Payment, paperwork and avoiding scams

Finding a buyer for your car is one thing: making sure you complete the sale safely is another. Here's how to avoid any nasty surprises or scammers...

Payment, paperwork and avoiding scams

Someone has responded to your advert and wants to buy your car. Great news – but what happens next?

First you need to make sure your buyer is genuine. If you've used a website to advertise your car, you may receive an email from a foreign buyer agreeing to pay the full advertised price, asking you to contact a shipping agent on their behalf, and offering to send you a cheque.

These 'buyers' are almost always scammers. Don't reply to them, but do advise the website administrator.

Fake cheques became a big problem for banks after 2007, when they lost the right to any comeback. It can take six business days for funds to clear, so always check your account before releasing the car.

CHAPS/BACS electronic payments or direct money transfers, such as using Paypal, are quick and safe, though. You can see the money is 'real' as soon as it's in your account. 

Escrow is a method of holding a payment in trust until the car has been delivered. It's not a bad system, but you need to be sure that you're really dealing with a legitimate escrow company and that the person collecting the money is who they say they are.


Once a price has been agreed, take a non-refundable deposit that gives you confidence the buyer won't pull out – or enough to at least cover some of your costs if they do. Around £100 is normal.

Never hand over the car or any paperwork until you have been paid the full agreed price. Be wary of anyone who wants to pay for an expensive car (over £10k) in cash. They may be trying to launder money.

Counterfeiting is a problem in the UK. If the buyer continues to insist on cash, see how they react to your suggestion that they can only take the car once their cash is safely in your bank.

Sadly, banker's drafts are no longer 'as good as cash'. They can be forged, and if they are, banks will reject them. Safeguard yourself by waiting six business days for the funds to clear. Under banking rules introduced in 2007, you're guaranteed that the bank will pay the funds, even if the buyer's cheque later turns out to be fraudulent.


Once the deposit has been taken and the deal done, prepare two copies of a written sale agreement that includes the following information:

  • Make and model
  • Registration number and VIN number
  • Year of registration Mileage (if you know it to be genuine; if you don't, state 'mileage not verified')
  • Agreed sale price and the deposit paid
  • Buyer's name and address 
  • Your name and address
  • A note that the vehicle is 'sold as seen'

Make sure you both sign and date each copy.

Before you say goodbye to your car, complete the green ‘new keeper’s details’ section of the V5 document and give that part (V5C/2) to the buyer. Then you can tell the DVLA you no longer own the car via the internet at; you will need the 11-digit reference number from the V5, so make sure you keep hold of it.

Since 2016, you can no longer pass a car’s road tax (VED) on when you sell it. You need to claim back any remaining tax and the new owner has to buy his or her own tax. This is easy to do online; again you’ll need the car’s logbook reference number to do this.

You’ll also need to settle any outstanding finance you have on the car and tell your insurer you no longer own it. If your car is listed with a security register, inform them of the sale, too, and if there’s any warranty (manufacturer or independent) remaining, notify the relevant company of the new owner's details.

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