Are you allowed to sell your car on a public highway?

Carlton Boyce / 05 July 2016

Is advertising your car for sale when it is parked on a public road legal? Is there a limit to the number of cars you can sell? What are the rules?



We’ve all seen cars parked at the side of the road with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window, but few of us understand what the law says about advertising your car for sale like this.

Read on to find out whether you are allowed to do so – and what the penalties could be if you get it wrong…

Six secrets car dealers don't want you to know.

What does the law say?

The legal position in England and Wales depends on where you live. If you live outside of London then the relevant legislation is the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, section 3. This says:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if at any time 

(a) he leaves two or more motor vehicles parked within 500 metres of each other on a road or roads where they are exposed or advertised for sale; or

(b) he causes two or more motor vehicles to be so left.

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Anyone found guilty can be fined up to £2,500. However, the Act goes on to say that:

(2) A person is not to be convicted of an offence under subsection if he proves to the satisfaction of the court that he was not acting for the purposes of a business of selling motor vehicles.

So, you are perfectly free to advertise one, two or even more cars as long as you can prove that you are not running a business by doing so.

However, if you live in London then you are probably covered by the London Local Authorities Act 1990, section 38 of which says:

(1) Any person who

(a) engages in street trading in the borough in a street which is not a licence street; or

(b) engages in street trading in the borough in a licence street without the authority of a street trading licence or a temporary licence shall be guilty of an offence.

Selling a car in the street is being interpreted as ‘street trading’ leaving the culprit liable to a fine, albeit a smaller one; in this case it cannot exceed £1,000. However, the same Act gives the local authority the right to seize any goods being sold and to dispose of them if the offence is proved. This gives them the power to tow your car away and crush it…

For more tips and useful information, browse our motoring articles.

So, I’m in the clear?

As long as you are a private individual, aren’t running a business, and aren’t covered by a local bylaw or restriction (like the London Local Authorities Act 1990 or a prohibition on street trading in a specific location), then yes.

 Of course, the car needs to be taxed and insured, and have an MOT if it is old enough to need one, but otherwise you’ll be fine.

One thing you might need to watch is the situation when you are using a local authority car park. Quite a few people have reported that they have been issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) for ‘trading in a car park’ after parking in one with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window of their car.

I’ve seen a car being advertised for sale that had council warning stickers on it

Some councils will put a warning sticker on the car if it has been reported to them. The warning stickers have no legal weight unless you are a trader, so can be safely ignored. 

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.