Car valuations: how much is your car worth?

MINI One 5dr - front tracking
14 Apr, 2016 3:19pm Chris Rosamond

Car price calculator, free online valuation or dealer quote? Check our guide to finding the right used value for your car

What’s the best way to value my car accurately? It’s a question that causes worry for thousands of motorists every day, as they consider a dealer trade-in offer, contemplate posting their car for sale in the classifieds, or even when filling out an application for insurance. It’s also a prime concern when buying a used car, as nobody likes to think they’ve paid over the odds.

If you know where to look, and what to look out for, the process of valuing a car shouldn't be too problematic. That’s why this Auto Express guide to used car valuations will help you, whether you’re hoping to attract private buyers with an online ad, doing a deal with a salesman at a used car retailer, or budgeting for your next used car purchase.

• How to buy a new car

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 means a car you bought for £25,000 will net you just £10,000 three years down the line.

It’s not that simple of course, because some cars do better than others, and 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. But the make of your car can easily determine how much the years devalue your vehicle. The car valuation service Glass’s published a report recently highlighting the lowest depreciating car brands in the UK: 

Make Annual rate of depreciation
Land Rover 20.3%
Tesla 28.5%
Maserati 29.8%
Audi 31.1%
MINI 31.3%
Jeep 31.7%
Lexus 33.0%
Dacia 33.6%
Mitsubishi 34.0%
Mazda 34.2%

As the data shows, premium makes tend to retain their value better than budget brands. Ford more information of the best and worst cars for depreciation follow the links below.

Age and make are factors drivers will be unable to change after purchasing a vehicle, but where every motorist can make the difference is how much and how carefully they drive their car. Mileage on a car is what most buyers look for, and keeping it low will go a long way to ensuring a higher sale price.

Servicing aside, a clean and well maintained car will always sell for a better price than a scruffy example – remember this the next time you’re attempting an ambitious parallel park. While it may be a pain in the neck 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.

Nissan Qashqai front

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 is your car actually worth. 

How to value your car

The easiest way to get a rough estimate of your car value is to go to a classifieds website and search for your specific make, model, and year with a similar mileage and condition to see what people are willing to fork up. Keep in mind that most advertisers will accept an offer near to the asking price though.

Going to a dealership and asking for a value might not be as accurate as hoped for, as dealerships will often give a low-ball offer. They have their own margins to cover, after all. Don’t use dealer used car prices to set the value for your privately advertised car either – buyers who use dealers are usually prepared to pay more because they provide monthly finance deals or warranties. Some buyers also they feel there’s more legal protection if things go wrong.

• How to cut your car service costs: cheaper repairs, MOTs and servicing 

Industry professionals such as CAP and Glass’s provide a service where you input your vehicle details and they provide you with a rough estimate. These are often paid services, but could be worth the money if you can't seem to find the right value by doing your own research – and of course your potential buyers may be making similar online searches too.

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.

Now read our extensive guide to saving on your motoring costs.

For more breaking car news and reviews, subscribe to Auto Express - available as a weekly magazine and on your iPad. We'll give you 6 issues for £1 and a free gift!