How to get the best price for your car

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If you’ve got your eye on one of the new ‘63’ registrations due out in September, you’re probably getting pretty excited around about now. But if you’ve got a car to sell before you can buy, your excitement might be somewhat tempered. 

Let’s make no bones about it, selling a car can be a right pain in the pants.

If you choose to sell privately, should you place a classified ad, list on an auction site or physically take the car to a real auction? All can be quite costly, and there’s the risk of being given the run around by timewasters (auction sites can be notoriously bad for this).

Take it to a dealer and you’ll automatically be on the back foot, convinced the ‘helpful’ sales folk are only there to rip you off – and it’s their job to get the best price for the dealership, part-exchange very rarely offers value for money.

And then there’s the “we’ll take any old banger” firms who are undoubtedly a lot more convenient – but there’s always the suspicion they only take out all the hassle because they only give you half of what money your car is actually worth.

So if you’ve got a car to sell, how can you make sure you get the best price for it?

Find out what your car’s worth

One of the worst things you can do when selling your car is to set its value too high as it’s highly unlikely you’ll even get anyone round to look at it. Set the price too low, however, and you could be doing yourself out of a few quid – so before you sell, check what your car’s worth.

Although valuations will vary depending upon the condition and mileage of the car, you can get a good idea of what it’s worth by getting a free valuation from a site such as Glass’s motoring guide.

Once you have your valuation, check it against other cars of a similar age and specification to yours on other car-selling websites and auction sites.

When you know how much your car is likely to fetch, it’s time to decide how you’re going to go about selling it.

If you choose to sell privately, should you place a classified ad, list on an auction site or physically take the car to a real auction? All can be quite costly, and there’s the risk of being given the run around by timewasters (auction sites can be notoriously bad for this). Take it to a dealer and you’ll automatically be on the back foot, convinced the ‘helpful’ sales folk are only there to rip you off – and it’s their job to get the best price for the dealership, part-exchange very rarely offers value for money. And then there’s the “we’ll take any old banger” firms who are undoubtedly a lot more convenient – but there’s always the suspicion they only take out all the hassle because they only give you half of what money your car is actually worth. So if you’ve got a car to sell, how can you make sure you get the best price for it?

Find out what your car’s worth

One of the worst things you can do when selling your car is to set its value too high as it’s highly unlikely you’ll even get anyone round to look at it. Set the price too low, however, and you could be doing yourself out of a few quid – so before you sell, check what your car’s worth. Although valuations will vary depending upon the condition and mileage of the car, you can get a good idea of what it’s worth by getting a free valuation from a site such as Glass's motoring guide. Once you have your valuation, check it against other cars of a similar age and specification to yours on other car-selling websites and auction sites. When you know how much your car is likely to fetch, it’s time to decide how you’re going to go about selling it.

If you choose to sell privately, should you place a classified ad, list on an auction site or physically take the car to a real auction? All can be quite costly, and there’s the risk of being given the run around by timewasters (auction sites can be notoriously bad for this). Take it to a dealer and you’ll automatically be on the back foot, convinced the ‘helpful’ sales folk are only there to rip you off – and it’s their job to get the best price for the dealership, part-exchange very rarely offers value for money. And then there’s the “we’ll take any old banger” firms who are undoubtedly a lot more convenient – but there’s always the suspicion they only take out all the hassle because they only give you half of what money your car is actually worth. So if you’ve got a car to sell, how can you make sure you get the best price for it?

Find out what your car’s worth

One of the worst things you can do when selling your car is to set its value too high as it’s highly unlikely you’ll even get anyone round to look at it. Set the price too low, however, and you could be doing yourself out of a few quid – so before you sell, check what your car’s worth. Although valuations will vary depending upon the condition and mileage of the car, you can get a good idea of what it’s worth by getting a free valuation from a site such as Glass's motoring guide. Once you have your valuation, check it against other cars of a similar age and specification to yours on other car-selling websites and auction sites. When you know how much your car is likely to fetch, it’s time to decide how you’re going to go about selling it.

