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Cars have come a long way since Henry Ford offered his Model T in just one colour. Today every model typically has hundreds of potential combinations of engines and features. And when colour is added to the mix it's even possible that you own the only car of a particular make, model, feature set and colour. This being the case, we're sure you'll appreciate that this makes giving a precise valuation of every car a very difficult thing to do.

The only way to be truly certain of the answer to the question "How much is my Car Worth?" is to let the market decide, and sell it. Sadly this isn't the answer you're probably looking for, even if you do plan to sell.

Fortunately, it's possible to get reasonable approximations of value from Valuation Guides (also known as 'car book valuations'). There are several providers of these valuations, each with their own mechanisms for calculating the value. Among the most popular are Glass's, CAP and Parkers. These valuation companies also provide data to the industry (including dealerships) so it's likely that no matter which dealer you try to sell to, you'll be offered a price based on the same book value.

The algorithm used by car valuation companies to give you a price for your car isn't complicated, however it often fails to take into account the peculiarities of how the car market works. Car valuation companies monitor listings and sales prices for every model. From this they produce an average of what a model with a particular engine size, from a particular year or registration period is selling for. Then they'll take individual data such as the mileage, the colour and the features you inform them of and take a percentage off or add a set amount onto the valuation for each one. The valuations are relatively accurate but they're much more simplistic than real life. For instance, blue might be a popular colour for most cars and add to their value, but buyers of a particular model might not particularly like it. The valuation provided by the valuation company would predict that it would add value when actually the colour has made the price lower. And this doesn't just apply to colour, it's even more prevalent when it comes to features and mileage. Certain cars perform better than others do with high mileage due to being better builds. Even so, this isn't typically reflected in the valuations given in these guides.

Effectively, what we're saying is that you have to take a valuation from a valuation company with a pinch of salt. It's the best valuation you can get without actually testing the market by selling, but it's not perfect.

Here are a few of the factors that influence the value of a vehicle:

  • Mileage – some cars perform better than others on the same mileage
  • Colour – a yellow Audi A4 might not be popular. A yellow Ferrari would be
  • The condition of the interior – people expect a family car to have more wear and tear than an executive car
  • Features and accessories – obviously these will alter the value depending on what they are
  • Time of year – convertibles and cabriolets are more popular in the spring and summer
  • Local market demand – different types of cars are more popular in certain areas than others. For example, 4x4s are more in demand in rural areas
  • How long it's likely to take to resell – this is especially true when selling your vehicle to a dealer
  • Service history – the more complete, the better
  • The manufacturer's reputation– out of your control but obviously something that needs to be considered

There's also the major factor of how you sell your car. In most cases you'll get most by selling privately, but there are several good reasons why you might not want to do this:

  • It can often take weeks (even months) for your car to sell
  • You'll have to deal with multiple potential buyers who might not be trustworthy
  • You'll have to pay listing fees that can mount up the longer it takes

All of these factors are why other ‘selling options' are very popular. Sites such as this one (along with selling at an auction) will often get you only only slightly less than a private sale might have done, and you'll have had far less hassle.

While many factors determining the value of your car can't be altered, some can, and they are often worth pursuing. Simply having a clean car can have a major psychological impact on buyers (especially in private sales). Even dealers are influenced by this as it means less work for them. Some repairs are simple and cheap to carry out and will add far more to the value of your car than if they're not carried out. This is because dealers have to pay their employees to fix them and potential end users might not have basic repair skills. For example, getting a replacement seat might cost £50 and fitting it might take you the best part of an hour, but the value you'd get from doing so could add hundreds of pounds to the value of the car. A good way of checking if sorting out the repair work is worthwhile is to use valuation services to see what they estimate your car would sell for with the damaged part and what price you'd be looking at if the issue was fixed. If the repair will cost more than the added value, it isn't worth carrying out.

Using an old toothbrush, clean out all of the cracks and crevices on your car. You may not think a potential buyer will notice this from afar but, actually, it's a well-known method of improving the overall impression.


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