Nothing’s for free in this world. If you’re looking for a free car valuation, however, we have good news for you.
For one, you really don’t need to spend a single penny if you would like to know the value of your car. As we’ll show you in this special, there are many trustworthy places for getting a pretty precise picture about vehicle prices.
But there’s more! According to various sources, used car values are on the rise. The BSA reported an increase in used car values by almost 3% in 2018. And CAP HPI, perhaps the leading provider of used car valuations in the UK, also enthused about a stronger demand.
If you’re looking to sell your car, therefore, the times could not be better.
Table of Contents
- What does a free car valuation depend on?
- How prices are established
- Different Price Levels: Private sale
- Different Price Levels: Direct dealer sale
- Different Price Levels: Part Exchange
- What influences the selling price? Age
- Service History
- Number of Owners
- Valuation companies
- How do these companies create their valuations
- What is a free valuation really worth?
There’s no such thing as just one price
That said, car valuations are anything but easy. This is one of the reasons why so many people feel duped by low prices. But, really, there is no such thing as the correct price for your car.
In reality, there are many, many different valuations for the very same car at each given moment. They depend on:
- The condition and qualities of your car.
- How and to whom you’re selling the vehicle.
- The company performing the valuation.
Which only goes to show: A free car valuation is a wonderful thing. Just don’t expect to get any definitive answers.
So, what does a free car valuation depend on?
The history of the automobile is the history of mechanisation and mass production. In theory, each Fiesta leaving the factory should be absolutely identical to all others out there on the road. In reality, even cars made on the same day are slightly different.
Add to this the obvious differences between model generations, models with different body types and different trim levels.
And then, of course, there’s your own influence as a driver and owner. How you treat your car is going to have a very direct and palpable impact on the state of the car. And thus, on its value.
How prices are established
When we said there isn’t just one price for any given car, we meant that each vehicle is unique, even more so after it’s been modified and driven for a while. But even if all cars were absolutely identical and if they had been driven by identical clones on identical tracks with the same driving style, prices would not necessarily be identical, too.
This is because where and to whom you’re selling your car to, matters, too. And so, a free car valuation should ideally provide you with at least three different prices or at least with estimates of how high they would be.
So what are these different price levels?
Traditionally, this was done by placing an ad in the classifieds section of a local newspaper. Today, the web has made this process a lot more efficient. And so, you can set up a private sale through websites like ebay or gumtree or autotrader to sell your car directly to other drivers.
The big benefit of selling your car this way is that there is no middle man. You can keep all the proceeds from the sale to yourself. On the other hand, getting rid of your car this way can take time. Some buyers will also be pretty proficient hagglers, which can send the price down. Also, you will need to know your stuff to get the car in a presentable state by cleaning and possibly repairing it.
Direct dealer sale
This is why some drivers prefer to sell their car to a dealer. Here, prices vary less and are more predictable. And if you want to sell your car quickly, a direct sale is extremely convenient. Usually, you can try with a few dealers and sell your car the very same day. Dealers obviously have larger overheads, which is why the direct dealer sale will tend to fetch less than a private sale.
An alternative to this is using platforms like webuyanycar, which are very similarly: You enter the basic specifications of your car, then wait for an automated offer. You take the car to the dealership with the best offer to have it inspected and possibly test-driven.
This way, you can sell your car very quickly and there is usually not all that much haggling involved.
One nice side-benefit of sites like webuyanycar is that they allow you to get a free car valuation of your vehicle very easily. Simply enter the registration plate and a some information on the car’s condition and you should get a pretty accurate number.
A part exchange is probably still the most widely used way of selling your car: When buying a new car at a dealership, the dealer also buys your old vehicle. So, you’re effectively performing two sales transactions in one swoop.
Part exchanges have several benefits:
- They are very convenient. You don’t need to look for a buyer, since the dealer who sells you the car also buys your old car.
- Almost every dealer will offer a part exchange. So if you would like to do one, there will be plenty of dealerships to choose from.
- Selling and buying are part of the same procedure. So, you take your old car to the dealer and drive away with the new one. There is no period where you would have two cars or none at all, as could easily happen with a private sale.
- Part exchanges will offer a lower price than a private sale, but they’re not as bad as some make them out to be. You should get a fair offer.
So, as you can see, there are at least three different price levels, depending on what method of selling your car you’re choosing. But that’s not all.
Let’s take a look at all the factors which could additionally send the selling price of your car up or down.
Age ain’t nothing but a number? In the world of car valuation, this certainly isn’t true. In fact, nothing sends prices South as much as depreciation does. Within weeks after you bought it, your car will be worth many thousand Pounds less than what you paid for it.
This process will continue for many years. Only around the 8-10 year mark does depreciation eventually taper off and level off. It is here, too, that you can get many great deals by buying a car age 10 and sell it for the exact same price a few years later.
Age tends to have a clearly defined impact on the value of your car. But this effect can be offset by a great condition in other departments.
Mileage simply refers to how much you’ve driven your car. This matters, because it it generally assumed that it influences the condition of the car, which we’ll get to in a second.
If you drive your car well beyond the average mileage, wear and tear will probably be higher than usual, too.
If you drive it far less than what is typical, the car may no longer behave fluently and some components may actually deteriorate due to non-inactivity.
Since these thoughts are really assumptions, we need to introduce a third category to investigate whether they are actually true.
Which is why condition, although quite important in principle, usually has a far smaller impact on car valuation.
