Should I trade in my car or sell it?

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Should I trade in my car or sell it?

You know you want to offload your old car, but should you trade it in with a dealer or sell it? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a few different things to weigh up. This article will go into detail on each factor, helping you to make the decision that’s best for you.

If you’re looking for more general information on different ways to sell your car, take a look at this guide first.

Your situation

The biggest difference between trading a car in and selling it to a private individual or an online buying business is that, as part of the trade-in, any money you get will have to go towards the price of a car from that dealer. If you know they’re selling a vehicle you want, then a trade-in could be the best option, however, if you want to buy a car elsewhere or you don’t want a new car at all, you’ll be better to sell it on.

When it comes to selling your car, selling to an online car buyer through a site like Jamjar will help you to get a great price and it’s just as easy as trading the car in. Many buyers will collect the car from you directly, so you don’t have to do anything more than compare quotes and finalise the sale. If you want a quick sale but you don’t want to be limited in your choices for your next car, this option is definitely preferable to trading in.

Making a deal


Along with your situation, money is always going to be a factor if you’re looking to sell your car. If you manage to sell your car privately, you’re likely to get more for it than if you trade it in with a dealer or if you sell it to an online car buying service. This is especially the case with newer cars, more valuable cars and more desirable cars. However, the difference will be less pronounced the less your car is worth.

The difference in price isn’t because dealers and other buyers will try to offer you a bad deal, it’s simply because they need to be able to make a profit on the car when selling it in the future. It’s up to you to decide whether or not the extra money you could get for selling privately is worth the extra time and effort you’ll have to go through, which we’ll look at more in the next few sections.


While selling your car privately might get you more money most of the time, trading your car into a dealer will always let you shift your old motor more quickly. As long as the dealer is happy to take your car, they’ll help you sort out the trade-in and get your next car more cheaply.

As we’ve already mentioned, selling to an online car buying service can be just as quick as trading in. Arranging a sale is as simple as entering your reg number and a few other details online with a site like Jamjar, choosing the quote you like and finalising things in a phone call. Arranging a sale with a buyer is a much lengthier process.

In order to get the right price for your car privately, you need to start by doing some research to work out how much your car is worth. Next, you need to list your car on relevant websites, along with a detailed breakdown of its condition and clear photography. Prospective buyers are likely to want to arrange to see the car to inspect it and take it for a test drive. They may also want to negotiate on the price or take time to arrange a loan or financing deal.

All of these steps add up, which can make the process from deciding you want to list the car to actually closing a sale much longer than you might think, and certainly a lot lengthier than your other options.


The paperwork

Whoever you sell your car to, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right paperwork. Any prospective buyer is going to need to see that you’re the legal owner of the vehicle (which means you need to be able to produce your V5C document). Most buyers will also want to see evidence of the car’s MOT and service history.

When it comes to paperwork, the main differences will come down to the preferences and caution of the particular buyer, irrespective of whether they’re working for a business or buying the car privately. If you’ve decided to sell your car in any capacity, you should make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork to hand.

Read more about the documents needed to sell a car.

The popularity of the car

How desirable your car is could make a big difference to how much you’ll get for it and how easy it’ll be to sell, especially if you’re looking to sell privately. Only newer, in-demand cars have a good chance of selling quickly on the private market. If your car is older or unpopular, you’ll struggle to shift it and you’re also likely to make a big loss, even if you sell privately.

If you know your car is still desirable, you’re likely to get a decent amount more money for it if you sell it privately, especially if it’s naturally a higher-value model. However, the older and less in-demand your model is, even if it’s still in great condition, the smaller the price gap will be between a private sale and a sale to an online buyer or a dealer. In this situation, it’s also likely to take a long time to sell privately, which will never be the case if you go through a site like Jamjar instead.

Condition of the car

Along with the popularity of the car, the condition will have a big impact on your sales prospects, particularly if you’re looking at selling privately. If you want to get good money for your car and sell it relatively fast, it needs to be in great condition and have low mileage. If it’s more worn, it will be much harder to shift and you’ll get less cash for it privately. None of this will change the ease of a sale if you choose to go with an online car buying service, though it could make trading in the car to a particular dealer trickier, depending on their requirements.

As with the car’s popularity, the better its condition, the bigger the price gap could be between private buyers and other alternatives. A car that’s not in great nick is unlikely to be worth the time it takes to sell it privately. In addition, a car that’s in such poor condition that it’s barely roadworthy is almost definitely worth selling elsewhere. Businesses are much more likely to have the means and the desire to take it off your hands than a private buyer would.

Do your research

Do your research

A final piece of advice is to do your research before deciding on a way to sell your car. Jamjar makes it easy to get a quote from a range of online buying services, and a bit of shopping around online will give you an idea of how much a car could sell privately and how long a listing is likely to stay up before it gets sold. Trading in is always an option, but it’s not necessarily the best decision.

If you’ve finished reading this and decided that trading in your car just isn’t for you and you’d rather get rid of it now, then why not let us help you with that. Simply just enter your reg number below and watch us get to work.