Selling my car on Autotrader
30 Year experience guide, tips (and two of my huge trade secrets)
Sell at your vehicles true, retail value
Autotrader prices and the correct package for a speedy sale (7 days or less)
This comprehensive guide is designed for motorists who have already garnered their Autotrader valuation and are ready to get their car up for sale.
Over the course of almost 30 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to sell thousands of cars with Autotrader due to their ever growing 10 million+ website visits every month. If you are serious about selling, Autotrader is the worlds best.
During this time, I’ve mastered how to sell a car on Autotrader with a simple, effective method to phone calls and quick sales.
To sell a car on Autotrader, you need a well-executed advert that allows potential buyers to identify you care about your car. Achieve this and prospects are more inclined to see both you and your car as genuine; a huge factor in selling a car.
So, it is more than just price and location.
You get three different packages to choose from based on vehicle asking price.
Each category offers Basic, Standard and Premium packages:
Up to £1,000, Over £1,000, Over £10,000, see below.
Cars valued up to £1,000
Cars valued over £1,000
Cars valued over £10,000
A quick breakdown of ad category features
Cars under £1000
Basic – Free for one week and includes up to 5 photos
Standard – £9.95 for three weeks and includes up to 20 photos, mobile advantage and search standout
Premium – £19.95 for six weeks and includes up to 20 photos, desktop advantage, mobile advantage and search standout
Cars over £1,000
Basic – £36.95 for two weeks and includes up to 20 photos
Standard – £46.95 for three weeks and includes up to 20 photos, mobile advantage and search stand out.
Premium – £59.95 for six weeks and includes up to 20 photos, desktop advantage, mobile advantage and search stand out.
Cars over £10,000
Basic – £39.95 for two weeks and includes up to 20 photos
Standard – £49.95 for three weeks and includes up to 20 photos, mobile advantage and search stand out
Premium – £64.95 for six weeks and includes up to 20 photos, desktop advantage, mobile advantage and search stand out
Now, find out which package offers the highest probability of selling your car privately (in less than a week)
or sell my car on Autotrader now.
How much to advertise on Autotrader?
Buying the correct package for phone calls
The correct Autotrader package is the one that is cheapest to buy and yields the most phone calls.
Here’s the formula:
My tests are based on selling hundreds of cars a year. As this doesn’t apply to your situation we must focus on the offerings within each ad package.
Finding the buyer of your car
Around 65% of all online car searches occur on mobile phones.
The man or women who end up owning your car will probably be using a phone to find your advert online.
Only Standard and Premium packages include Autotrader’s ‘Priority on Mobile’.
This instantly eliminates all Basic advert priced packages.
Conclusion – must buy Standard or Premium ad due to ‘Priority on Mobile’
Let’s take the Premium package for cars priced over £1,000,
Autotrader offers this advert for £58.95 for six weeks.
Now look at the Standard package,
Autotrader offers this for £46.95.
Premium is just £12 more than Standard for an extra 3 weeks of online exposure.
Final conclusion – must buy a premium advert to maximise online exposure
Longest period of online exposure x Priority on Mobile = Autotrader Premium package
When considering how much to sell a car on Autotrader, you should buy the ‘Premium Autotrader package’.
That’s what I do.
Check these Autotrader packages
How to sell a car on Autotrader [Writing an advert for a quick sale]
After creating a free account or signing in, enter your VRM (vehicle registration number) and Auto Trader’s database will automatically pull your vehicle.
Next, enter mileage.
Increase the exposure of your car advert by up to 43%
Autotrader offers a suggested asking price. It’s a good enough tool but to value a car so that it sells in 7 days, try my method.
Let’s assume Jenny needs to get a final price for her car of £4,800. She advertises it at £5,150, to allow some wiggle room.
The pricing problem
Autotrader’s car search tool works in multiples of £500
Buyers set a minimum and maximum price range for the car they want, to the nearest £500
Jenny’s prospect, Michael, is looking for a car just like the one Jenny has for sale. He lives in a ten mile radius of Jenny and needs to buy in the next day or two. Using the Autotrader car search tool he inputs a price range minimum budget of £4,000 and a maximum of £5,000
You see the problem?
Multiples of £500 mean Michael will never see Jenny’s car for sale on Autotrader, due to his maximum budget set!
When setting your price, always do so at the nearest £500 multiple. In the example of Jenny, she should have set her asking price at £5,000. That way, Michael would have found her advert and picked up the phone.
Along with the correct, competitive price, this part of your Autotrader advert will be the difference between one phone call or a dozen.
The subtitle appears on the main category page of listed cars. Prospects can read the subtitle without clicking on your advert. Simply put, it’s a hook to get the click on your ad for further information. So, it is very important for getting phone calls.
