The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Your Rights and Responsibilities When Selling a Car

Selling a car can be tricky – get it wrong and you could find the buyer making a claim against you.

This advice is intended for individuals who are selling a car privately. If you are caught in a legal dispute over the sale of a car, we have a number of legal products which could help. With our Instant Law Line service, you could benefit from ongoing legal advice over the phone to help with your dispute.

Getting a car ready to sell

Before selling a car, you should make sure it is in full working order. If there are any minor faults, you should consider having these fixed – getting the car back into top shape will improve its value, and if the buyer feels you have misled them by not fully disclosing any issues, they may take you to court for misrepresentation.

This is especially true if the car has a major defect, and is unroadworthy as a result, such as if the tyres are worn out or the mirrors are broken. Selling an unroadworthy car is a criminal offence unless the buyer is fully aware of this fact, so it would be wise to make this very clear from the moment you advertise the car.

If you have an unroadworthy vehicle that you want to dispose of, you may wish to consider selling it for scrap instead.

Documents needed for selling a car

You should also gather any documentation you have, such as the service history, the MOT certificate and the V5C certificate. If the MOT has expired or is close to expiring, you should consider renewing it. If the car does not have a current or valid MOT at the point of sale, the buyer will not be able to drive it away.

If you cannot find these documents, you will need to get them replaced – you can obtain a replacement MOT certificate from any MOT testing station. You will need the vehicle’s registration number, as well as either the MOT test number or the V5C document reference number. You can obtain a replacement V5C certificate by contacting the DVLA.

Selling a car privately

If you are selling a car, your main responsibility is to ensure that you describe and represent the car fairly and accurately to the potential buyer. As a private seller, you are not strictly required to assure the buyer that the car is in good condition. However, you cannot claim that a car is in good working order when it is not, so if a prospective buyer asks you about the condition of the vehicle, you must be totally honest.

When you have agreed the sale, you should provide the buyer with a car seller’s contract. This is a receipt, signed by both the buyer and the seller, which states that the car was “sold as seen, tried and approved without guarantee”. You can find a template for a car seller’s contract on the AA’s website.

If the car is unroadworthy, you will need to make this clear in the initial advert. Selling an unroadworthy vehicle is illegal, unless the individual wants to purchase it for repairs or spare parts.

You could also be accused of misleading the buyer if they make their intentions clear to you and you fail to reveal that the car would not be suitable for their needs. For example, if the buyer told you that they needed a car for regular long journeys, it may be deemed that you have misled them if you knew that the car would not be fit for purpose.

However, if the driver never stated their intention, and you didn’t inform them that the car would survive long distances, they will find it difficult to prove that you deliberately misled them.

Similarly, if the car breaks down a few weeks after the buyer drove away with it, they would need to prove that the car was unroadworthy at the time of purchase.

If a potential buyer wants a test drive

Before letting a would-be buyer take the car for a drive, you need to make sure that they are legally allowed to do so. This means checking that they have a valid licence, and that they are insured to drive your car – they may have Driving Other Cars (DOC) cover, which allows them to drive someone else’s car with the owner’s permission.

You may be able to include test drivers under your own insurance, and if you are anticipating allowing a number of people to test drive your car, you could temporarily extend your cover to allow other people to drive the vehicle. You should contact your insurer to see if this is possible.

You should always accompany a prospective buyer on a test drive. Do not leave them in a position where they could steal the car; for example, don’t get out of the car while the keys are still in the ignition. To be on the safe side, you should also ask them for their name, address and contact number before letting them test drive the car.

After you have sold your car

Once the car has been sold, you need to contact the DVLA as soon as possible to let them know that you no longer own the car. Your V5C certificate will clarify exactly what you need to send to the DVLA. Failing to do this could cause problems later on – for example, if the new owner of the car commits a road offence, you could find yourself having to prove that you were not driving the car, should the DVLA believe you still own it.

Selling a car for scrap

If your car is old or unroadworthy, and you can’t find anyone who wants to purchase it, you could sell it to a scrap yard. There are specific rules regarding how cars can be scrapped, so you should be careful to only sell to an authorised treatment facility.

You should only accept payment in the form of a cheque or balance transfer, as it is against the law to pay for scrap in cash. This measure was introduced to combat metal theft. You will also need to provide ID when you sell your car for scrap.

If a scrap yard is willing to ignore either of these rules, it’s a good sign that they should not be trusted.

When you sell your car for scrap, you should receive a Certificate of Destruction (CoD), either in the post or by email. Make sure that you receive this – it proves that you are no longer responsible for the vehicle. You should contact the DVLA if you have not received the CoD after four weeks.

If you sell a car for scrap and have no Certificate of Destruction as evidence, you could face an £80 fine.