Private Car Sale Guide: Ultimate Tips for Selling Your Vehicle Online

Couple Buying A Car

You may not have given much thought to how to sell a car privately until you decide to do it yourself. Car owners need to understand the significance of making a great first impression when selling their vehicles. 

Preparing your car for sale is much more than just giving it a quick wash. It involves thorough detailing, ensuring all maintenance tasks are up-to-date, and having the right documentation on hand. 

We’ve put together this used car selling guide that will walk you through the essential steps to ensure your car shines, both literally and figuratively, to attract potential buyers.

Private Sale, Car Dealer or Auction House? 

There are different routes you can take when deciding to sell your car. There are pros and cons to each, and you may decide to explore your options. Some sellers like to look at a car selling price guide to gain a realistic idea of what to expect when selling their car. 

Listing your car online is a great way to make it visible to people in the market for a secondhand car. As the owner, you can negotiate a private sale price and enjoy more flexibility.  

Vehicle Cleaning and Detailing
car wash

It wouldn’t be a guide to selling a car privately without some tips on how to detail the vehicle. The aesthetics of your car play a pivotal role in drawing interest. Follow these detailing tips to help make it look like a brand new car again. 

Interior Cleaning Tips

  1. Vacuum Thoroughly: Vacuum the entire interior, including the carpets, seats, and floor mats. Use a brush attachment to get into crevices and corners. 
  2. Shampoo Carpets and Upholstery: If your carpets and upholstery have stains or odours, consider shampooing them with a carpet and upholstery cleaner. 
  3. Clean and Condition Leather: If your car has leather seats, clean them with a leather cleaner and conditioner.
  4. Wipe Down All Surfaces: Use a mild all-purpose interior cleaner to wipe down all interior surfaces, including the dashboard, centre console, door panels, and steering wheel. Don’t forget to clean air vents and buttons.
  5. Clean Glass and Mirrors: Ensure all windows and mirrors are clean and streak-free. Use a glass cleaner and a microfibre cloth for the best results.
  6. Refresh the Air: Use an interior car freshener to eliminate any lingering odours.
  7. Replace Floor Mats: If your floor mats are worn or heavily soiled, consider replacing them with new ones. Clean floor mats can make the interior look more refreshed.

Exterior Washing and Waxing

cleaning car

A well-maintained exterior not only improves the aesthetics of your car but also communicates to potential buyers that the vehicle has been well cared for. It may be time consuming, but when selling a car privately, taking the time to wash and polish the exterior can pay off and help you receive a higher sale price. 

  1. Pre-Rinse: Start by thoroughly rinsing your car with a hose to remove loose dirt, dust, and debris. 
  2. Use a Quality Car Wash: Fill a bucket with water and add a quality car wash soap. Begin washing the car from the roof and work your way down to the lower body panels. Never use household cleaners, as these can damage your car’s surface.
  3. Be Gentle: Use a light touch when washing to avoid causing swirl marks or scratches. Rinse the mitt or sponge in the soapy water frequently to prevent dirt buildup that can scratch the paint.
  4. Pay Attention to Wheels: Clean the wheels and tyres separately with a designated wheel cleaner and tyre brush. 
  5. Rinse Thoroughly: After washing the entire car, thoroughly rinse off the soap with a hose. Make sure there’s no residual soap left on the surface.
  6. Dry with Care: Use clean, dry microfibre towels to dry the car. Pat the surface gently instead of rubbing to avoid scratches. 
  7. Apply Wax: Applying a good-quality wax can enhance the car’s shine and protect the paint. Follow the product’s instructions for application.
  8. Polish and Touch-Up: If your car has minor scratches or imperfections, consider using a polishing compound or touch-up paint to improve its appearance. 
  9. Clean Glass and Mirrors: Use a glass cleaner to clean all windows and mirrors, ensuring they are streak-free and crystal clear.
  10. Outsource if Necessary: Of course, if you don’t have the means or the time to do it yourself, consider getting the car professionally detailed.

Engine Cleaning Methods

A clean engine bay not only improves the overall appearance of the vehicle but also gives potential buyers confidence that the car has been well-maintained. 

  1. Cool the Engine: Make sure the engine is cool to the touch. Cleaning a hot engine can cause the cleaning agents to evaporate too quickly, leaving residues.
  2. Compressed Air: Remove debris with compressed air. 
  3. Apply Engine Degreaser: Spray a suitable engine degreaser over the engine bay. Follow the product’s instructions for application. Typically, you’ll want to let it sit for a few minutes to break down the grease and grime.
  4. Scrub Gently: Use a stiff-bristle brush or an old toothbrush to gently scrub away dirt and grease. Pay close attention to areas with built-up grime. 
  5. Inspect and Detail: You can use a quick detailer spray to restore a clean, polished look to plastic and rubber components in the engine bay.

