Before doing so you need to make sure you understand the obligations you signed up to with the finance company, the processes for paying off any money still owing and whether or not there are any penalties for early repayment, such as there may be for a mortgage or other loan.
However you’re doing it, the usual process is to contact your finance provider and ask them for a settlement figure, which should be one of the first steps before putting your car up for sale. This way you know exactly how much you owe, and whether the sales price is going to cover it. Hopefully it will, with change to spare to put into your next car. But if it doesn’t, you’ll have to make up the shortfall yourself.
Where can I sell my car for the best price?
This will to an extent depend on the kind of car you’re selling. Sports, classic or other types of collectable vehicles may do better with independent specialists, who have a network of trusted customers and will know people on the hunt for a particular colour, vintage or model.
Their contact books can therefore be invaluable for putting your car in front of the right people and getting a top price, though they will of course expect to get their cut. In these circles low mileage, originality, a detailed service and ownership history and low number of previous owners will add considerable value to a car, especially if there are lots of people chasing it.
Specialist websites and even clubs may also be worth trying if your car has a bit of a following, given fans will always be looking for good examples and, even if they don’t want to buy it themselves, may know someone who will. If your car has an owners’ club or forum consider joining and seeing if they have a magazine with classifieds, or a buying and selling section on the website.
For more mainstream cars, dealer networks and used car retailers will always be keen to buy low-mileage examples in good condition and with the right specification. Cars in conservative colours, and packed with attractive options like navigation, leather upholstery and other upgrades will always be easy for them to sell on, and should attract a strong price. Motorway can connect you with franchised and independent dealers across this spectrum.
Sell my car: How do I make my car look good for buyers?
When selling privately an attractive advert for your car is vital for getting the best price, wherever you choose to advertise it. So the first thing to do is get it looking its best. This is a good opportunity to sort out all those little dings, scrapes and bits of kerb damage it might have picked up along the way, and many bodyshops are geared up for this kind of ‘rejuvenation’ work.
Freshly refurbished wheels and a machine polish can be enough to get your car looking like new, and the work should pay for itself through the higher price you can then ask. Driveway ‘smart repair’ operators can also offer a similar service at home, and can be more convenient. Even if it is just a case of having the car professionally valeted, you should easily recover the costs.
Once it’s tidy inside and out you need to take some time getting a really nice set of photos. These don’t need to be artistically composed, and most phone cameras are up to the job. Just make sure you get all the angles and methodically photograph the front, back and both sides of the car so buyers can check the condition. Most will also want to see the wheels and tyres, so take pictures of all four, plus the interior and any details or special features you think might be relevant.
For security reasons it’s probably best to photograph your car somewhere other than your own property, so find a quiet corner of a car park somewhere; with space and a clean, neutral background. Bright sunshine can create harsh reflections and shadows and it goes without saying nobody wants to see a car in the rain. Early evening or slightly overcast days are the best times to get the shots to make your car look its best.
Some sites, like Motorway, can even guide you through the process with a dedicated photo app, prompting you to get exactly the photos and angles buyers will want to see, and offering tips to make your advert look suitably professional.
Once your car is for sale, you can then gather together your paperwork, sort bills and receipts into neat, chronological order and put them into a folder for buyers to browse and build a picture of your ownership. Evidence that you’ve bought new tyres or just had the car serviced may also contribute to securing a better price, and prove you’ve looked after the car properly. Make sure you have any spare keys, radio codes, locking wheel nut keys and other bits and bobs all ready to go, too.
There remain, of course, many ways to sell your car online. But with just a little preparation, and by following these common-sense tips, you can get the best return when you do come to sell it, whichever option you choose.
Enjoyed reading about selling your car online? Here’s how to find out how much your car is worth.