Car Valuation Guide
Pricing your car is never an easy thing to do. There are conflicting tensions between pricing it as the most you think you'd possible ever get if you're lucky or pricing it too low in order to get a quick sale. Getting an idea of what the car is worth to a buyer isn't an easy task - in each car model there's often hundreds of differences from engine size to features, colour, year of manufacture and more that will alter the price. One Audi A4 could be worth double or more another Audi A4. So how do you price your car in order that it will sell both quickly and for the most value you can reasonable expect?
There's a lot of car valuation services that charge money for their service. In the end we think you can get a decent approximate valuation without using these, but they are useful if you want data on how damage to your car will affect the value. The figure alteration that damage causes to your car sale price is important to know as you might be able to get more for your car by buying repairs that are cheaper than the change in valuation the damage causes. If your car has no damage the information the car valuation services that charge provide isn't any better than what you can gather for free from other websites.
Firstly though it's important to bear in mind what category of sale you're planning on selling your car in. Valuations will vary by quite a large margin based on this. The reason is quite obvious: if you're selling privately you're likely selling to the end user of the car and thus will get a price the car is worth to them, if you sell to a dealer or use it as part exchange you're selling to someone who has to sell it on to an end user and needs to cover their expenses plus make a profit on selling it. Thus the price dealers pay for it will be lower than private sales. Typically auctions come in the middle as the bidders are a mix of private buyers and dealers. The main advantage of an auction is a quick sale, the obvious disadvantage is you have less control over the final price than the other options.
Finding a price to sell to a dealer or put in part exchange
This is generally easier than getting a private price as dealers will often quote you directly from their websites without needing any commitment from you to actually sell. In addition to this car valuation websites will give you a figure along with their private sale figure. Our advice is to get as many free valuations as possible if you plan to go down the route of a quick sale to a dealer as in our investigations some dealers will offer up to ten percent more for your car than others, but which dealer offers the highest price on which car varies by make and model.
We advise a two-sided approach to getting a dealer valuation: getting the quotes directly from the dealers online and also getting a valuation service to give you an approximate value a dealer will pay. We recommend doing both as occasionally dealers will be significantly out from what the valuation service thinks the car is worth and in these cases you'll probably realize a higher value quickly putting your into a upcoming car auction instead.
Finding a price for private sale
Typically for a private sale you're best bet is to go with the independent car valuation services or simply look through AutoTrader for your precise model of car and what others list it for. Remember that valuations change monthly, so if you've had your car on the market for a while you'll probably need to lower it's price every so often if you're going to find a buyer. The quotes given by the dealerships for what they'd pay for your car typically aren't a good guide for what you'd get in a private sale as they are significantly lower due to the dealer needing to have a margin to make a profit, cover their expenses and do any repairs to your car.
Independent Car Valuation Services (the ones that aren't dealers)
Independent car valuation services are those that have no commercial incentive to give bad data. Instead they rely on other sources of income such as charging for valuations or premium valuations, or trying to get a commission from others in the industry while they have your attention or from newsletters they send you after you've got your valuation. Their data is typically accurate as they usually have a larger business of selling data to dealerships and others in the industry who require highly accurate figures, with their consumer facing valuation business as only a small part of the total.
These car valuations services include Glass's. Glass's is perhaps the best known of all the car valuation services and luckily offers a pretty good free valuation service as well as their more comprehensive paid one. The free valuation includes a trade in price which is most similar to what a dealer would pay for your car. Typically it gives you a large range, on one car we tried it gave a range of over £5000, so isn't the most precise but remember it's data comes from what dealers have paid to sellers so despite the lack of precision it's actually highly accurate data. They also offer valuations for a private sale and a valuation of what a dealership would sell a car to the public for. Another downside of using Glass's is that unless you pay for the premium valuation mileage isn't taken into account, something which will vastly affect the value of your car.
Parker's is another popular valuation service that offers both free and paid valuations. Their free valuation are only available to cars that are less than a decade old, and don't include certain options that will get you a more precise value. However for most people the free valuations will be fine. These include various prices dealers will pay for your car (depending on if they are a franchise or independent), as well as part exchange prices and quotes for good and poor condition private sales. Using the parkers system is a bit more complication as unless a lot of car valuation services they don't use registration plate data to quickly find your make and model, instead you have to browse for your exact model which isn't as easy as you might think and might involve getting your car documents to figure out exactly what engine you have in your car.
