Trade-in or sell your old car?

So, you want a new car but need to off load your current vehicle first. The simple option is to trade-it in but we will argue that this may not be the best option. Check out why…

selling carYou have four options:

  1. Sell privately
  2. Trade-it in
  3. Sell it via a local dealer or an internet car buyer, click here We Want Any Car.
  4. Sell via a car auction

Private sale

Selling privately will generally yield the best results but it is the most hassle. If you sell privately you are cutting out the middle man and effectively sharing the dealers cut between you and the buyer. With great free resources such as Preloved UK, it’s certainly worth a punt if you are not in any mad rush. If you want a larger audience and are happy to pay a small fee there are other options such as which is regularly accessed by 1 ½ million potential buyers and is very reasonably priced. The two largest UK car markets are Auto Trader and EBay Motors but for these you will generally pay more.

There’s no great science to this but at the bottom end you could expect to double your money by selling privately rather than through a dealer. An old run-about which may fetch £500 from a dealer could easily realise £1,000 or more by private sale. On higher value cars the differential between a private and a trade sale may be nearer 10%.

Some cars are far easier to sell privately than others. Small low budget cars generally sell well but you may have a problem shifting a big old gas guzzler. If you intend selling privately we recommend, that before you advertise the car, you get an online valuation We Want Any Car. This will give you a guide to its trade value and indicate where to pitch the price for a private sale.

If you do sell privately be aware of your legal obligations to describe the car accurately. Over enthusiastic claims about its condition or the car’s prowess could potentially mean a breach of the Trades Description Act. It’s safest to stick to factual information rather than being subjective. Good photographs are a better way to attract attention to your car gleaming coachwork, than using descriptors such as ‘immaculate’ or ‘best example on the web’.

Selling cars privately has some risk attached to it and we strongly recommend you are not alone when meeting prospective buyers and that you never allow an unaccompanied test drive. However, nice and cuddly the prospective buyer appears to be, take sensible precautions. Under no circumstance should you part with your vehicle until you have the full agreed price in cash or evidence that it is in your bank account. Any reasonable buyer will respect this and attempts to persuade you otherwise should be treated with the utmost suspicion.


The simplest but in many ways the least satisfactory option is to trade your car in. We are assuming you want the best possible deal but of course, if convenience is more important to you than savings, by all means, trade-in your old jalopy. But let us explain why we believe it’s better to have your deposit as cash.

To be a wiser car buyer and get the best possible deal on your next car you should take full advantage of the UK wide car market. The internet has opened up car buying and there is absolutely no reason why Mr McTavish from Aberdeen should not buy from a dealer in Bournemouth or Miss Howard from London buy from a Car Supermarket in Birmingham.

If you have a ‘cash’ deposit remote transactions such as these are simple but if you wish to trade in your car it becomes more difficult because the dealer in Bournemouth may not be prepared to give you the best deal without seeing it. As soon as you introduce an extra complication into the transaction there is a degree of uncertainly which will muddy the water and make it more difficult to strike a deal.

If you decide to trade in your vehicle beware the high trade-in valuation. If you are offered more than you expect for your car, it will normally mean the profit the dealer is making from the car you are buying is also high. A wiser car buyer will negotiate the purchase price of the car they wish to buy before discussing a potential trade-in valuation.

If you prefer the convenience of a trade-in, at the very least, you should get an on-line valuation first We Want Any Car, to set your expectation and help you with your negotiations.

Internet car buyer /Local dealer

Huge numbers of cars are now sold through internet based car buyers. Make no mistake it’s a trade price you will be offered so it’s unlikely to ‘blow you away’ with its generosity but it has the advantage of being a relatively quick and simple process and gives you cash which is useful commodity when buying a new car.

Basically the process is as follows: you enter the registration of your vehicle on their website with the car’s current mileage and service history We Want Any Car. They assume the car is in ‘good’ condition and the offer made is subject to an inspection. They will usually knock-off money on inspection unless the car is exceptionally clean.

Be prepared to negotiate and walk away if their valuation does not meet yours. Remember they want to buy your car; the price they have offered you will give them a profit. However much they protest otherwise the inspector’s pay packet will include some level of performance related pay so it is in their interest to knock you down. Keep cool and stand your ground.

And of course there is no reason why you shouldn’t try a couple of local or specialist car dealers, particularly if you have an unusual or ‘sought after’ car like a cabriolet or a sports car. If you have an internet valuation, print it out and see if a local dealer is prepared to offer a little extra.


The fourth option is to sell at auction but this is something of a specialist art form and probably best left to those with a reasonable knowledge of the motor trade. If you have the right car, an auction could be the ideal place to sell but if your car doesn’t have that X factor you could be wasting your time. And selling at auction is time consuming as you will normally have to take a day off work to attend and find your own way home (with no car if you are lucky enough to sell!).

You should also bear in mind you will pay a fee whether your car sells or not. So although BCA, the country’s premiere car auction house, shifts around 600,000 cars a year the auction system is principally aimed at the trade and an easy way for leasing and finance companies to off load their stock quickly and cheaply in bulk.

There are certain cars (low mileage German diesel estates for example) which will sell at auction all day long but these cars will probably sell anywhere so whether the auction is the best option for you is debatable. The auction companies will tell you that selling at auction means quick cash and better prices than you are likely to get from the trade. Maybe, maybe not!

The best advice we can give you, is if you like the idea of a car auction and have a reasonably desirable car, give it a whirl but for those of a nervous disposition you may be better looking at other options.