To make condition more objective, many manufacturers, dealers and car inspectors have created extensive vehicle check lists. These lists, which can be up to 100 points long, cover just about every aspect of a car, from its engine and breaks to its interior and stereo system.
If you can objectively demonstrate that your car is in fine shape, this can help significantly in achieving a better resale price.
As with new models, certain second-hand cars are more popular than others. Very often, these patterns simply follow the trends in the world of new cars. So, a used Ford Fiesta should always fetch a decent price on the used car market, simply because it’s a highly desirable car in general. And an Audi will never be cheap, neither as a factory new model nor at the buy here pay here lot around the corner.
At the same time, there are exceptions. Some models, even from prestigious brands, can loose value very quickly. Vice versa, some models hardly depreciate at all.
A great example for the latter is the Dacia Duster. Since it is extremely cheap to begin with, it hardly loses value over the first few years.
One way of getting a clearer picture of the state of a vehicle, after all, is to take a look at its service history, including the MOT.
This can provide you with valuable information regarding the following:
- Where to look for potential sources of problems during a vehicle check.
- How well the car has been maintained by the previous owner.
- Whether the car may have been clocked.
If you’re looking to sell your car, it makes a lot of sense to provide a full and extensive car history. This can increase your price by almost 10% according to some experts.
Number of Owners
One of these is the number of owners of a car. The ideal number here being one. The more people have driven a car, the more the car has been subjected to a variety of driving styles and the higher the risk one of them has treated the car badly. Also, with multiple drivers it is becoming harder to interpret the car data freely available on the web.
Obviously, if your car has had multiple drivers before you, there’s nothing you can do about that. You can only hope that a great condition can make up for it. (It usually can.)
The more reliable a certain model is known to be, the smaller the chance of a major defect. Since defects become more probable with age, second hand vehicles can benefit quite a lot from a reputation for reliability.
At the same time, this usually doesn’t translate into extremely higher prices. Traditionally, Japanese cars have been most reliable by far, but their prices on the used car market rarely exceed those of, say, their German counterparts.
In the end, desirability trumps reliability. No surprises there, either, we suppose.
When looking at the new car market, it would seem that drivers are definitely willing to pay a premium to get their favourite colour. In fact, personalisation has been a key driver for profit in the car industry over the past few years. And what could possibly be more personal than your car’s colour?
And yet, most insiders agree that with second hand cars, colour rarely translates into notably higher prices. What it does do is make it easier to sell your car. So, if you want to get rid of your old banger asap, it will be helpful if it’s white, black, silver or blue – rather than yellow, green, orange or purple.
Precisely because personalisation makes a car more your own, it is usually a disadvantage when trying to sell it to someone else. It’s the same as with a house: The first thing people will do after buying one is tearing it apart on the inside.
And so, those flashy spoilers, bright red seats or luxurious stereo system may actually loose you money rather than improving the price of the car.
Still, a few extras tend to be universally appreciated and thus beneficial. These include a working airconditioning, leather seats (to a degree, as they will offend vegans) or a safety package.
Using these factors, valuation companies then proceed to generate a price, which you can usually check for free online. It is important to note that these free car valuations never actually claim to be the be and end all. They are merely indications of what to expect.
The following are the most important companies on the UK car valuation market:
- Parkers: Parkers used to be a magazine, now it’s one of the UK’s biggest and most visited car platforms. You can buy and sell your car through the site, but you can also use Parkers to get an evaluation of how much your car is worth.
- CAP: Although CAP is more known with dealers than private sellers and buyers, it is probably the most important car valuation company in the UK. Many car valuation providers actually get their data from CAP and then use it for their own estimates.
- Ebay, Autotrader & WeBuyAnyCar: We already briefly touched on them before. Online platforms can be excellent tools to get a better perspective on the value of your car. We’ll explain why they’re so useful in just a second.
How do these companies create their valuations
Many of these companies provide a basic level car valuation for free. This is because the valuation is usually the first step in the selling process and if they can draw you in with a freebie, they will make a commission on the actual sale later on.
Although few companies disclose how, exactly, they arrive ath their estimates, the basic process is pretty simple to understand:
- They collect price data from various sales point across the UK.
- These prices can vary quite a bit. To smooth them out, they are transformed into averages or median values.
- All prices are weighted. Experience shows that some sellers are more representative of the overall price level than others. These would then be treated as more important than others with prices which tend to be higher or lower than the national average.
It is important to understand that the data collected by companies like Parkers is not the actual price the car was sold at by a private seller to a dealer. It is usually the price the car was offered at by the dealer. Big difference! You can therefore expect Parkers prices to be considerably higher than what you can achieve when doing a part exchange or direct dealer sale.
What is a free valuation really worth?
Getting a free car valuation isn’t hard. As we’ve shown you in this article, there are plenty of places where you can get a rough estimate of what your car’s worth. But are they really all that helpful? It would seem that a free car valuation can conversely set expectations too high, resulting in disappointment or, worse still, negatively affect the selling process with the dealer.
In fact, you will find plenty of forum threads by unnerved dealers complaining about customers coming in and demanding to get Parkers prices.
Still, a free valuation has its benefits. If you know how to read them, they can provide you with a ballpark number. It can be comforting to know that you have at least a rough indication of what to ask for – or whether your initial hunch was far too high or much too low.
In actual fact, it is typically not the valuations which are an issue but a wrong perspective. Many drivers value the condition of their car far too highly. In this respect, it does help to be realistic.