If you’re buying or selling a car, you’ll want to know how much it’s worth. So what’s the best way to find the true value of a used car?
If you’re looking for a car valuation, it’s likely that you’re in the process of buying or selling a used car. Whichever side of the car deal you are on, finding out accurately what a car is truly worth is arguably the most important part of the transaction.
It can also be an essential part of choosing whether to hand back a car which has been bought with a PCP plan or to purchase it outright. If your car has been written off or stolen, then an accurate valuation will help you to ensure that the settlement you’ve been offered by the insurance company is fair.
- Buying a used car: your complete guide
We’ve put together this car valuation guide explaining depreciation, the dos and don’ts of researching prices and some of the little things you can do while running your car that could translate into a better sell-on price when the time comes.
How much is my car worth?
If you’ve bought a new car and now is the time to sell, you’ll be expecting to take a hit on its value. As a rough guide, mainstream production cars lose around 60 per cent of their new price over three years with average mileage. This rate of loss would mean a car you bought for £25,000 would net you just £10,000 three years later.
It’s not that simple of course, because some cars do better than others, and some rare, limited-edition, and classic cars can actually gain in value. However, it’s important for owners to have a grasp of the factors that affect their own car’s value.
What factors affect your used car valuation most?
Most cars lose the bulk of their value in the first three to five years, and the AA estimates that after eight years many cars are unlikely to depreciate further if they are well-cared-for. But the make and model of your car can easily influence how much the years can devalue your vehicle.
The slowest depreciating car brands
Below are 10 of the slowest-depreciating cars by retained value after three years and 36,000 miles.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the premium brands dominate the top of the low-depreciation tables. But, as the data here shows, some more affordable cars do also retain a high percentage of their initial on-the-road price.
Age and make are factors that cannot be changed after purchasing a vehicle, but where every motorist can make the difference is how carefully they look after their car. Mileage is a massive factor in the value of a car, and keeping it low (if you can) will go a long way to ensuring a higher sale price.
Keeping a car well serviced (and keeping all the bills and stamps to prove it) will make it more attractive and valuable to buyers. A clean and well-looked-after car will always sell for a better price than a scruffy example with no history; the more proof of care there is, the happier the next buyer should be.
While it may be a pricey inconvenience to have work done, calculate carefully whether the cost of repairing that scuffed alloy, panel ding or cracked light lens will repay you at resale time – an immaculately presented car is usually a magnet to buyers.
Seasonal factors are also worth considering. It may be a cliché, but convertibles and sports car prices do rise in the spring. Likewise, 4x4s and SUVs tend to be more in demand in the winter. Taking all this into account, the next step is to find out how much your car is actually worth.
How to value your car
You can get a rough estimate of your car’s value by going to a classifieds website and searching for your specific make, model, and year, along with similar mileage, to see what prices are being asked.
Keep in mind that most advertisers will accept an offer near to the asking price though, and professional traders will always ask more than private sellers. Buyers who use dealers are usually prepared to pay more because they provide monthly finance deals, warranties and there’s more legal protection if things go wrong.
Dealers have to make a living, though, so they will also offer you less for a car you are hoping to sell. As a rule of thumb, a dealer will want to be looking at ‘marking up’ the price by £500-£2,000 per car, depending on the value and any work which needs to be done.
If your car is a little out of the ordinary, such as a 4×4, sports car, electric vehicle or a classic, it may be worth looking around for a specialist who will be willing to offer more for a car they know they’ll be able to sell on quickly.
If checking the classifieds feels like a bit of a shot in the dark, an online valuation tool can give you a more accurate estimate. Powered by live pricing data gathered from across the UK market, these tools are usually free to use and will give you estimates for the value of your car that can be adjusted for mileage and condition.
Even with the information from a valuation tool in hand, we would still advise you to see what similar condition cars are going for online. This is mainly because an online tool can’t adjust for all the variables that are important to the car values we mentioned earlier. This is especially important as a car gets older, as a banger which is rusty and has been poorly maintained could only be worth the scrap value, while a cherished example of the same car will still be a desirable purchase.
A valuation tool will also give you an estimate of the trade-in value of your car, which you can use as information to negotiate with a dealer or use one of the many car buying websites that offer to buy any car. Before you commit to a part-exchange through one of these online services, bear in mind that the company buying the car will carry out a thorough inspection. You can expect them to lower the primary valuation for every extra mile, chip and scrape, and your haggling power is usually far less effective in this situation.
Ultimately, though, a car will sell for as much as someone is willing to pay for it, so don’t be afraid to be slightly optimistic when putting it up for sale – and take money off if it won’t shift.
Once you’ve closed the deal, make sure you complete the process correctly by reading our guide on how to transfer car ownership.
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