If you choose to sell privately, should you place a classified ad, list on an auction site or physically take the car to a real auction? All can be quite costly, and there’s the risk of being given the run around by timewasters (auction sites can be notoriously bad for this). Take it to a dealer and you’ll automatically be on the back foot, convinced the ‘helpful’ sales folk are only there to rip you off – and it’s their job to get the best price for the dealership, part-exchange very rarely offers value for money. And then there’s the “we’ll take any old banger” firms who are undoubtedly a lot more convenient – but there’s always the suspicion they only take out all the hassle because they only give you half of what money your car is actually worth. So if you’ve got a car to sell, how can you make sure you get the best price for it?

Find out what your car’s worth

One of the worst things you can do when selling your car is to set its value too high as it’s highly unlikely you’ll even get anyone round to look at it. Set the price too low, however, and you could be doing yourself out of a few quid – so before you sell, check what your car’s worth. Although valuations will vary depending upon the condition and mileage of the car, you can get a good idea of what it’s worth by getting a free valuation from a site such as Glass's motoring guide. Once you have your valuation, check it against other cars of a similar age and specification to yours on other car-selling websites and auction sites. When you know how much your car is likely to fetch, it’s time to decide how you’re going to go about selling it.

How to sell your car

The way in which you decide to sell your car, be that via a private sale, part exchange or car-buying company, will ultimately determine how much you’ll get – and it’s often a case of simply deciding how much time and effort you want to put into selling your car.

For instance, if you were selling a 2010 Ford Focus TDCi, with an average mileage of 23,000 on the clock and a full service history, you could reasonably expect to get anywhere between £8,500 and £9,500 if you sold it privately. Part-exchange the car and you will take a fairly sizeable hit as you will only be offered in the region of £5,550 to £7,000. But this does mean that you won’t have to go through the hassle of selling the car yourself.

The other option is to use a car-buying company, this won’t necessarily get you the best price for your car, but you should be quoted a better rate than if you were to part-exchange at a dealership. For instance, for our 2010 Ford Focus, webuyanycar.com were prepared to offer £7,195, while rival company wewantanycar.com offered to stump up £7,636.

A word of warning, however, when using these companies: the online offer is only an estimate, and you may find that you’re offered considerably less once you have booked your car in and they’ve given it the once-over at the local office. It’s also worth sticking an ad in the window of your car – you never know where a potential buyer might see it. But keep it simple with just the price and a phone number.

Writing a classified ad

If you want to get the best price for your car, selling privately is your best bet. The problem is, it’s also the most time consuming and stressful. However, you can take some of the stress out of the whole process by getting your classified ad right. So make sure you always include the exact make, model and trim level, as well as the year of manufacture and registration, exact mileage and number of previous owners.

Also include any service history details and any other relevant features, such as air conditioning, in-car entertainment (ICE), alloy wheels and parking sensors, but avoid over-selling its advantages – car-buyers can be a cynical and suspicious bunch. If the car has any glaring imperfections, make sure you list them as this should cut down on the number of people who’ll look but won’t touch.

If there’s any tax left on the vehicle, by all means mention it, and while it’s fine to use acronyms such as ICE as used above and FSH for “full service history”, don’t go mad with them as you could end up with something that resembles a badly-penned lonely hearts ad. It’s worth avoiding “or nearest offer” (ONO). Everyone knows you’ll want to get as close to the price you’ve put so it’s just a waste of wordcount.

When to sell your car

You may not realise it, but the time of year you choose to sell your car can have an impact on how long it takes to find a buyer. So if you’re selling privately, be mindful of the fact that the market tends to calm down during the summer months (unless, perhaps, you’re selling a convertible) and at Christmas (unless, perhaps, you’re selling a snow plough). The best times to sell are around new registrations, so the end of February through to April (especially Easter weekend) and September.

Keep it clean

One final, and pretty obvious, piece of advice is to make sure that your car is clean and working well when you’re trying to sell it, people will be much more willing to give you close to your asking price if they can see that the car has been regularly cleaned and looked after. If you need some bargaining leverage, you could offer to sell it with a full tank as well. And, one final, final word: no matter how you choose to sell your car, make sure you’re prepared to haggle and don’t be afraid to call the whole thing off if you’re not happy with the price you’re offered.

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