What’s the best way to sell my current car?

Money and how much you have - is the real decision maker when it comes to buying a used car. For most second-hand car buyers, some part of their budget will be influenced by how much they can sell their current car for.

At the most basic level, there are two avenues for selling a used car: it is either part of the deal when purchasing your next car or you sell it separately. But whichever way you choose you'll want to get the most money possible from your current car.

Preparing to sell your car

When you sell a car, you want to maximise its value. In order to do this, it needs to look its very best. At the very least, give it a good clean, inside and out. And you'll doubtless get more than your investment back through an increased sale price if you pay to have a proper valet and the exterior waxed. This ensures it'll be at its sparkling best for prospective purchasers.

It's also worth considering repairing any damage. If you're selling to a dealer, they'll know how much repairs will cost them and will be knocking money off what they pay you for dents, scratches and kerbed wheels as they look the car over. According to Philip Nothard from used car valuation service CAP Automotive, having what's known as a SMART repair (Small and Medium Area Repair Technology) will increase a car's value by more than you spend, on all but the cheapest motors.

Know your price

Have two prices in mind for your car: what you'll settle for if you can't get any better offers, and what you'd really like. Sales experts say the reason sellers come away disappointed is because they don't know what their car is really worth. Of course the ultimate answer to that is: 'what someone will pay for it'. However you can get a good idea of its value by scanning ads for similar cars on the internet and utilising a used car valuation website service such as Glass's. You can also call some car buying services for a no obligation valuation.

Ways you can sell

Part exchange

Sell your car to the dealership you're buying the new model from and it's known as part exchange. It is by far the easiest way to dispose of a used car because there doesn't have to be any awkward cross-over period between selling your existing car and taking delivery of the new one. If you get the valuation a few days before driving your new car away, make sure you have it in writing. Trade values have been high - good news for sellers but new car dealerships have expensive premises and they need to make a profit so you'll get more money for part exchanging at an independent dealer if it's possible, or selling privately if you can live without a car in the event of any cross over period.

Pros: Straightforward; no cross over period between selling and buying.

Cons: Unlikely to get as much as by selling privately.

Selling privately

Advertise your car in the press, online or on an auction website like eBay and how much you accept for it and when you sell it are entirely up to you, although if you use a n auction site, you should make sure that you factor in any auction fees. You'll be able to maximise its value because unlike when selling to a dealer, the buyer doesn't have a profit margin to think of. But you must be prepared for timewasters and nuisance calls. You could also come into contact with some less than scrupulous individuals who will sometimes go to extreme lengths to get your car off you for less than it's worth.

Pros: Maximise its value; the sale is in your hands.

Cons: Time consuming with possible timewasters and nuisance calls.

Car buying services

This is where car-buying companies give an online or telephone valuation of your car based on the information you give them. You then take the car to a depot where you hand it over and get your cash. They're worth trying for a ballpark figure. But if you try more than one, you'll quickly realise that the price they pay varies dramatically from company to company. And they can punish any tiny damage you don't disclose by marking the price down heftily once you're at their depot.

Pros: Straightforward; fast.

Cons: Valuations are often low; you have to deliver it to them; values agreed over the phone or online frequently aren't what you get.

Trading it in

When you sell a car to a dealer you're not buying another car from, it's known as a trade-in. Selling to an independent dealer rather than a car manufacturer franchise is likely to secure you a better price. But you still won't get as much as by selling privately. However it can be a swift process, although it's better not to need to sell there and then if you want the most money. And you still have the problem of the gap between selling your old and buying your new car.

Pros: Happy medium between selling privately and to a franchised dealer; can be quick.

Cons: Not as lucrative as selling privately.

Good luck!

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