How to sell your car for the best price

Looking to sell your car? Almost half of drivers find selling their car stressful, with many worried about getting the best price. We reveal insider tips on how to get the best possible price for your old car.

Salesman handling keys to customer
(Image credit: Westend61)

It can be stressful trying to sell your car and get a decent price, even though used car prices have risen sharply in the past few years.

Nearly half (47%) of all drivers find switching cars stressful, with 44% saying they worry about getting the right price for their old one, according to research from online car marketplace Carwow.

Whether you’re thinking about buying an electric car, researching car finance options, or trying to cut your car insurance, it’s also crucial to understand how to get the best possible price for your old car.

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"With used car prices rocketing around 30% in the last four years, now is a great time to be selling your car and there’s a few things you can do to ensure you get the best price possible,” says Erin Baker, editorial director at car marketplace Auto Trader.

We reveal insider tips on how to get the most for your motor.

How to sell your car for the best price

1. Mileage matters  

Cars with lower mileage tend to command higher resale prices due to perceived better condition and potential longevity. 

Those with higher mileage tend to fetch lower prices, in part because they’re likely to require more frequent and costly maintenance.

An easy way to calculate a car’s loss of value - especially early on in its life - is to use 20,000-mile bands. According to Carwow, each time your car goes through one of these bands it loses around 20% of its value.

So, roughly speaking, if you bought a new car for £30,000, after 20,000 miles it will be worth £24,000. Drive it 40,000 miles and it’ll be worth around £19,200 and so on.

“But when you get to 60,000 miles, more value is lost - with cars’ prices dropping around 27% compared with what they were worth at 50,000. This could be because the industry standard car warranty lasts for three years, or until a car reaches 60,000 miles, whichever is sooner,” comments John Rawlings, Carwow’s consumer editor.

Therefore, Carwow’s top tip for people wanting to get the best price when selling their car is to change cars before you tip over the costly 60,000 mile barrier, or risk a sizable reduction in the valuation price.  

Graph showing average valuation of a car vs average car mileage

(Image credit: Carwow)

2. Prep your car 

Before you think about selling, make sure your car is attractive to dealers or other motorists looking to buy it. 

If there is major damage, a significant fault or a visible dashboard warning light, you’ll get a quicker sale if these are fixed. So, consider repairing any issues before putting your car up for sale.

“A car with a good recent service history and MOT will be worth more too. And finally – get your car cleaned. Consider a professional valet to get your car as close to showroom fresh as possible,” says Rawlings.

3. Take decent photos

Good quality photos will help you get a better price. “Once you’ve cleaned and emptied your car, take it to a bright, open, outdoor location, and make sure you’ve got a good camera (most smartphones will do). Take photos in landscape, without the flash on, and make sure you include the number plate in at least one so that potential buyers can look up the car and carry out a history check,” advises Rawlings.

Erin Baker at Auto Trader says it’s important to be transparent, so “get good quality photos from a range of angles and make sure your description is accurate with plenty of detail to really sell what makes your car special”.

Make sure you photograph any damage to the interior, bodywork or wheels, and take a photo of the dashboard and dials with the car switched on, to show mileage and any warning lights.

4. Get your paperwork in order

While it’s legally possible to sell a car without a V5C logbook, in practice it can be very difficult. If you’ve lost yours, get a replacement vehicle log book (V5C) organised

Rawlings adds: “And don’t forget your service history; garages can usually print or email your records if they’re missing. Being organised here saves you headaches down the road.”

Baker agrees: “Prospective buyers value a car’s service history, and preferably a full one. This gives buyers peace of mind that the car has been properly looked after and is reliable should you exchange keys.”

Put your car keys, and any spare keys, together with the paperwork so you have it all ready for the new owner.

5. Think about how you'll sell the car

There are various ways to sell a car. These include selling at auction, selling to a dealership, part exchanging at a dealership, selling to a private buyer, or selling to a car buying website.

Selling to a private buyer can be the most time-consuming and the most risky, but it could also result in the highest price.

Baker comments: “If you’ve got the time to wait for the right buyer, selling your car privately as opposed to part exchanging can result in more money for you.”

You can either advertise your car to a private buyer on an online marketplace like Auto Trader, or a website like eBay. 

You’ll need to write a good advert detailing the specification and condition of your car, and have some decent photos. Bear in mind you’ll need to pay a fee to advertise your car, and make sure you’re alert to scams.

In contrast, if you’re selling to a dealership or part exchanging your old car, you won’t need to take photos, and the process is quick and straightforward.

Car-buying websites, like Carwow, We Buy Any Car and Cazoo, are a relatively new way to sell your car. You provide some key details about your car, upload pictures and get a valuation for it. Depending on the website, you may have to take the car to a branch, or they will come and collect it. 

Some websites pay less than others, and reduce the price if there is any damage, so it’s best to get multiple quotes. 

6. Set a price

Finally, it’s time to set a price. “Prices are up, but value your car realistically, especially if you want a quick sale and less hassle negotiating. Handy valuation tools such as the one you can use for free on Auto Trader can help you get it right; it’ll also check prices of similar cars in your area to help give you the competitive edge,” says Baker.

Other free online valuation tools include Carwow and What Car?

Ruth Emery
Contributing editor

Ruth is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. 

A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. 

Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.