The car seller’s dilemma: Private sale or part-ex?

White car on a hillside

Want to sell your car? Maybe you’re trading-up to a new car (or a ‘new’ used car) to mark the arrival of the 15 registration plates on March 1?


So how do you make sure you’re getting the best price for your current set of wheels?

Deal or no deal?

The easiest way to sell a vehicle is to approach a professional dealer – especially if you are prepared to part-exchange your car for a new one. BUT you’ll only ever get the trade price for your car this way. Selling the car privately is the only way to get the full retail value. And that can make a big difference to the amount of cash you receive. You are likely to get 10% or 15% more from a private buyer than a dealer. So say you are selling a car worth about £5,000, you stand to make an extra £500 or more doing the deal this way.

Private investigations

Private sales have disadvantages, though. You’ll have to do the legwork – advertising the car, dealing with calls or messages from interested buyers and arranging viewings and test drives. You’ll also have to be on your guard against scams such as dodgy payments. So which way of selling your car is right for you?

Selling privately – the pros and cons

  • The big bonus with a private sale is that you’ll get more money for your car (if you stick to your guns and get the right price – this can be up to 15% more in some cases).
  • BUT it’s up to you to advertise the car and deal with interested parties, which will take time and comes with certain risks, including tyre-kickers and timewasters, unrealistic purchasers trying to screw you on the price and, if you’re really unlucky, con-artists and crooks.

Trading-in – the pros and cons

  • The main advantage to trading-in a vehicle rather than selling it privately is ease and convenience. There’s no writing adverts or fielding calls, and if something goes wrong you can take it up with the dealership.
  • You should get a slightly better deal on part-exchange than if you sell your car outright to a dealer.
  • BUT you’ll never get as much as you would have if you’d sold it privately.

Selling privately – top tips

  • Advertise your car online as well as locally. Websites such as Gumtree are a good place to start.
  • Put a For Sale sign in the car window to catch the eye of passers-by.
  • Describe the vehicle accurately in your adverts and make sure it’s roadworthy before putting it up for sale.
  • Clean it inside and out, and get rid of any evidence of dog hairs or cigarette smoke.
  • Collect all the relevant paperwork, including the V5C registration certificate, the service history and MOT certificate.
  • Never let the buyer go on a test drive alone – they may not come back! And check they are insured to drive the car.
  • Protect yourself by choosing a secure payment method such as PayPal.

Trading-in – top tips

  • Different dealers will offer you different valuations, so shop around for a good deal before agreeing to a sale price.
  • Haggle – most dealers will work a bit of flexibility into their price as they know people feel better if they think they have negotiated a better deal.
  • Tell DVLA that you have sold the car immediately. That way, you'll automatically get a refund from DVLA of any road tax you've still got left to run (complete ‘unused’ months only).
This is important however you sell the car!

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