Maintenance and Repairs:

A well-maintained car not only looks good but assures potential buyers of its reliability.

Ensuring Regular Maintenance is Up to Date

  • Check for Leaks: Check for any visible oil or fluid leaks. Address any issues before showing the car to prospective buyers. 
  • Check and Replace Cabin Air Filter: A fresh filter can help ensure the air inside the car smells clean and is free of allergens.
  • Oil Change: Ensure the engine oil and oil filter are up to date. An oil change is a simple yet critical maintenance task.
  • Fluid Checks and Changes: Check and top off or change other essential fluids, including transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant.
  • Brake Inspection: Ensure that the brake system is in good working order.
  • Tyre Maintenance: Check the tyre condition, including the tread depth. Consider replacing tyres if they are worn out. Ensure that they are properly inflated.

Addressing Major and Minor Repairs

While some repairs may appear costly, they can sometimes significantly increase the car’s value. It’s essential to address both major and minor issues to boost its appeal and value. 

Some problems are immediately noticeable and can be quickly rectified, like swapping out a blown headlight bulb. However, for more complex concerns, especially those related to the engine or the vehicle’s overall performance, it’s wise to chat to a mechanic. By doing so, you can make an informed decision on whether to undertake the necessary repairs before listing the car or provide potential buyers with a detailed description of the issue, ensuring transparency and building trust.

The Value of Having a Service History

A well-documented service history is a testament to the car’s carefully maintained status, making it more appealing to informed buyers.

A thorough record of maintenance and repairs helps to assure buyers that there are no concealed issues with the vehicle and also provides a solid justification for your asking price. This transparency naturally boosts buyer confidence, as they can be more certain that the car is less likely to encounter significant problems in the future. On top of this, presenting a comprehensive service history makes your vehicle more appealing, potentially facilitating a quicker and more seamless sale.

If you decide against selling your vehicle privately and instead opt to sell to a used car dealer, a detailed service history and a carefully detailed interior and exterior will still help you receive top dollar. 


No sale is complete without the necessary paperwork, which protects both the buyer and the seller.

Necessary Paperwork When Selling a Car:

    • Registration Certificate: This proves ownership of the car, and your right to sell it. 
    • Maintenance Records: This helps potential buyers to see the vehicle’s history as well as proof of maintenance. 
    • Roadworthy Certificate: Some states require you to supply a roadworthy certificate when selling your vehicle. 
    • Current Inspection Certificate: This is an optional document you may decide to obtain to offer prospective buyers additional peace of mind. 
    • Vehicle History Report: This is also optional, but will let the buyer know the history of the car and if there is any finance owing. It’s important to include a detailed and honest description of the car when selling privately, and a vehicle history report can act as confirmation of your claims. 

Creating a Bill of Sale

A Bill of Sale is a document that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale. Make sure to include information such as: 

    • Sale Price: The agreed sale price, rather than the asking price. 
    • Vehicle Details: Including VIN and current registration details. 
    • Personal Information: Of both the buyer and seller.
    • Date of Sale: The date the car changes ownership. 

Transfer of Vehicle Ownership Forms:

Completion of a form is required to officially transfer ownership of the vehicle from the seller to the buyer. Until the transfer of ownership is complete, you (as the seller) remain liable for the vehicle. 

  • Check State Regulations: There may be different requirements in each state and territory of Australia for transferring ownership of a vehicle. 
  • Submit Online: In many cases, transfer of ownership forms can be submitted online.  This usually applies to light vehicles registered in the state in which the seller and buyer live.
  • Be Prompt: It’s in the best interest of the buyer and seller to complete the transfer of ownership as soon as possible. There are also guidelines depending on your state which outline how long you have to complete the transfer of ownership once it’s sold.
  • Transfer Fee: There’s usually a transfer fee payable to process the transfer of ownership. This fee may increase if completed outside the maximum 7 to 14 day gracing period. 

Successfully Selling Your Car Online

Selling your car is a significant transaction, and by preparing adequately, you increase the chances of a fast sale at the best price. Remember, the effort you invest in getting your vehicle ready for sale can significantly enhance its appeal, ensuring both you and the new owner drive away happy. By ensuring your vehicle is in top condition, armed with all the necessary documentation, and presented with a clear service history, you not only boost its market appeal but also its value.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a second hand car on Gumtree, make sure you check our essential car buying guide. This comprehensive guide will take you through the ins and outs of finding your dream second hand car online, with useful tips and helpful hints to help you along the way.

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