Great subtitle examples are those that set your car apart from others.
What is the best quality in your car?
- Low mileage?
- Unusual factory colour?
- Added extras from new such as a sunroof?
- Leather trim?
- Sport alloy wheels?
- Even a spare set of keys is a selling point
Perhaps you have extensive service history, or you have owned the car from new?
Find one that appeals to your market and use wisely, within your subtitle. Every car has its attributes.
My example (you are allowed 30 characters)
“Owned From New & Full History”
(I always use capital letters at the beginning of each word for extra stand out, but avoid using all capitals as it looks spammy).
This section gives the opportunity to list everything that is great about your car. I have learned to use this ad text wisely as it makes such a huge difference in the conversion from prospect to telephone call.
Note here, the first 80 characters of your text appears before clicking your ad! Similarly, to your subtitle, this is a great opportunity to have prospects click your advert for more detail.
The only way for your prospect to get your phone number is by clicking into your car advert. To sell your car privately, the process is always geared toward getting the initial click.
There are great things to say in the first 80 characters of your description text. Here are a few of my favourites to get your teeth into. Use them and expand into your own.
“Been such a great car and never let me down. A little reluctant to sell so she must go to a good owner. I am upgrading at the local dealers”
“Serviced every year on the dot. Aside from service items like tyres and brakes, she has always passed the MOT without fail!”
Maybe you can list down individual services, mileages and dates? Or how about:
“Parked in the garage every night”
The idea is to help buyers see that your car is special and different to all those listed against it.
The last section is ‘features’ and ‘maintenance’. But much of this is multiple choice that pre-populates. I do not find this Autotrader ad feature to make too much of a difference as there is little differentiation from one advert to the next.
The three elements that get a click on your advert and a phone call are:
- Feature-based subtitle
- Persuasive advert text (especially the first 80 characters that spell out something great about your car)
- Profile image (see below)
Great images of your car will make the phone ring
Scroll through some of the cars for sale on Autotrader and see how poorly presented most car profile images are. A missed opportunity, but your advert profile picture only takes a few minutes to get right.
From experience, I must say that the profile image is of most importance.
Here’s a poor profile image
Here’s a great profile image
High-resolution images, taken at the correct distance from the car with a good-looking background increase click through rate by a staggering 73%!
I’ll assume you plan to buy the Standard or Premium Autotrader package that includes up to 20 photos?
Start your advert to selling a car privately and we can take the remaining as you read along here.
I photograph the car from multiple angles.
You can use your Smartphone and are allowed some chunky image files up to the size of 15mb. That’s good.
Here’s exactly what I do.
Exterior images need shooting at 10 ft away from the car.
When taking a photograph of alloy wheels keep 3 ft away.
- Nearside front corner
- Offside rear corner
- Front of car, straight-on
- Back straight-on
- Full side of the car with a little space either end to capture the background
- Close-up of a wheel, if you have alloys (you also might try this image from a slight angle as it looks good)
- The dashboard (sit in the back seat and snap the entire dash)
- Front and rear seats (standing outside of the car at each door)
- Inside the boot
- The engine compartments (get one shot of the whole engine bay)
- If your car is convertible remember to shoot with the roof up and down
- Any damage to your car (more on this important step in a moment)
Best results come from taking lots of photos from each angle, stepping a little left and a little right for each individual image. Choose the best of the bunch when it comes to uploading to a computer.
The background of your image is as important as the car itself. Ensure there is enough natural light but avoid direct sunlight as this creates unusual shaded image effects on areas of car bodywork that may look like poor accident damage repair.
A clean driveway works well although open spaces are my preferred option.
Things to avoid when taking pictures of your car
- Poor backgrounds with untidiness
- Taking photographs at night or in other dark settings
- Being above or too low down
- Artificial light and direct sunlight
- Cutting part of the car off, unless you’re photographing details
- A dirty lens (clean the eye of your camera first)
Separate your images up. I use 16 of my allotted 20 images for the exterior and interior. I use the remaining 4 to snap car documentation and spare keys.
- 1 Photograph of the service history nicely laid out on a table
- 1 Photograph of the V5C log book and MOT (be careful not to display your name and address as it appears on the logbook)
- 1 Photograph of the handbook kit
- 1 Photograph of spare keys
With all your images ready, upload to your computer and choose the best of what you have.
How I increase advert click-through rate by a further 21%
Let’s remember, the profile pic of your car is the number one factor in getting advert clicks that lead to phone calls.
Before adding your profile picture to your advert take one last step.
In the screenshot below, see how I have uploaded a profile picture to Microsoft Office PowerPoint? You can do lots of cool things with your image, so it might be worth playing around with if you have the time.
I like to add some text that describes the best attribute of my car right onto the image.
