I want to sell a car. Which is the best way? Sell privately or to a dealer?

sell privately

There are two main ways to sell a car: privately or to a dealer. Both have advantages; both have drawbacks. Here we look at the pros and cons of each and come to a conclusion.

The benefits if you sell privately

A better return, it’s that simple. When you sell a car privately you’ll be able to sell it for more than if you took it to a dealer. And that means more money for you to put towards a replacement model. It’s quite an incentive. To sell privately involves deciding where to sell it, writing the ad, taking the pictures and fielding calls from prospective buyers. You’re in charge all the way.

The drawbacks if you sell privately

Being in charge all the way takes time. You’ve got to prepare the car for the photographs, work out how much you think it’s worth (by looking at similar ones for sale) and find the right platform to sell your car on.

You’ve then got to sort the real enquiries from the timewasters. And once that’s done you must be confident enough to haggle over price with interested parties. And all this while probably fielding calls from internet car sales platforms insisting you’ll get a better deal from them.

We’ve also heard of people selling cars privately on an auction website. The buyer has then turned up with a couple of knucklehead mates and tried to ‘encourage’ the seller to drop the agreed price.

The benefits of selling to a dealer

This is the easy option. You take the car along. The dealer hands you some cash and assuming you’re not buying another car from them, you catch the bus home to count your money.

sell privately
A dealer will have the values of cars at his fingertips. And it’ll be more up to date than this one

The drawbacks of selling to a dealer

To get the best possible price from a dealer you should visit more than one. They will then value your car. If you want to get the most money, you then go back to the one who’s offered you the most. It all takes time.

You also need to be sure what your car is worth. A dealer will know because it’s their job. They will also know that they have to make a profit on the car. The price they will offer you is one that takes into account their margin. So don’t expect it to be anything like the amount you’d get if you sold it privately.

The dealer is also likely to go over your car with the proverbial ‘fine tooth comb’ and any scratches, dents or other damage will be used against you when it comes to negotiating on the price. You have to be prepared to haggle and negotiate with someone who’s used to doing it on a daily basis.


If it was us, we’d sell the car privately. For a start, you hold more of the cards. You own the car already; the potential buyer wants to own it. You are also probably dealing with someone a bit like you. That gives you a greater chance of coming away without feeling as if you’ve had your pants pulled down and bottom slapped.

And you set the price. You can decide what the car is worth to you, what you want in an ideal world and what you’ll accept if you need to make a quick sale. Just be prepared for it to be a bit more hassle.

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