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Pricing your car isn't easy. There's always a conflict between going after the maximum amount you think you can get, and pricing it too low in order to secure a quick sale. Getting a clear picture of what your car is worth to a buyer is tricky. With all car models there'll be differences, from engine size to additional features, year of manufacture, even colour. All of these can affect the price. One Audi A4 can be worth twice as much as another. So how do you price your car so that it sells quickly - and for the highest price you can reasonably expect?

There are many car valuation services who charge for their service. They certainly can be useful. For example, if you need to know how damage to your car affects its value, you can check out whether paying to have your car repaired makes financial sense. However, if your car isn't damaged, the information you'll get from car valuation services who charge isn't really any better than what you can gather free using other websites.

First though, it's important to consider what category of sale you're planning to use. This will affect the valuation by quite a large margin, and the reason is fairly obvious. Selling privately means you're likely to be selling to the end user, so you'll get what the car is worth to them. When you sell to a dealer (or use it as part exchange) you're selling to someone who needs to sell it on and has to cover their expenses AND make a profit. Thus the price that dealers pay is generally lower than private buyers. Auctions tend to come in the middle as the bidders at auctions are a mix of private buyers and dealers. The main advantage of an auction is a quick sale. The key disadvantage is that you have less control over the final price.

  • FINDING A PRICE TO SELL TO A DEALER OR ACCEPT IN PART EXCHANGE

    If you're looking for a quick sale to a dealer, we'd advise taking a two-sided approach. Get quotes directly from dealers online, but also get an independent valuation service that will give you an approximate value that a dealer is likely to pay. The benefit of doing both is that occasionally dealers' figures can be quite a bit out from what the valuation service tells you the vehicle is worth. If this happens, it might be better to consider a car auction instead.

  • FINDING A PRICE FOR A PRIVATE SALE

    Generally speaking, for a private sale your best bet is to check out the independent car valuation services, though you could just look at AutoTrader for your exact make, model and age and see what others are asking for.

    Remember, valuations change monthly, so if your car has been on the market for a while you'll probably need to adjust its price to keep buyers' attention. Also, quotes from dealerships aren't a very reliable guide for what you could get in a private sale. They're usually significantly lower as dealers need to cover their expenses and still make a profit.

  • INDEPENDANT CAR VALUATION SERVICES (THE ONES THAT AREN'T DEALERS)

    Independent car valuation services are those that have no commercial incentive to supply bad data. They have other sources of income, such as charging for valuations/premium valuations or gaining commission in other ways. As they are often involved in selling data to dealerships and other businesses their figures can be taken as accurate and reliable.

    Perhaps the best known of these services is Glass's. It offers a reliable free valuation service (or a more comprehensive 'paid for' one). The free valuation includes a trade-in price which will be similar to what a dealer would pay for your vehicle. Glass's also offer valuations for a private sale and indicate what a dealership would sell a vehicle to the public for. One downside is that, unless you pay for the premium valuation, the mileage isn't taken into account. As you can imagine, mileage can significantly affect the value.

    Another popular valuation service is Parker's, though their free valuation is only available to cars that are less than 10 years old. In most cases, the free valuations - which include various prices that dealers will pay for your car depending on whether they're a franchise or independent, part exchange prices and quotes for good/poor condition private sales - are usually more than adequate. The Parkers system doesn't use registration plate data so you need to browse for your exact model which may call for getting your car documents out.

    An easy and free valuation can be obtained from What Car? magazine. It offers registration plate entry to find car makes and models. You have to supply your phone number and email address (you are signed up to their newsletter). They offer four valuations: one is the price a dealer would pay you. The others are: private sale, part exchange and what a dealer would sell the vehicle for. All of the valuations can be adjusted for condition and mileage making this a very good option compared to many of the free services. However, it doesn't offer valuations on pre-1999 vehicles or mileages over 100,000.

    If you need a valuation that's adjusted for damage, your best option is probably AutoTrader. This uses data from CAP, one of the largest car valuation services. It's not free but the charge is only £3.95. 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). There is a 'damage report' section where you identify the issues with the vehicle using a diagram. If you need a valuation that's adjusted for damage, your best option is probably AutoTrader. This uses data from CAP, one of the largest car valuation services. It's not free but the charge is only £3.95. 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). There is a 'damage report' section where you identify the issues with the vehicle using a diagram. This helps you decide on whether it's worth undertaking repairs prior to selling.this helps you decide on whether it's worth undertaking repairs prior to selling.

    A final option would be Wise Buyers. The site is owned by (and uses data from) CDL which is one of the largest data providers to the industry. The valuations from this site are completely free and updated regularly. There's no registration plate search facility, so you need to know your exact model name and go through listings to get to the correct spec – so have your car documents handy.

  • DEALERS OFFERING QUOTES THAT THEY WILL ACTUALLY PAY

    You can get a free, no obligation quote from many car buyers and 'dealer finding' services. One of these is BuyMyCar.com. In the interests of honesty and transparency we're happy to list our competitors here. And we even encourage you to get quotes from all of them.

    A popular choice is WeWantAnyCar.com. Their system is very simple. First they ask for your registration plate. Then the mileage and condition of the vehicle. You are then presented with a valuation 'range' rather than a concrete figure. If you like their offer, you simply book an appointment to complete the sale - though there's no obligation to do so.

    DealerBid is a different service. It connects dealers with people selling their vehicles. So, rather than offering to buy the vehicle, DealerBid presents it to competing dealers who will then bid for it.

    What marks this service out from the others in that they charge sellers £10 (per car sold). This is done to weed out those just looking for free valuations. This is rather expensive if you're only after a valuation, so we don't really recommend using it unless you definitely want to go through with the sale.

  • CONCLUSION

    A great deal of information on a vehicle's value can be gathered at no cost at all. So, for most people selling a car, there's really no need to pay for a valuation.

    One exception would be if there's damage to the vehicle and you're considering repairing it before selling. In this instance we'd recommend using AutoTrader's premium service (£3.95 at the time of writing). This service will let you see how each item of damage affects the valuation.

    For anyone looking to sell privately the advice is to use the free independent valuation services listed above.

    Those planning to sell to a dealer should use these free valuation services in combination with getting as many dealer quotes as possible.

    And finally, for those planning to sell at an auction. The valuation services don't have a car auction category as it really depends on whether the right buyers turn up on the day.

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