In my example, I’ve included “1 Private owner from new with Full Ford Service History”
Adding this text separates the profile picture from the rest, describes one of the biggest attributes of the car and increases click-through rate to my advert by around 21%.
This final bit of effort makes a genuine difference.
Finalising your advert – experience tips
Add the exact mileage of your car rather than to the near 1,000 miles.
Instead of 64,000 miles, I’ll state 64,127 miles.
It’s a minor detail but handily describes attention to detail.
History and Maintenance
Provide as much detail as you reasonably can. Include the number of previous owners, how many stamps are in the service book, when the car was last serviced, MOT expiry date, if you have a handbook kit and anything else that is relevant to your car and supports attention to detail.
Should your car lack a good service history download full MOT history from the DVLA website. Print this off and add to your advert and service pack.
Use CarVeto to support a quick sale
My sister website, CarVeto offers a free car checking service that includes a list of useful information about any UK registered car.
CarVeto is more than a car history check that includes full vehicle details with an image, finance, owners, mot history, road tax status, road insurance status, accidents, theft, mileage geography charts, VIC inspection, CO2 emission stats, road tax costs and more.
Print this certificate off to increase perceived value and support a quick sale.
Screenshot section of a CarVeto certificate
My secret to selling a car on Autotrader
So, here we have it. I am going to share a strategy that has made the biggest difference of all to selling a car with a leading Autotrader advert.
All cars have selling points and owners are quick to say what they are. But, how often have you read an advert that describes negative points?
Never, I hear you say!
This is my secret tip. Discribe some alleged negative aspect of your car as a strategy to sell.
Buyers do not expect to read anything in a car advert that would apparently inhibit a sale.
Be strategic with this step and disclose something that is relatively minor and doesn’t impact reliability or value.
- A rip in the seat fabric
- Graze on the corner of the rear bumper
- Scuffed alloy wheel
- Discoloured rear number plate
- Minor chip in the windscreen
One of two of these should be included in your ad description. Basically, look for items that are cosmetic rather than mechanical. They can be repaired for a small amount of money but do not impact on car reliability.
Highlighting a flaw is counter-intuitive to your prospect, it builds some trust and demonstrates you are somewhat open and honest.
Most importantly, this method will separate you and your car advert from the rest. Achieving this is something of a minor miracle when there are scores, if not hundreds of comparative cars to choose from.
I have used this strategy for almost three decades. On numerous occasions, the buyers have thanked me for honesty, sometimes even on the telephone before arranging a viewing! Please, enjoy this tip and use it. I’d love to hear how much it helped your sale.
Times to call and contact details
Autotrader allows two phone numbers and a free, privacy number service.
I don’t use privacy as it prevents prospects from texting in advance to confirm my car is still for sale.
An initial text can be handy as it’s a low barrier to entry. Some people prefer to text first and call later (a micro-commitment).
Using email in an advert (and scams)
Email is less appealing for several reasons.
The first is that I have never, ever sold a car that began with an email enquiry. It is surprising but true.
The second is that email leaves you as a sitting duck to Autotrader scammers.
Be wary of online trolls. They reside on Autotrader all day and night.
If you receive an email enquiry, act with extreme caution as it is likely to be a scam especially if the email says they want to buy the car (before viewing it).
Look out for scammers acting as private buyers or using company names.
I have a rather old video 0n Autotrader scams but it is still relevant.
Getting a phone enquiry
I don’t remember having sold a car via Autotrader without speaking to the prospect on the telephone beforehand.
On the initial call, I mention the fault or faults listed in my advert.
I might say something like: “The car has been great, I’m a little reluctant to sell it because it’s been so good. It has been serviced every year, without fail and pretty much passed all its MOT’s. As I mentioned in the ad, the only snag is a scuff on the corner of the back bumper on the right and the small tear on the passenger lumbar.”
Open and accurate language will build trust and get the viewing booked. It also reminds your prospect that the car is good, but not brand new.
The day of selling your car
Always leave car documentation in your house. It keeps you and your car safer. A thief has a greater chance of selling your car with documentation.
Documentation is often that last part of a sale so it’s a good time to invite the prospect into your home if it feels good to do so.
Quick steps to a quick transaction
Unlock the car and give the keys to the buyer.
Let them freely look around the car, start it up, check the oil etc.
Answer questions and tell the truth. It is just easier, and you get to do the right thing. If you need to cover up the truth, selling a car privately may not be your best option.
Highlight the faults shared in your Autotrader advert as early as you can. Show you are open and genuine.
Discuss reliability and great economy – things that support you.
Do what you can to overcome objections by showing off any extras or attributes your car has to offer. The best you can do is overcome objections as soon as possible but try not to avoid them as that can inhibit the sale.
