Selling A Car to A Dealership: The Ultimate Guide

To help ensure the most seamless sale that generates the best return for you, you just need to be prepared - and there are several ways you can make sure that you are.

First things first - you need to do your research. That way, you can ensure that you’re happy with the decision you ultimately take. If you have time to spend on the sale too, you’d be well advised to get as many quotes as possible from different dealerships. This way, you can ensure that you get the best price for the vehicle in question.

How valuable this time would be really comes down to how much time you ultimately have and whether the sale value of the car justifies it.

We’ll go into some specific care tips later in this guide, but don’t neglect the upkeep of your car. If you do, you may cause irreversible or at minimum, expensive damage to repair.

At the time it then comes to selling your car, you could then be left with an expensive bill that wipes out any profit you make; or a car in such bad condition that no-one wants to buy it.

Read on for our full set of tips; or head to the base of the article for our summary infographic!

Negotiation Tips

When you’re negotiating the price for the sale of your car, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of securing a better deal for yourself.

  • Be prepared to haggle: Within reason, there is no harm at all in haggling on the price for your vehicle. As much as possible, try and have a fair and reasonable price in mind - you can obtain this from some market research. If you become unrealistic, you’re just going to end up wasting your time. Equally, don’t let the dealership pay you less than what your vehicle is worth.
  • Know your car’s value: To help with the previous point, take a look around online across some of the great valuation tools available. This way, you can get an overall picture of what you can reasonably expect for your car.
  • Take your time: Always helped if you can sell well in advance of when you need to, time can be a big factor in your favour. If you know you’re not in a rush to sell, you put the pressure on the dealership - particularly if you’ve gone to a few different places.

Car Care Tips

If you want to get the maximum possible price for your car when the time comes to sell, ongoing care throughout your ownership of the vehicle is key. If you’ve treated it badly, you’ll struggle to fix all the issues at the last minute without incurring hefty costs.

Some of the ways you could currently be damaging your car’s value include:

  1. Ignoring warning lights: If your car is flashing a warning light on your dashboard, don’t ignore it! Whether it’s an issue with the engine, the oil pressure, or any one of a whole manner of potential faults, the sooner you get it looked at the more likely you are to avoid devastating damage.
  2. Neglecting regular servicing: Not only does servicing help to keep value in your vehicle, it also keeps you safe by identifying potentially serious issues. It can also extend the life of your car and help you avoid expensive repairs.
  3. Ignoring MOT advisories: MOT advisories are there for a reason. Just because they weren’t deemed absolutely essential to resolve at the point of your vehicle passing it’s MOT, they are listed because they need looking at relatively urgently. The sooner you get them looked at the better.
  4. Driving aggressively: Driving style can definitely have an effect on your car, particularly if you’re braking aggressively or not taking care on potentially damaging roads. Look out for potholes and drive in a careful manner.
  5. Neglecting basic checks: When running your car, don’t forget to check all the basics on an ongoing basis. This includes things such as brake fluid, engine coolant and more. Tyre health is also very important to stay on top of.
  6. Failing to conduct regular cleaning: The less you clean your car, the more dust, dirt and rust it will accumulate. This could ultimately lead to irreparable damage that harms your car’s value; or at minimum the creation of an unwanted and expensive repair.
  7. High mileage: This might be a pipe dream if you rely on your car to commute heavy distances, but think about whether there are any unnecessary journeys you could be cutting out.

Whatever you can do to influence the impact of each of those seven issues will undoubtedly help you to maintain more value in your vehicle.


Once the primary negotiations for the sale of your vehicle to a dealership have taken place, you’ll need to tie up the loose ends in terms of paperwork to fully complete the sale.

  • Update the DVLA to tell them you no longer own the vehicle (see the next section for a full explanation)
  • Provide any MOT certificates you have to the buyer
  • Provide the logbook to the buyer
  • Provide any receipts for work that you have to the buyer
  • Notify any relevant parties if there’s an outstanding warranty on the vehicle
  • Tell your insurers that you no longer own the car

Updating the DVLA

When you come to sell your car, you first need to ensure that you have your V5C document for your vehicle to hand. It should be intact and in good condition.

Then, after agreeing the sale, you need to inform the DVLA that you’ve sold the car and that ownership has changed. Make sure you give the buyer the V5C/2 section of the V5C certificate. This will act as their proof of ownership until they receive a new V5C from the DVLA.

You can use the following link to inform the DVLA of the change online. This can be done between 7am and 7pm every day of the week and you simply need to provide the new owner’s email address. When you submit the form, you’ll receive a confirmation letter and email.

