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BUYING TIP: How to be your own 'used-car dealer'

Published Jul 5, 2010


Selling privately? Here are some simple steps to help you to get a good price for your car.


A clean, polished car sells for on average 10 percent more than the same car, filthy and grubby. Dealers pay more for a car that is polished, with a clean interior and vacuumed carpets, because it saves them time and money and time before they can resell your car again at a profit.

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Private buyers are impressed with a clean car as it indicates the vehicle has been cared for.

Clean the mats, carpets and upholstery. Wipe dust off the fascia, give the windows a sparkle and wipe down the headlining of the roof.

Clean out the boot, remove evidence of dog hairs and rubbish. Make sure the car doesn't smell - especially of cigarettes.

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Touch up chipped paint spots on the bonnet caused by stones. But make sure you get a touch-up paint that matches perfectly.

Give the car a thorough wash and polish. If pressed for time, shine the biggest body panels - doors, bonnet and roof - for maximum effect.

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Power-spray the tyres and clean alloy wheels. Gleaming wheels improve a car's appearance enormously and tyre blacking gives the car that showroom look. Steam-cleaning the engine might arouse suspicion but a general tidy-up is well worth it.


The price has to be right. Find out exactly how old your car is (check on the registration document), which model it is and what engine size.

Check used car price guides to get an idea of what you should ask for it. Check car advertisements in local newspapers and at local dealers to see what prices cars similar to your own are fetching in your area.

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Price your car too high and your phone won't ring. Private sellers, who are emotional about their cars, tend to overprice initially, wasting money advertising in the first few weeks.

Be positive. Include in your advert features such as power steering, dog-guard, roof rack, sunroof, aircon, leather seats, heated windows and electric mirrors.

Mention the age and the model.

If the car is metallic blue, say so - don't just describe it as blue.

If it has an upmarket audio system or factory-fitted sunroof, give details. If your car is a specialist vehicle such as a sports car, it will be worth advertising in specialist magazines.


Make sure everything works. A bent coat-hanger instead of an aerial will not inspire confidence. Broken bulbs on interior lights could make the difference between sale or fail. Pay attention to details. A glove compartment with a faulty catch hints at worse problems waiting to be discovered.

Top up fluid levels in the radiator, brake and clutch reservoir and the windscreen-washer bottle. A bill for a recent service, a recent roadworthy certificate and a current registration disc will also fill would-be buyers with confidence.

Put all garage bills, expired registration discs, the original registration document, everything to do with the car, in a nice new folder that demonstrates your pride in the vehicle.

Make sure you have all details of your car next to the phone so you can answer callers' questions. Be helpful, friendly and patient. Answer with details of the car so the caller knows there is only one car for sale and that you are not a trader in disguise with half-a-dozen to sell.


Make sure you are insured for any licensed driver to drive the car. Check their driving licence is valid and current.

Never let a would-be buyer take your car for a solo test-drive - you might be kissing it goodbye. Let the buyer look round, but keep hold of the keys until you are both in the car.

Take the buyer's details so if something goes wrong you - or if necessary the police - have more chance of finding them later. Having a friend on hand is especially reassuring if your buyer arrives with a pal.


Let the buyer make the first offer. If a deposit is offered, keep the car until the balance is delivered and state clearly the time limit - 24 or 48 hours - to complete the deal. Take details of people who call in the meantime.

If you are paid in cash, count it and check the notes are genuine. Only accept notes in banking hours so you can bank it immediately. If payment is by cheque, keep the car until the cheque clears. If a banker's draft or money order is offered, phone the bank to make sure it is genuine.

A receipt should include full details of the car, your name and address, those of the buyer and the amount paid in full. Include the time and date of the deal and write on it "accepted as tested and seen" to protect yourself against any later claims. Both of you should sign the receipt (pro-forma receipts and contracts are sold at stationers).

Good luck! - London Daily Mail

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