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Selling or trading in your car

When you’ve decided it’s time to change your current car, make sure you know how to get the best price for it.

Here we take you through some of the ways that could help to maximise the price you get for your car. Remember that you’re likely to get a higher value for your car if you sell it, as opposed to trading it in. But a trade in can help you reduce the cost of your next car and it can save a lot of hassle in the long run.

Start here

Give your car a thorough clean, both inside and outside. Make sure you repair any minor paintwork damage and simple mechanical faults. This will avoid giving a potential buyer a reason to drive down the price they’re willing to pay.

You might want to consider a car valet service – it’ll cost you but they’re great at making cars look as good as they can.

A note of caution – don’t be tempted to lie about your car. If you knowingly sell a vehicle with a serious defect you could be breaking the law.

How much is your car worth?

Trust the professionals. There are a number of valuation sites that will help you understand how much your car is worth.

You can even just have a look at similar cars to yours on sites like Auto Trader and Gumtree

You’ll be able to see whether your car is at the top, the middle, or the bottom of the price range by looking at other similar models for sale.

Always be realistic and always expect that buyers will try and haggle. It’s the nature of the marketplace.

How to write your advert

Always be honest and make sure you give all the details accurately. This means you’ll not be wasting time with people who aren’t really interested. Use websites to look at how other people have described their car.

Always include the basics:

  • Year of registration
  • Make and model
  • Colour
  • Mileage
  • Condition
  • Additional equipment and features
  • Length of MOT left


Some agencies try their hardest to convince you into accepting the lowest price possible. Unless you’re really, really desperate it’s often better to avoid them.

Pay attention to paperwork

You have to let the DVLA know that you are no longer the registered keeper of the car. You do this by filling in the V5C form. Make sure you do this as soon as you possibly can – so you don’t end up with any of the new driver’s future offences and convictions.

When you sell the car you should also have two copies of a contract to be signed – one for you and one for the buyer. You can download a contract on the AA website.

Make sure you’ve been paid

Don’t be hassled into a sale. There are many simple, easy ways to get paid nowadays. Cash is still king but online banking transfers are also easy to make (and to verify). If the buyer wants to pay by cheque, make sure the funds have cleared before you release the car to them.

The golden rule

If it seems too good to be true it probably is. Be cautious – there’s always another buyer out there.

Trading in your car

An alternative to selling your car is trading it in. You can do this with almost any car dealership. There are advantages and disadvantages to this.

First up, the advantages:

  1. You only have to deal with the dealership

    This is useful if you don’t have the time or the desire to go about selling your car privately.
  2. It’s fast and convenient

    It removes the need to advertise your car, meet potential buyers and the worry over being defrauded.
  3. It could reduce the cost of your new car

    Whatever you negotiate as a trade in, the value will effectively be a deposit on your new car.

The disadvantages:

  1. You may get less for your car than selling it privately

    It’s normal for the trade in value of a car to be less than its cash-price equivalent.
  2. It limits you to buying your new car from the place that’s offered you a trade in.
  3. You may be able to negotiate a better discount if you have cash in your hand, rather than a car to offer as trade in.

Top tips

Try to sell and buy at a time that offers you the best chance of getting a bargain – i.e. closer to the time that the new registration plates come out.

Treat the salesperson with neutrality. It’s their job to maximise the profit they can make.

Always be honest – it means you’ll not end up having a very awkward conversation if your potential buyer finds out you’re not telling the whole truth.

Remember: you could get a higher value for your car from a sale, rather than from a trade in.


Selling a car doesn’t have to be a difficult experience. By following our simple guidance and using your own common sense you’ll not go far wrong.

Don’t be bullied (if someone’s in a hurry there may be a reason for it).

Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Always use your common sense.

Always do your research – it’ll pay dividends in the end.

This article is intended as general advice only which is not intended to cover specific circumstances and needs. The information in this article is also not linked to any of the products offered by Clydesdale Bank PLC

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