This is the same for when you sell your vehicle to a car dealership.

It’s imperative that you inform the DVLA as soon as you’ve handed over the responsibility to your vehicle (documents, keys etc.). Otherwise, you could risk being hit with potential convictions and offences related to the next driver of the car.

Can I Sell a Car With Finance?

For whatever reason you’re looking to sell your car for, if you’re part way into a car finance deal isn’t something you can do easily or without incurring additional costs. Depending on the type of finance agreement you have in place, your options will be different:

Personal Loan Purchase: If you took out a personal loan to pay for your car - and providing you’ve paid for it in full - you’ll own it outright once the last payment has been made. As the legal owner of the car, you’ll be entitled to sell it. Just bear in mind that if you haven’t made all the loan payments, you’ll need to continue doing so until that agreement is complete.

Hire Purchase Finance: With hire purchase (HP) finance, you can’t sell the car; since the lender is the legal owner until the finance is completed. You would have to end your agreement early to sell the car.

Alternatively, if you’ve paid less than half of the total agreement cost, you can return the car - but you’d have to keep paying the remaining installments to reach half the car’s value. There may be additional fees and interest too.

If you’ve gone past half the cost, you can’t return the car.

Bear in mind that your finance contract may include a voluntary termination clause; which would enable you to hand the car back and make no more payments if you’ve paid at least 50% of the cost.

Another option is to settle up now and sell the car. You’d need to write to the finance company in question and provide a settlement figure. Once this is paid you are free to sell the car.

PCP Finance: With personal contract purchase (PCP), you are able to loan a car from a finance company. This is typically a deposit of varying size, followed by different monthly payment plans. At the end of the agreement, you can usually opt to pay and keep the car, exchange the car or return the car.

This means you can’t sell the car if it has any outstanding PCP finance or you’ve not paid the settlement figure in full. If you want to terminate the agreement, there are two options related to the ‘voluntary termination’ clause in your finance contract:

Return the car if you’ve paid off half the finance agreement (if you haven’t, you’ll have to pay the difference). It’s essential that you’ve paid 50% of the total payable amount, including fees and interest.

Pay the agreement off early and keep the car. If the settlement figure is less than your monthly payments, you should explore the early payment. Once the final settlement figure is agreed, you can then sell the car.

It’s worth noting that a finance commitment is a big decision and ultimately, you may lose out on money if you enter an agreement and then try to get out of it - particularly if you need to access funds sooner rather than later.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I protect myself when selling a car?

There are several things you can do to protect yourself when you decide to sell. In the case of selling to a dealership, make sure you don’t let yourself be pressured into a quick sale. It’s your car and you’re in change.

What is the best way to sell a car privately?

There is no one clear answer to this - you simply have to make the decision that best suits your circumstances. There are pros and cons to selling to a dealership, someone you know, via print advertising, via a national site or privately. This guide may help you decide which option is best for you.

How do I sell a car fast?

To sell your car quickly, make sure you have your V5C, MOT and service record documentation ready. It’s also important to make sure your car is clean and suitable for sale. Once you have these points in order, do as much research as possible and negotiate to get yourself the best deal.

How long does it take to sell a car privately?

This will really depend on your chosen method of sale and what your ultimate priority is. If you’re more bothered about shifting the vehicle than you are about the price you receive, for example, you’ll likely be able to sell quicker. If you want to shop around and get the best deal, you’re unlikely to secure a speedy sale.

Can I sell my car to a dealership?

There are pros and cons related to selling your car to a dealership. A dealership is more likely to want your car - and have the cash available to buy it. You’ll also avoid the cost of advertising. Whether or not this is offset by how much more you could make through a private sale can only be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Can I sell a car I just bought?

You can sell a car you’ve just bought outright whenever you wish to - but if you’ve taken out a loan or purchased the car using finance, you’ll need to carefully check the terms and conditions of the contract you signed.

How do I get the most out of selling my car?

To give yourself the best chance of securing the best possible price for your car, make sure you get as many quotes as possible. Where you can, extend this further and get several quotes related to each available sale option (private, dealer etc.). This way you can be sure you’re getting the best possible price for your vehicle. It’s worth reading plenty of reviews where applicable too. Just remember to bear in mind any advertising costs and how valuable your time is to you.

Related Content

Things to Watch Out For When You Sell Your Car

I Want to Sell My Car - What Are My Options?

6 Benefits You’ll Feel from Regularly Having Your Car Serviced

7 Ways You Could Be Damaging Your Car’s Value

I Need to Sell My Car Quickly - What Should I Do?

Beware These Common Mistakes When You Decide to Sell Your Car

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