Can I trust the used car price guide websites?



Have you ever paid to get value online for a car you buy or swap for parts only to find no match at the dealership? Are used car values ​​a science, a fluke or a game? Here we take a look at where they came from, what affects them, and offer some advice.

In the UK, some of us older people may remember sitting anxiously outside a dealer’s desk as we peruse a mysterious little book. The little book was either the Glass’s Guide or the CAP Black Book (oddly enough, CAP means nothing). Now the dealer will look at a screen, tablet or take that dubious trip to “see what my manager says”.

These price guides, however, were only available for commerce. For members of the public, Britain’s best-known consumer values ​​guide was Parkers, which opened its shop in 1972. It discontinued the print version of its guide in 2020 and is now a fully online operation. Today, Parkers uses the CAP data, but then sets its own valuations based on tracking approximately 4,000 sales per day.

CAP-HPI, as the company now calls itself after CAP’s merger with the HPI Mileage Check Register in 2015, now also offers online rates for consumers. The Auto Trader car sales site also offers an evaluation tool that it sets itself from 900,000 claimed daily prices.

Most people now have an idea of ​​their car’s value in exchange for parts, for a private sale, or whether a dealer’s price is right through an online price guide search. An exploratory step where you simply enter your registration is usually free (with an email address sometimes required), but it usually doesn’t require mileage or optional additional details, which can make a big difference (which we discuss below). below). The next step is to pay a small fee to subscribe to more detailed prices for a set period.

If you want to see the best dealership deal you can get for your car, The Car Expert’s own business partner, Motorway, will give you instant real-world assessment based on its live market data. The first step is the registration, then the mileage, then you are asked for some personal information such as an email address. It then finds the highest bid for your car among its nationwide network of over 3,000 verified dealers, and then a valuation is presented. You then choose whether or not to accept the best offer and the dealer pays you directly.

The starting point for used car value

To calculate its values, CAP receives daily commercial sales data, data from auction wholesalers, rental and leasing companies, and specialist remarketing companies. Manufacturers’ used car data is also captured, as are prices displayed on retailer websites. The latter is often the only primary source of data for low volume alien species such as McLarens.

CAP then sets its values ​​on a daily basis, and these are then used by the auto trade as a starting point for exchanging parts and to accurately set forecourt prices via specific coding for individual makes, models and trims. CAP data is also used by many consumer websites that offer online reviews.

“Most traders use us as a guide, but they will adapt to it,” says Derren Martin, Assessment Manager at CAP-HPI. “Webuyanycar, for example, is a customer. They will use us as a guide but they will not set their prices to ours. We are a point of reference. They will also adapt their assessment according to supply and demand.

“Most of these car buying services, whether retailer specific or national, will have algorithms on what they want to buy, how fast they can sell them, and what sort of margin they can make.”

Unusual schedules

Used car values, understandably, decline with age and mileage, although this summer of 2021 they are increasing, fueled by a shortage of new cars and long waiting lists, which means dealerships have less stock of parts swaps, end-of-contract rental cars, and people are switching to a nearly new car because they can’t wait for a new one.

“If you have a car that you don’t really use or are wondering if you want to sell it, now is a great time to sell,” says Martin.

“Prices are going up very quickly. We increased the values ​​by 6.7% in May – keeping in mind that values ​​generally go down as cars age during their lifecycle.

Same car different price?

Martin also says that because anyone can check dozens of comparable advertised prices across the country, there is less significant variation between cars of almost the same specification. “If you’re a retailer you have to price yourself competitively or someone will go elsewhere.

“People are ready to travel, to buy more online now, so you can’t really price yourself up and discount when someone walks in. “

And if you are inclined to haggle, there may be less appetite for it, he says: “” a transaction price, you can no longer negotiate like before.

“You would come in and wait for a deal, see it advertised for a price and you could knock the retailer down, it doesn’t happen that often anymore, the price is the price now.”

There may be regional differences in values, but these tend to relate to EVs. Martin says, “You can get regional variations around cities, electric vehicles tend to perform better in cities where there are congestion charges, but not as well in rural areas where people have to travel further up. ‘at a charging point. “

You may also like: Why are used cars sometimes advertised at two different prices?

Mileage and options and still matter, but not the season

While modern cars can easily cover high mileage, below average mileage (although, again, everyone’s mileage has dropped), and some options can add hundreds or even thousands of pounds to a value, it is worth paying those little fees to get a fully adjusted car appraisal.

This does not only apply to prestige cars. We researched the value of a 2018 Volkswagen Up! three doors in High Up finish with the 90 hp engine in free control. Based on an average of 40,000 miles, a maximum private sale price of £ 5,790 was reached and the maximum purchase price from a dealer was £ 6,600. However, after a small fee we could adjust the mileage and add any option packs listed by the guide. So entering a mileage of just 8,000 and the rare option of cruise control and parking sensor drove up the best dealer’s retail price and private / parts trade-in values ​​to around 1,000. £.

We asked Martin what options can currently add value: “Things like panoramic roofs, bigger or more attractive alloy rims, things that you can see, that make a difference on the outside. Body kits, styling packs, anything that improves the look of the vehicle is pretty good. Upgrades to audio systems may be researched.

It seems that the old wisdom that it’s cheaper to buy a convertible in winter (or better to sell one in summer), currently has little impact as people buy them as ‘toys’, and vehicles 4 × 4 are not cheaper in the summer months as a tiny number of people buy SUVs (some of which don’t even have four-wheel drive) for their grip off-road or on snow, but as a styling choice. of life.

Look at this car and double check your values

When you browse the internet, even if the advertised dealer prices for similar cars are in line, you can still qualify for discounts. If after a certain period – say more than a month – a car has been left on a forecourt and has not been sold, dealers will reduce them because they will have set “storage time” periods after which the cars must be. displaced.

A cut doesn’t mean the car is hopeless, just that the dealership might have too much of that particular type or that there are identical choices nearby. So if during your research you like a particular car but the price is at the high end of the range, mark it as a favorite and come back if you are looking for a few more weeks later.

You may also want to pay for a longer subscription to the online price guide due to the rapidly changing values. According to Auto Trader, in May 2021, 32% of retailers who made daily adjustments to their forecourt increased sticker prices. “Right now, things are moving very quickly,” advises CAP’s Derren Martin. “Maybe things have turned in your favor. I would say to review it every few weeks.

But – and that’s a big but – no matter where the data comes from, the price you can get for your car or pay for your next one is always a guideline and dealers don’t have to stick to it. . A coin swap price can rise in value if the sticker price does not drop, and in the difference between the two, the dealer realizes his profit. You just need to have done your homework and know how much you are willing to pay as the “cost of change”.


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