Top tips when it comes time to sell your car

James Coleman 9 June 2021
Car photo

Make the shine last longer by taking a photo of it. Photos: James Coleman.

It was a bittersweet moment. My wife and I sold our 2015 Volkswagen Polo GTI last month.

It will always hold a special place in our history as the first car we bought as a newly-married couple in 2019. Now with the arrival of a baby and her entourage of stuff, it also takes its place as the second car we’ve sold.

Selling privately can be a minefield for the inexperienced and naïve, but it beats the pittance received by a trade-in, so we entered it anyway. Here are some things we learned along the way:

1. The paperwork

There’s the usual logbook and records of any major work done, but you also need an ‘Application for vehicle registration transfer’ for the actual handover. Both seller and buyer sign this form and submit their respective bits to Access Canberra.

These are usually found on the back of registration receipts or roadworthy certificates, but if you were in the study one day unearthing tens of registration receipts and thinking to yourself, “I’ll never need these” and subsequently bin the lot of them (it happens), a replacement can be purchased for $42.70.

A ‘Roadworthy Certificate of Inspection’ (RWC) is necessary before registration can be transferred for any vehicle older than six years. As the seller, you aren’t required to obtain one, but it does help by implying that all the mechanical basics are okay. The Motor Vehicle Inspection Station in Hume or any authorised automotive mechanic can supply one of these.


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To avoid late fees, this whole process should be sorted out within 14 days of the date of sale, from the inspection to the registration transfer. It helps that the transfer can be done online or by phoning Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

In terms of the all-important hip pocket, the inspection fee for a “light vehicle” is $73.50. For the buyer, stamp duty is then three per cent of the sale price or market value, whichever is greater, and because this is government paperwork, there is also a ‘registration transfer fee’.

GTI badge

The red GTI badge and gloss-black splitter aren’t technically standard.

2. The test drive

It’s always scary letting a stranger loose among your possessions and there are enough horror stories out there of it all going wrong.

Take a photo of the licence of whomever will be doing the driving. Have the amount of insurance excess handy and make it clear to them that in an accident where they are at fault, this is what they’ll be paying.

The trouble with letting them go alone is that you’re relying wholly on the police if they never return. Insurance won’t help as it doesn’t cover a stolen car if the key was in it. Go with them.

Many buyers will also want the peace of mind that comes from having their own mechanic check it over. The deal here is the same – go with them. Another benefit of your presence is that they can’t conspire together and return with a report as long as three arms with all the things that ‘need’ fixing.

Also on that, if they want this extra inspection, they pay for it.

Inside the car

Even the photo should smell like new.

3. The money

This is always the tricky part.

Someone has looked at the car in person, you have their licence details and they’ve taken it for a test drive. They like the car so much they want you to hold it for them.

Start by providing your licence details so that now each of you know who you’re dealing with and where you live.

The trouble with a hold is that while it’s on hold, it’s not on sale, and if they lose interest after two weeks, you’ve lost two weeks of precious sales time. So, tough as it might seem, charge them a reasonable amount for it. You keep it for your troubles if they back out and deduct it from the sale price if not.

Cash is simple, provided neither of you mind walking around with thousands of dollars in your pockets. If not, meet in person and electronically transfer the funds being open about each step. It may be 24 hours to a few days before the money actually arrives in your account, so be sure to get a receipt (any electronic fund transfer creates one).

And remember: you’re the seller and selling your car on your terms by a means you’re comfortable with, not the other way around.

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