How to use a car buying service to sell your car online

Thinking about selling your car through an online car buying service, but not sure whether it’s the right choice for you?

This guide explores online car buying services and alternative routes to a car sale.

How to use a car buying service explained: 

In this guide, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of car buying services, to help you make the right call.

But first, let’s clear something up…

We are not a car buying service, we are a car buyer comparison service

You’ve probably noticed the big “Enter Reg” box at the top on this page. It looks a bit like this…

enter reg on Motorway
The Motorway reg entry box, where your online car selling journey begins

Which might make you think that we are car buyers.

But actually, we’re not. We’re an online car buyer comparison service. In fact, we were the first car buying comparison website of this type in the UK. You can compare car buying services easily using our free tool. 

If you decide that using a car buying service is the right option for you, then we can help you get the very best deal online for your car.

Enter your reg, and you’ll see a comparison table like this…

How To Sell Your Car For Free - Online Car Buying Services
Compare Car Buying Services quickly and easily to see if saving on a fees still gets you the right price for your car

Now we’ve cleared that up, here’s something that might surprise you…

Using a car buying service is not always the best option

Online car buyers make the process of selling your car quick and easy. They take the hassle out of the sale, and get you cash for your car within days (or even hours).

But here’s the thing:

If you’re not in a rush for the money, or to offload your car, you might be able to squeeze out some extra cash by choosing a different option.

So, before we get into some of the reasons an online car buying service might be the right call for you, let’s start by looking at the alternatives.

Alternatives to online car buying services

We’ll list these options in descending order of (potential) returns.

1. Private Sale

A private sale can potentially net you the most pound notes for your used car.

If you’re not in a hurry to sell you can simply set the price you want, then wait for someone to offer you the cash.

Which sounds good in theory.

But unless you happen to know someone looking to buy, or want to chance sticking a piece of paper with the price in the window, then you’re going to have to advertise to make a sale.

Where to advertise your car for private sale

There are lots of places to list your car for sale online. The good news is that some of them are free.

Free options

Gumtree

Sell your car on gumtree
Is Gumtree the right place to sell your car?

Gumtree (website here) is a good option for listing your used car. It’s free, it’s a high traffic site, and it’s definitely somewhere potential buyers are likely to check out.

A lot of the cars bought and sold on Gumtree are under £1,000 in value, so it’s worth exploring as a lot of buyers are ready to pay in cash and transactions can often happen quickly if you find the right local buyer.

Motors.co.uk

motors.co.uk logo
Should you sell a car on Motors.co.uk?

Unlike Gumtree, Motors.co.uk is dedicated to listing used cars, most of which are at dealerships across the UK.

But that said, their free listing option also make the site an attractive option for private sellers.

Local Facebook Groups

Facebook app
Thinking of selling your car on Facebook?

Local Facebook groups can be a good place to advertise your used car, although finding the right buyer is tricky as it’s not a dedicated car-selling marketplace.

You’ll be relying on someone checking out the group at the right time to see your listing, otherwise it may be pushed down the page’s timeline.

Facebook also sells cars alongside other secondhand consumables such as clothes, CDs, toys and other such bric-a-brac, so it can be hard to navigate as a platform.

Paid options

Auto Trader

AutoTrader logo
AutoTrader could be the place for you!

Auto Trader is the UK’s best known used car marketplace, and for good reason. It has huge traffic, excellent search and filtering options, and a multitude of display options to show off your car to online buyers.

If your car is worth under £1,000 then a 2 week ad will cost £9.95 for the standard option. For anything above, it’s £36.95 for the basic option. [Prices accurate as of May 2019].

It’s affordable to try advertising on Auto Trader and it has a huge amount of eyeballs, so it’s definitely worth the hassle of listing.

eBay

ebay logo
Or could eBay be the right place to sell?

eBay is obviously huge for traffic, and their car selling section is intuitive, but the traffic is not car-buying specific.

You’ll be looking at a listing fee of around £10, then a sale fee of between £20 and £35.

For more options and detail on the private sale process, check out our full guide to selling your car privately.

Why selling your car privately might not be the right choice

If you manage to get a quick, easy sale, and keep your advertising costs down, then a private sale will generally be the best way to maximise the cash return for your used car.

But as with any direct advertising costs, you should also consider the cost in terms of time.

To sell your car privately you’re going to have to:

  • Dig out all the necessary paperwork
  • Photograph your car
  • Prepare and upload listings
  • Deal with telephone, SMS and email enquiries
  • Meet strangers on your doorstep
  • Show potential buyers the car and potentially take them for a test drive

Depending on its condition, you’ll also probably want to keep your old car on the road while it’s up for sale, so you are going to have ongoing tax and insurance costs.

These costs alone could negate any difference in the final sale price.

Let’s recap:

Pros

  • A private sale can net you the most cash for your used car

Cons

  • No guarantee of sale, price or timescale
  • You will be responsible for advertising the car, dealing with paperwork etc
  • You will have to deal with potential buyers/enquiries

2. Selling Your Car To A Dealer

Dealer repair
Should you sell your car to a dealer?

If you decide that the extra responsibilities involved in selling privately are not right for you, then another option is to sell your car to a dealer.

You can either look to sell your car in a stand alone sale, or as part exchange towards a new vehicle.

The main thing to consider here is that the dealer needs to make a margin. They will be looking to sell it on and make a profit.

Which means the price you are offered will be below the retail value you see on dealer forecourts.

Exactly how much below will vary from dealer. Some will be working on small margins of around 5%, while others will be looking to make up to 25%.

So make sure you have a good idea of how much your car is worth before visiting the forecourt.

