Selling your car? How to get the best price

new car purchase

Finding the best offer for your used car can be tricky – and, if you are unsure how to go about it, it can make selling extremely stressful.

Reaching the best price for your used car typically requires knowing its true market value and remaining resolute during any negotiation that takes place with prospective buyers – so that you meet the car’s value, without losing the sale.

Here is a quick overview of the factors you need to consider in order to meet your used car’s full price potential, and then sell it fast on sites like Motorway.

Finding out the true market price of your used car

Working out the true market value of your used car is no easy task. Spend a morning using the array of free online car valuation tools on different websites, and you’ll likely come away more confused – with a number of completely different valuations. Fairly obviously, they can’t all be right.

How do these valuations work? The price offered for your car will usually be dependent on how a particular company fancies their chances of selling it off again quickly and easily and making a small profit. The price they offer for your car is also generally going to be based on how you want to sell it and how in-demand the particular make and model is at the time of sale.

Supply and demand are key price influencers

What you need to keep in mind when it comes to working out your car’s true market value is the basic economic principle of supply and demand.

If the car you’re trying to sell is an unexceptional hatchback, prices will generally be quite low on the used car market as it is likely to be flooded with similar vehicles. Whereas, if you are trying to sell a prestigious, rare saloon car, it could actually be worth more than you originally paid for it.

To quickly establish what a range of dealers are likely to offer you for your car, you can use the valuation tool on theMotorway website, which will instantly provide details about what a number of big-name dealers would be willing to pay – and give you an instant insight into the kind of price you’re likely to expect for your used car.

What affects your car’s value

There are several material factors that will affect your car’s value. As well as obvious things like the car’s age, mileage and condition, there are a number of other factors that can have a huge impact on the potential price you can ask. Though it might seem petty, the car’s colour, fuel type, service history, emissions rating, location and even the time of year you are selling can all have a big effect on the price that buyers are willing to pay out.

Over the last few years, for example, due largely to the low-emission zones in major cities affecting older diesel cars and the subsequent introduction of new taxes focused on vehicles using ‘dirty’ fuels, demand for diesel motors has dropped off massively. This means that there are now fewer people looking to buy them and more people trying to sell them than ever before – and, as a consequence, prices have plummeted.

Timing can be everything

The time of year you choose to sell your car can be an important factor too. Prices of soft-top convertible cars go up considerably in the spring and summer months and then drop right off again as the cold seasons hit. Evidently, the idea of having the roof down and the wind blowing in your hair is less appealing when driving through rain, sleet, and snow.

The colour of your car may also be an issue – and your car’s value will depreciate more rapidly if its colour is an unpopular one. According to recent research by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the most popular overall colour in the UK is grey.

Black is the colour of choice for executive and luxury saloon cars; whilst drivers of small cars and zero-emissions vehicles prefer white. In contrast, unpopular colours remain green, bronze and yellow.

How much is my car worth?

Many sellers are often annoyed by the relatively small amounts of money offered for their cars by online valuation tools – and, consequently, look to websites such as Auto Trader for the bigger picture; where they will usually be gratified to see ads offering similar model cars to their own for much greater sums of money.

Whilst it’s true that you’ll probably make more money selling your car privately than at a dealership or one of the new instant-buying sites, the prices on sites like Auto Trader can be misleading and often result in private sellers overpricing their cars. This is because many of the cars listed in these classified ads are actually from dealerships and their prices include add-ons such as warranties, finance and returns policies.

Whilst it is a good idea to use sites like Auto Trader, Exchange and Mart, and Gumtree to see what similar model cars are going for privately, it is important to carefully research who is selling the cars and ensuring you are comparing like for like.

How you sell may affect the price you get

Your car’s value is not fixed, and how much you can sell it for will depend largely on the buyer and what they are willing to pay for it.

Whilst it’s true that you are likely to get more for your car by selling directly to a private buyer (because there are no middlemen), selling this way can often be a long and drawn-out process – and, as time drags on, you might find that you need to lower your price in any case, just to attract more prospective buyers.

If you decide to sell your car to a dealership, the valuation you’ll receive will typically be fairly low. This is because they are taking on a risk. They don’t know how quickly your car will sell, how much they’ll have to spend on it or how long it’ll sit on their forecourt. If they can’t sell it within a reasonable time period, it is likely that they’ll let it go at a loss to another dealer.

The same sorts of considerations apply to online instant car buyers, who will need to determine what price they can offer and still make a margin when they take your car to auction.

Negotiating the price when selling privately

If you decide that selling privately is your best chance of reaching your car’s full price potential, it is probable you’ll have to enter into some kind of negotiation with the potential buyers that come to view the car.

To take the stress out of this process, it’s best to be completely honest about the car. This doesn’t mean pointing out any faults, but acknowledging them and discussing them openly, should they be queried by the buyer.

You should endeavour to create a sense of urgency to the sale from your side from the moment potential buyers contact you. If possible, make it clear from the onset that there are a number of other interested parties with viewings scheduled and urge them to get in early in order to avoid disappointment.

Be prepared to walk away from bad deals

Unless you’re in a hurry to sell the car, you should be prepared to turn down offers you don’t consider serious. Don’t become annoyed or offended if a buyer makes a ridiculous offer, just say “no” and then explain how you arrived at your sale price.

As well as working out what you’ll say in this instance, it’s also a good idea to work out before you enter any negotiation what the lowest price you are willing to settle for is – as it is likely that any buyer will attempt to reduce your selling price, even just for form’s sake.

If a buyer asks: “What’s your best price?” don’t be too eager to answer – and don’t go to your lowest price immediately. Leave some room in the negotiation.

Don’t allow buyers to intimidate you

Often, a buyer or dealer will say something like “I like the car, but…”, and then trail off, in the hopes that the seller will throw them something that will help ‘seal the deal.’ However, if you do hear something like this, simply counter by asking: “How much would you be willing to pay?” This moves the negotiation immediately back to them, costing you nothing.

Remember that it’s your car and you have a good idea of its condition. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by the buyer or a valuer. If reasonable problems are identified, feel free to lower the price to compensate, but if they try to baffle you with ‘mechanic speak’ and you’re unsure, tell them you’ll get a second opinion and wrap things up.

Negotiating a price when selling to a dealer

There are pros and cons to selling directly to a dealer. It will save you the cost of advertising your car and will speed up the sales process by meaning that you won’t have to meet with buyers, but you’ll probably get less for your car because the dealer will likely want to stick to what they consider its ‘trade value.’

You should visit a valuation comparison site to see what a range of dealers will be prepared to give for your car – and this will give you an idea of the accuracy of the price being offered.

If you know the car you are selling is in good condition, has a full-service history, and recently-renewed MOT, highlight all these points after the dealer has made an opening offer.

Though dealers will naturally err on the side of caution when it comes to giving a valuation, you might be able to sweeten the deal considerably by part-exchanging your vehicle with one of the dealer’s new or used cars. In terms of any negotiation, this should put you firmly back in the driving seat.