What Car? Magazine have completely free valuations. The system is easy to use relying on registration plates to find car makes and models - although we found a few cars they couldn't find from the registration plate number, forcing us to choose from a very extensive list our precise model. You do have to enter your phone number and email address and this appears to sign you up to a newsletter, but you can always unsubscribe. They offer four valuations, one of which is the price a dealer would pay you, the others are private sale, part exchange and what a dealer would sell the car to an end user for. All of the valuations can be adjusted for condition and mileage making this a much better option than many of the free services offered by those whose main business is selling premium valuations. The downsides is it doesn't offer valuations on pre-1999 vehicles and won't allow you to put in mileages over 100,000, for most this isn't an issue but considering average yearly mileage is 10,000 a decade old car wouldn't get an accurate valuation here.
If you're wanting a valuation that is adjusted for damage to the car the best option is probably AutoTrader which uses data from CAP, one of the largest car valuation services that sells its data mainly to the trade. It does charge, but at £3.95 for a valuation it won't exactly break the bank. Like the other valuation services it will give you various valuations for different types of selling (dealership selling to end user, private, trade in clean, trade in average and trade in below, although sadly not a sell to dealer price). The service differentiates itself with its damage report which adjusts the cars valuation with the type of damage you report. In this section you choose what damage the car has then place it on a diagram of the car. This will tell you how much off the valuation each type of damage produces. Using this you can work out if doing repairs prior to selling is going to bring your more money for the car overall or if its wasted expenditure. For instance there would be no point spending £200 to fix a dent if the value it reduces the car by is only £100, but it would be worthwhile spending £50 to replace a car seat if having a damaged seat reduces the value by £150.
A final option to consider is Wise Buyers. The site looks a bit dated and almost like its run by an enthusiast, but it's actually owned by and uses data from CDL which are one of the largest data providers to the industry. The valuations from this site are completely free and updated regularly. Sadly it doesn't have a number plate system to quickly find your car so you'll have to know your exact car model name and go through several pages of lists to get to the correct car, something which due to the amount of different engines in cars can be quite annoying when there's several 2L TDIs to choose from and you're not completely sure which is your car!
Dealers offering quotes they'll actually pay
Many car buyers and dealer finding services will give free no obligation quotes. One of these is this website, BuyMyCar.com. In the interests of transparency and honesty we're happy to list our competitors here and even encourage you to get quotes from all of them.
The most famous, partially due to its large advertising budget, is probably WeBuyAnyCar.com. Their system is simple, asking for a registration plate then details such as mileage and condition of the car. They'll then present a single quote of what they'd be willing to pay for it if it is indeed in the condition you've stated. You can then book an appointment to sell it to them if you're interested in the offer they present, but there's no obligation to do so.
A similarly modelled competitor to them has a remarkably similar name, WeWantAnyCar.com. It works pretty much on the same model. The main difference is it gives a valuation range rather than a concrete figure, the upper end of the range is typically quite a bit higher than WeBuyAnyCar in our tests, but what price you'll actually get for your car is likely not to be the highest figure they present.
DealerBid is slightly different service to the two 'We..AnyCar' services. It connects dealers with people seller their car, so rather than offering to buy the car itself it presents the car to competing dealers who then place bids on it. There's a level of commitment to using this service that marks it out from the others - they charge £10 to the seller per car sold, in order they say to â€˜weed out those just looking for free valuations'. This would make it the most expensive valuation service if it was one, but it isn't so we wouldn't really recommend using it for valuation purposes but only if you've decided you want to sell your car with them.
For the majority of people selling a car there's absolutely no need to pay for a valuation as great data can be gathered without paying. The only exception is where there's damage to your car and you're considering doing repairs, then we'd recommend using AutoTrader's premium service which as of writing costs £3.95 as this will tell you how each piece of damage will affect the valuation. For those selling privately it's best to use a variety of the free independent services listed above, for those who plan to sell to a dealer then use these in combination with getting as many quotes as possible. For those planning to sell at auction sadly the valuation services don't have a car auction category, but you'll likely get somewhere within the range of the bids but it really depends on if the right buyers turn up to the auction which is why valuation services don't provide estimates for this type of selling.
Content by Robert Prime