Tip: Sometimes you may be offered more for your car in a part exchange deal, but make sure the dealer is not just adding the money on to the cost of your new car.

A common trick is to sell “extras” and “upgrades” that include high profit margins for the dealer.

On other occasions, sales negotiators will have their manager’s permission to offer deals. They’ll simply chop into this deal (offering you a lower discount on your new car), and balance that out by offering you more for your car. The deal looks better; but it isn’t!

Separating the buying and selling into two unique transactions allows you to know the ins and outs of any car sale or purchase.

Pros

  • Quick transaction
  • Dealers will buy most running cars (and may consider those that are not)
  • You can get a better price in a part exchange deal if you are buying a new car

Cons

  • You will have to negotiate with the dealer
  • Part exchange deals may not be as good as they first seem

3. Selling Your Car For Scrap

Your third option is to sell your car for scrap.

scrap cars for cash
Scrapping may be the right option for you

This is really the last-resort option, and should only be considered when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Even if you think your car is beyond repair, it’s worth phoning a couple of local garages first. They might take it on as a project and offer you more than the scrap value.

And even if they don’t take the whole car, they might be interested in the tyres, or other spare parts.

So, how much will scrap car dealers offer for your car? Not a lot.

Scrap car dealers look at cars in terms of weight. Typically, they’ll offer around £80-150 for a vehicle, and usually that’s with the engine working.

If you actually want to get close to the £150 valuation, there will need to be something on your vehicle worth the extra price. A typical example would be spoked alloy wheels. Scrap car dealers know these are quick sellers, and fetch a reasonable price.

Certain brands tend to fetch more as scrap than others, e.g. BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar parts are worth a premium, while the likes of Ford and Vauxhall parts are worth very little.

But low prices aside, if you just want to offload, then scrapping your car is an option.

Pros

  • None really, apart from getting rid of a burden, and perhaps a few quid in your pocket

Cons

  • You’ll get a very low offer for your car
  • You may have to take your car to the scrap merchant, which can incur costs if it is not drivable

Now let’s look at some of the reasons why using an online car buying service might be the right choice for you.

6 reasons to use an online car buying service

1. It’s the fastest way to sell your car

Selling your car through an online car buying service is easily the fastest way to sell your car.

Most online car buyers will buy any car as long it is roadworthy and not too old with high mileage.

The whole process, from initial valuation, to money in your back pocket, can normally be completed within days.

The best bit is you’ll know if it’s going to work out for you, within a matter of minutes. Unlike private sales (where you have no idea when you’ll get offers or for how much), offers will flood in quickly.

2. It’s hassle free

As we’ve already covered, selling your car can be time consuming.

Photographing and listing your car for a private sale, or negotiating with dealers, can quickly suck up your valuable time.

However if you choose to sell your car online, all you’ll need to do is enter your registration number and mileage for an instant valuation.

And many car buying services will pick your car up from your home.

Compare that to private sales where you have to:

  • Emails and phone calls (whilst you’re at work!)
  • Tyre kickers knocking you down on price because of “that dent” (that’s actually just dirt)
  • Multiple viewings
  • The possibility of the buyer being involved in one of many car buying scams

If you value your time, but still want a reasonable offer for your car, comparing car buying services online could be the best route forward.

3. By comparing the market you can get a better deal for your car

Let’s set the scenario. You’ve listed your car for sale on a private sale site.

For those with a popular car (such as a Ford Focus), you’ll be getting offers within a matter of hours.

Problem? The offers may be low. And to make matters worse, you may get a lot of them.

That’s a lot of back and forth, bartering and exchanging of messages, for a sale not to be completed.

That’s where a car buying comparison service really helps. These car buying services all want your car. And, they know they are competing against other companies in order to get it so will price accordingly.

What does that mean for you? Fast offers and a simple process. You’ll get quick and clear indication of what your car is worth via this route, with no messing around talking to private buyers.

So, after a few minutes of submitting your vehicle, you’ll get an indication of what it’s worth with realistic online offers.

4. There are no hidden fees

Different car buying services will have varied administration and sale fees. And, that makes comparing offers particularly difficult.

Our car buying comparison tool will allow you to see details for each of the offers, all on the same screen including:

  • The company making the offer
  • How far away that company is (distance in miles)
  • Whether or not they offer home collection
  • How they will transfer payment

More importantly, this screen also shows what you really want to know; the offer.

Motorway comparison table
Compare offers with motorway.co.uk

So, it’s here that you’ll be able to directly compare:

  • The best online offers for your car
  • The administration or sales fee, that each of the companies making an offer will charge
  • The review score
  • The drop off point or the collection status (e.g. do they collect from your home for free)

With Motorway, there’s no guesswork needed.

5. If you’re not happy with offers, you have lost nothing

Here’s a thought.

  1. You enter your details on Motorway
  2. The offers start to roll in
  3. You compare offers directly, including all fees associated with the sale of your car

There’s no obligation to sell your car to any of the car buying services, and there’s no charges.

But, all’s not lost. If you believe the valuations are too low, you do not have to proceed and you have indicative valuations you can use to sell elsewhere.

Thinking you’d prefer to part-exchange with a dealer, and upgrade to a newer model? No problem. You’ll be able to use online prices as a guide to valuation when you sell.

And, in the event that a dealer can’t match any of the offers, the option to sell your car online still stands if you change your mind.

6. There’s no listing fee

Listing on classified websites can cost money.

Motorway don’t charge listing fees. We’re confident enough in our network of car buyers that you’ll not just get an offer, but there’s a good chance you’ll get one that you’re happy with.

Ready to get your free valuation?

Use our free comparison tool and find out how much your car is worth.

More questions? Check out more of our handy guides below: