Tips for selling your car

Carlton Boyce / 31 January 2017

If you’re hoping to sell a car privately, there are a few hacks you need for the best price. Here’s motoring expert Carlton Boyce’s advice on selling a car…



A recent AA-Populus survey of almost 19,000 members explored the nine things that put potential buyers off when they were considering whether or not to buy a secondhand car. The results are fascinating, if for no other reason than they help us better understand the secondhand car market in order to help sell our own family jalopy when it’s time to say goodbye.

Here are the hacks that could help you sell a car.

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Drive a bargain

Four in ten potential car buyers were put off because the car didn’t feel right when they took it for a test drive. This could be due to a range of factors, including many that may well be very expensive and hard to put right. However, we can hack the psychology of the test pilot and do a few things that might help create a more favourable impression.

So, make sure the tyres are correctly inflated (free) and check that the steering wheel is level when the car is being driven in a straight line. If it isn’t, then your local garage should be able to sort it out for you in ten minutes or so (£10-15).

Other than that, make sure that the wiper blades aren’t juddering or squealing. If they are you should pop on a new set (£15) and fill up the screenwash reservoir with the proper fluid (£2) while you’re at it. None of these things are hard or expensive to do, but they will have a disproportionate effect on how the car feels on the test drive.

Assuming, of course, that you are willing to let them have one. A further 13% of car buyers dropped out because the seller wouldn’t allow them to take the car for a test drive. This might be for a variety of reasons but as long as they have the correct level of insurance cover in place, there really isn’t any good reason to say ‘no’. And if they don’t have a policy that covers them to drive your car, you could take one out for them (£35-50), which might be worth doing if you’re trying to sell an expensive car.

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Get the body beautiful

Car salesmen have a saying: “looks right when you walk up to it”, which means exactly what it says; the experts place great stock in the aura a car gives off when they first approach it. This is reinforced by the 38% of car buyers who are put off by bodywork that is in poor condition.

I’m not saying that you need to splash out on having the car resprayed but a decent valet (£100) will take care of dull and faded paintwork, while modern dent removal techniques (£25-50 per dent) can restore dinged bodywork. Finally, small scratches and scuffs can be polished or painted out quite cheaply (up to £50 per scratch), which might be worth doing if there are just one or two messing up otherwise pristine bodywork.

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It’s what’s inside that counts

Almost a third of buyers were put off by a vehicle interior in poor condition, with a further quarter being deterred by a car that smells bad (wet dogs, vomit, and cigarette smoke topped the list of off-putting odours, in case you were wondering…).

So, it’s worth considering using seat covers (£25) and boot liners (£25-50) if you regularly carry dirty objects or find yourself driving in wet and muddy clothes. You could also spring for an interior valet (£100) if your car’s seats and carpets smell of anything other than pine forests or summer flower meadows.

Selling cars on a public road

Provenance, provenance, provenance

I regularly bang on about the importance of only buying a car that has a complete service history and this survey bears me out with 23% of those interviewed saying that an incomplete service history would put them off. The trick here is to keep every single receipt you get and to make sure that the garage that services your car always stamps the service history book.

However, a further 16% would be put off by a car that has needed a lot of repair work, which supports the theory that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

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Prove it’s yours

A car that didn’t have the vehicle registration document, or V5C, to hand, would –quite rightly – deter 16% of buyers. The moral? Make sure you’ve got everything in one place before you put the wheels of selling your car in motion.

Selling a car at auction

Picky? Maybe

Finally, 11% wouldn’t buy a car that had a tyre sealant kit instead of a proper spare tyre and wheel.

There isn’t a lot you can do with your existing car to remedy this but it is something you might like to consider when you order a new car; ticking this box on the options list won’t cost a fortune (£100) and it might tip the scales in your favour when it’s time to sell it on.

Next article: How do I avoid scams when I sell my car? >>>

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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.