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Tips & advice

Car valuations: your car could be worth more than you think

When buying or selling a car, you’ll want to know how much it’s worth but what’s the best way to find the true value of a car and once you know the value, how can you increase it?

Hand building piles of coins

If you’re looking for a car valuation, chances are you’re in the process of buying or selling a car. No matter which side of the deal you’re on, knowing the true value of a car is key, especially as it could result in you being hundreds, if not thousands of pounds better or worse off. Most cars lose money over time and through use, so understanding the value of your car on the current market helps buyers and sellers evaluate their options. But how do you determine a car’s value? Read on as this guide will explain all.

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Knowing the value of a car isn’t just for people looking to buy or sell a car. If your car has been purchased with a PCP finance plan, a precise valuation can play a crucial role in helping you decide whether to hand back your car at the end of the deal or if you should purchase it outright. A true value can also help ensure you get a fair settlement figure offered by the car insurance company in the event of a car getting stolen or written off.

This handy car valuation guide will help explain car depreciation, the do’s and don’ts of researching car price, and some little things you can do while running your car which could translate into a better price when the time comes to sell. Of course, if you want a fast, free valuation on your car, our on-site tool has you covered…

How much is my car worth?

If the time has come to sell your car, you’ll be expecting to take a hit on its original value, but this hit will be larger or smaller depending if you bought the car new or used. As a rough guide, mainstream production cars lose around 60% of their initial value of over three years with average mileage. This rate of loss would mean a car purchased for £25,000 would net around £10,000 three years later.

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Of course, it’s not always that simple. Some cars have slower rates of depreciation and hold their value better, some rare, limited-edition and classic cars can even gain value over time. Condition and service history, or lack of, can have an influence on a car’s value, too.

What factors affect your used car valuation most?

You can probably guess most of the main factors which can influence a car’s value. In the first instance, it’s the make and model of the car, the engine, fuel type, gearbox, trim level and any optional extras fitted. The colour of the paintwork and interior trim will all have a bearing. Weird and wonderful colour schemes can make some cars hard to sell, while making others more desirable. It’s a question of what the market likes and dislikes.

Then you’ve got the factors relating to how a car has been used and cared for. The mileage and service history are the obvious ones, as well as the car’s overall mechanical and cosmetic condition. Any scuffs, dents or imperfections will have an impact on the price, as will the level of wear and tear on major components. The looming costs of a pricey service, cambelt or water pump will all bring the price down.
When you’re selling a car, the buyer will look out for issues which are potentially going to cost them money to fix down the line and will try to knock down the price they pay to compensate.

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 a similar mileage to see what kind of prices are being asked for.

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Keep in mind that many advertisers will usually accept an offer close to the asking price, and professional sellers and dealerships will ask a higher price, when compared to private sellers. Motorists who buy from dealerships are normally prepared to pay more because they can provide monthly finance package deals, warranties and service or maintenance plans. There’s also more legal protections if things go wrong.

Hands holding a model car and a stack of coins

If you are looking to part-exchange your old car against a new purchase, expect to be offered a lower amount than if you were to sell privately. Dealers have overheads and wages to pay so will want to ‘mark up’ the price of a car by roughly £500-£2,000 per car, depending on the value and amount of work which needs doing. For example, if similar cars to yours are being advertised at around £6,000, be prepared to receive offers in the region of £4,500-£5,000 as a part-exchange value.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, premium brand cars tend to have a slower rate of depreciation, holding on to more of their value than mainstream models. But some more affordable cars do also retain a high percentage of their initial on-the-road price. Limited or special edition models can be more desirable on the used car market because of their higher specification and performance cars can also retain more of their value, although that’s not always the case – sometimes these cars are some of the fastest depreciating cars.

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If your car is a little out of the ordinary, such as a sports car, hot hatch, electric car or a classic car, it may be worth looking for a specialist who will be willing to offer more for a vehicle they should be able to sell quickly.

Online car valuation tools

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. You should also be able to enter the vehicle’s mileage and a rough summary of the condition for a more accurate initial valuation.

Even with the information from a valuation tool in hand, we would still advise you to see what similar condition cars are selling 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.

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Online valuation tools will also be able to give you an estimated trade-in value of your car which you can use towards negotiating with a dealer or car buying company. Before committing to part-exchanging through one of these online services, bear in mind the company buying your car will carry out a thorough inspection before agreeing a price. Expect to be offered the lower initial valuation as they will use every mile, chip, scrape and dent to influence the price, 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 have closed the deal, you need to make sure you complete the necessary paperwork correctly. If you’ve lost your V5C logbook, it’s worth applying for a replacement as it will help when it comes to transferring ownership. Our guide to transferring car ownership outlines the process in more detail.

How to increase the value of your car

Of course, age, the make, model and specification of a car are factors which can’t be changed after purchasing a vehicle, but where every motorist can make a 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 possible) will go a long way to ensuring a higher sale price.

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Keeping a car serviced and well maintained will make a car more attractive to buyers. If possible, get any MOT advisories done as soon as possible (or even before they become advisories), and keep within your car’s service interval recommendation. Retaining any invoices, service stamps and previous MOT certificates can all go towards proving careful ownership which will pay dividends when you come to sell. Buyers are more likely to be interested in a car if it has been looked after, compared to scruffy examples, with no history. 

While it might be a pricey inconvenience to have paint chip and alloy wheel repairs, or expensive service items like cambelts and water pumps seen to before you sell a car, it could be worth looking into as you may be able to command a higher asking price. An immaculately presented car with no mechanical work due 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. There are also wider market factors at work, with used car prices holding firmer when there’s a shortage of supply in the market or falling when there’s more availability.

Auto Express has partnered with our parent company Carwow to bring you a fast and easy way to sell your car..

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Content editor

Ryan is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2023, he worked at a global OEM automotive manufacturer, as well as a specialist automotive PR and marketing agency.

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