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Selling or exchanging your car

Don’t let your used car go to waste when you get a new one – there’s money to be made by selling or exchanging it. The used car market is huge, and can be a bit of a minefield. So here are ten tips to make sure your sale goes smoothly and safely, and you get the best price.

1. Getting your car ready for sale

Making your car look its best can add value. Most buyers don’t know what they’re looking for when they check under the bonnet, but make sure the oil, windscreen washer and brake fluid is topped up. Check your tyre pressures and clean the car inside and out. It’s worth treating it to a professional valet, but if you’re doing it yourself vacuum the interiors and give it a shampoo and wax – and don’t forget the wheels. Use an air freshener to give it the appealing “new car” smell.

2. Writing your advert

First impressions count, and you need your advert to stand out. Keep it brief, and include the essential details, such as make, model, engine size, year and any features such as tax, MOT, alloy wheels or diesel engine. Once your car is spruced up, take a few pictures from different angles and include those if you can. Keep the selling price realistic – do your research to see what it’s worth.

3. Going for a quick sale online

Many websites that promise to buy any car have sprung up in recent years, promising a quick and easy sale. If you’re thinking of using one be aware that you may get a better price elsewhere. 

4. Selling privately

Established sites such as and give you the chance to advertise your car to thousands of buyers. Selling online certainly has its advantages - you can reach a wide market, and change the advert and price if you need to. Be aware that anyone can answer your ad, and you can receive spam mail and false promises. If an email pops into your inbox from someone who says they’ll definitely buy your car without seeing it and they just need your bank details, report it. If you’d prefer a local buyer, put an ad in your local newspaper.

5. Selling to a garage/Part exchange

If you’re buying your next car from a dealer, you could exchange your old car. Although this is an easy option, remember that the dealer needs to make a profit so might not give you the best price. See how much your car is worth before you go for a quick trade-in.

6. Handling viewings

Once you’ve placed your ad, make sure you have any additional information to hand as you answer phone calls. Give it to anyone else who answers the phone, too, as buyers may have many other options and might not bother to call back. Most private buyers are just people like you who are looking for a good deal, but be on your guard just in case – always meet at your house in daylight and if possible have someone else around.

7. Safe test drives

Any serious buyer will want to drive a car before committing to it, but never let anyone take a test drive without proof of their insurance. Go with them, and if you feel uncomfortable or they’re driving unsafely politely ask them to pull over and get out so that you can drive.

8. Haggling

Expect your buyer to haggle, even if you haven’t said you’ll accept offers in your advert. Think beforehand how low you’d be willing to go so that you’re not panicked into making a decision. Keep negotiations friendly, and balance out getting the best price with not losing the sale for the sake of a few pounds.

9. Securing the payment

Never let a buyer take the car without paying. If you take a deposit, provide a receipt and make it clear what the conditions are – how long the buyer has to pay the full amount and collect the car and whether or not it’s refundable. Serious buyers will come prepared, and offer cash or a bank transfer. Online banking and cheque clearance can take a few days, so make sure you have the money before you hand over the keys.

10. Handing over the car

Some final checks before you make the sale official:

  • Have you had full payment from the buyer?
  • Write a receipt. Include the details of the car, names and addresses of both parties and the amount paid. Keep a copy.
  • Fill in the slip at the bottom of the V5C registration document (also known as the ‘logbook’) and send it off to the DVLA to let them know there’s a new owner. Hand over the rest of the document to the new owner.
  • Give the new owner the MOT, service history and any other useful documents.
  • Let your insurance company know you’ve sold the car.
  • Remove the tax disc, if it wasn’t included in the sale. You can send it off to the DVLA and get a refund on any unused portion.

How John Lewis Insurance can help

Thinking of buying a new car? John Lewis Car Insurance offers a reassuring level of cover at good value, combined with the excellent customer service. You can get a quote online

For further tips and advice, please see our quick guide (PDF).

John Lewis Car Insurance homepage

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If your policy started or renewed before 01/01/2015
John Lewis Insurance is a trading name of John Lewis plc. Registered in England No. 00233462. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5NN. John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of UKAIS Limited (No. 02613429). Registered in England and Wales at Prospect House, Gordon Banks Drive, Trentham Lakes North, Stoke on Trent ST4 4TW. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (financial services register 307223).

If your policy started or renewed on or after 01/01/2015
John Lewis Insurance is a trading name of John Lewis plc. Registered in England No. 00233462. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street , London, SW1E 5NN. John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Ageas Retail Limited. Registered office: Ageas House, Hampshire Corporate Park, Templars Way, Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO53 3YA. Registered in England and Wales 1324965. Ageas Retail Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. FCA registered number: 312468. Ageas Retail Limited is a member of the DMA and a sister company of Ageas Insurance Limited.

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