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Should I sell my car on an auction site?

Selling a car online is potentially the most stress-free way of getting cash for your vehicle - provided you know what you’re doing. To find out more about selling your car at auction online, read our handy guide and hopefully it will help you decide whether it’s the best way to sell your vehicle.

How to sell a car online safely

It is generally safe selling a car at an online auction. If the buyer has not seen the car before they bid, which is often the case with online auctions, you will need to accurately describe the car and the condition it is in. The buyer will want to make sure that the car is as described when it is delivered, or they could demand a refund.

The main danger of selling a car at an online auction is if the top bidder doesn’t pay. If this happens let the auction site know and they will investigate. If they cannot persuade the bidder to pay, they will probably relist your car for no initial fee.

Car auctioneers will promptly send you your money, and provided the car is as described, it is safe to let the buyer have the car.

Some online auctions offer a way to make online bids at a physical auction. The auction house will store your car securely until it is sold and will be insured if your car gets damaged or is stolen whilst at their premises.

Where can I sell my car online for free?

If you sell your car at an auction, you may pay an insertion fee and commission when the car is sold. If you want to sell your car online for free, you can use car buying sites that will make an offer for your car, but this may be below the market price.

There are websites where you can advertise your car for free. On some sites, you can advertise your car to private buyers, at other ones your car is mainly seen by motor traders who will make an offer for your car.

Often though, free listings can into what you will receive for the car and limits its audience, so consider this before automatically looking for cost-free exposure.

How to sell a car at an auction in the UK

There are two types of online car auctions. Live auctions are a way to bid on cars being sold at a physical car auction, while other online auction sites are purely online.

For a physical car auction, start by contacting the auctioneer with photos and description of the car make, model, year and condition. The auctioneer will suggest a price that you can realistically expect for the car and may recommend a reserve price below which it will not be sold.

If you go ahead with selling your car at the auction, it will need to be delivered to the auction location. This can be arranged by the auctioneer for a small fee, or you can deliver the car yourself.

The auction house may wash and prepare the car, but it is recommended that the car should be professionally valeted to make it look in top condition.

The auction house will publish images and details of the vehicle in its catalogue and online. The vehicle will be available to view by potential buyers a few days before the auction. The live auction takes place at the auctioneers, but bids can also be made online.

Non-physical online auctions such as eBay Motors have a start time and an end time for bidding. You keep the car until it is sold.

For all auctions, it helps to prepare the car. As well as valeting, consider replacing carpets if they are worn. Have your service record handy and documents about any major parts that have been replaced. If the MOT is due to run out shortly, it can help to get a new MOT certificate.

Take multiple photographs of the car. If there is minor damage to the bodywork, photograph it. The car's condition needs describing accurately, so don't try to hide faults. It will only cause you misery in the long run when the buyer discovers them and complains.

Make sure you have all documents ready, including the log book, service record and MOT certificate.

When selling a car on an auction site, think about when the listing ends. Many auctions are for a seven-day period which ends at the same time as the auction starts. If you are a night owl and start the auction at 2:00 am, it will end seven days later at 2:00 am. The chances are that few last-minute bidders will be awake at that time. Better choices are lunchtime and evenings, when people might be on the web outside of office hours.

It helps to allow people to view the car. Be flexible about viewing times so that people can see it at times to suit them.

Many online auction listings attract low bids early in the listings, with bidders looking to buy at bargain prices. If your car is a model in high demand, expect a lot of last-minute bidders competing for the top bid.

If the car sells, it’s time for the part you look forward to - payment. It’s likely that this will be directly from the buyer, but there are some sites that will collect the payment for you and pass it on, minus any fees. You may also find that you’re charged a fee, but payment may not be taken for up to a month after the auction finishes. If the car is not sold, you may still have to pay a small fee.

In most cases, the buyer is responsible for collecting the car.

Should I sell my car at auction?

Selling a car at auction is a quick and easy solution. The disadvantage is that the car could sell for less than the market price, but if there are several competing bidders, it could end up selling for a high price.

At Car.co.uk, we want to make selling your car straightforward. Online car auction sites, private sales, part exchange deals and selling to a car dealer are all good ways to top sell a car, but each has its own pros and cons that should be considered.