The Test Drive
Are the buyers insured to drive your car (I check this when they arrange a viewing on the telephone)?
Note, is a test drive necessary?
If there are strong objections to your car the prospect is unlikely to buy.
If a test drive is appropriate the prospects need to be accompanied.
Take your mobile phone in case of emergency.
With some good fortune, your test drive has been successful, and you have a genuine buyer on your hands.
Next, invite the buyer into your home to see documentation and to haggle. I guess you can show the docs on the roadside or driveway but it’s not my preferred option.
How to haggle for a car
It can be tricky to handle haggling but keep in mind that we negotiate every day with our children, at work and with our Spouses. Try to exhibit self-confidence.
I like to make the most of haggling on cars as I am close to my end goal of selling.
Your final, final (final) price to sell
Forethink your bottom line price. But, are you sure you won’t accept £50 or £100 less?
Example – you are asking £5,000 for your car and have decided you’ll accept £4,800, but no less.
Your prospect offers £4,700, what do you do?
Go down the middle at £4,750?
Selling a car privately can be a pain in the backside. You invest some time in buying and then composing a great car advert, get your car prepared for selling, take calls and demonstrate.
Are you prepared to risk it all for the sake of £50 or £100?
How much is your time worth to you?
Personally, I’m not going to miss a sale for the sake of £100 pounds.
Know what your final, final price is, always.
First car viewing and unfounded confidence
You may have got a phone call within hours of advertising on Autotrader, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get another one that day, week or even month.
Lost sales tend to occur when a private seller first puts their car on sale. Because they had a quick response they naturally feel a sale is certain.
Try to avoid this trap. Sell your car to the first buyer if you possibly can.
Is £4,700 of more value to you than retaining possession of the car?
Have a think about it.
Stay safe and legal when selling your car
This is the most important step in the process of selling a car privately. Read my full guide on car receipt and documentation.
If selling your car privately seems a bit too much work and you’re happy to sell your car for a bit less, check out some of my alternative routes.
I wish you a safe car selling experience with Autotrader that helps you get the true value of your car.
If my guide is worthy of your social share please use one of the buttons now.
Used Car Guy
What is Auto Trader?
Auto Trader is the world’s leading car selling platform.
How much is my car worth?
My separate guide to car valuations will teach you how to value any car at both trade and retail prices.
What are the Autotrader prices?
Prices are listed below and determined by your vehicle’s price and the advert type you wish to buy. Note that including your advert in mobile search results will significantly increase exposure.
Cars up to £1,000
Basic Free | 2-week advert
Standard £14.95 | 3-week advert includes mobile
Premium £19.95 | 6-week advert includes mobile
Cars over £1,000
Basic £36.95 | 2-week advert
Standard £46.95 | 3-week advert includes mobile
Premium £58.95 | 6-week advert includes mobile
What do you need to do when you sell a car?
After payment has been finalised (via bank transfer only), you need to:
- Complete the V5C logbook including the new keeper’s name, address and postal code
- Sign the logbook along with the new keeper
- Provide Section 10 (green slip) to the new keeper
- Send the remainder of the logbook to DVLA Swansea SA99 1BA
- Provide all service history records, handbook kit and additional information
- Give the car keys over to the new owner
How do you write a receipt for selling your car?
Create a hand and digital document that includes:
- The Make and Model of the vehicle you are selling
- Car registration number
- Year of manufacture
- Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
- Name, address and phone numbers of the buyer and seller
- The price of the sale
- Clear signatures of the buyer and seller
- Any additional information that was included in the sale agreement.
What does it mean if a car is part ex?
Part ex (or P/X, part exchange) is a term derived from the automotive industry as a way of a contractual agreement. Part exchanging your car requires you to hand over your old car and a cash payment to buy a new car. Part exchange is usually offered by car dealerships although some private sales may include a PX should the seller prohibit it and a price is agreed.
How do you transfer a car title?
Importantly, car titles do not provide proof of ownership. The title owner becomes the individual who is responsible for the car’s insurance and road-worthiness. To change the titles of a vehicle in the UK the V5C logbook must be filled out correctly and include the new titles name, address and postal code. A date and signature from the previous and new title owners must also be completed to abide by the regulations set out from the DVLA.
Can you trade in a car that is in finance?
Yes, you can. However, you must first obtain a final settlement figure from the supplying finance company. The dealer who is accepting the trade-in should contact the finance company to confirm the final settlement. The outstanding finance must be deducted from the price of the car before it can be part exchanged.
What is negative equity car finance?
New cars typically lose 30% of their value in the first 12 months. When a new car is bought via a car loan it’s common for the car to be worth less than the money outstanding on the loan. This is known as negative equity. Should you wish to trade in your car with a negative equity status the difference between the car’s valuation and the outstanding loan amount must be paid off.