Car Valuation Guide – How To Value Your Car
Looking for an online car valuation in the UK?
Get a free used car valuation in seconds by entering your number plate on Motorway, simply enter your reg using the widget above (or on the right if you’re on a laptop) to see valuations from the UK’s top car buying websites.
Need a more detailed car valuation? Read on!
We divide this guide into sections to help you find your used car’s true value.
Car valuation explained:
- How do I get a car valuation at a garage or dealership?
- Car value calculators: how do I get a free valuation online?
- Pros and cons of getting an online valuation
- How do I get a car valuation on car buying websites?
- Parkers free car valuation
- AutoTrader free car valuation
- Cap HPI free car valuation
- What Car free car valuation
- Car valuation tips
Valuing your used vehicle is easy and usually free – but there’s more to it than meets the eye. We explain all in this car valuation guide to find your car’s market value.
It’s now incredibly fast to get an instant, free car valuation via online car valuation websites like Parkers as well as on a multitude of car buying sites specialising in a cash for cars-style proposition.
With so many accurate valuation services available, gone are the days where you have to visit your local car dealer who will stroke their chin, tut and offer you a disappointing amount in the knowledge you do not know any better.
Car valuations can be performed on various websites and take moments to complete; but do not rule out talking to local car dealerships with physical premises.
A lot of dealers are specialists in car sales for specific brands, (these are known as ‘brand franchises’) and can sometimes offer more than an online valuation will suggest for makes they buy and sell.
There are also specialist buyers for vehicle types such as SUVs, prestige cars and commercial vehicles.
Selling a van? We offer specialist van selling valuation advice here.
Not only that, but you may get a higher valuation for your used car at a dealership if you are buying a new one – and the price you get for your car can be used as a ‘bargaining chip’ to get a better deal for your new vehicle purchase. More on that later…
Right, are you ready to value your car? Let’s get started. Below we explore several ways of valuing your car (online and offline) and we will suggest the pros and cons of each, along with a few tips to help you make the most of car valuation tools.
Pros and cons of valuing your car online
Getting an accurate valuation using one of many online valuation tools is a tricky business. For starters, none of these websites will have actually seen your car in the light of day.
They are simply algorithms, making assumptions based on an imaginary version of your car, usually one in excellent condition. They can’t take into account things like paint damage, scuffs, dents, repairs, minor accidents, a stain on the back seat or anything else specific.
Most will try to be as accurate as possible but no one other than an experienced human being will be able to provide an accurate estimate of your cars value.
These ‘minor’ differences from car to car can have a significant impact on your vehicles value, therefore, online valuations need to be taken with a rather large pinch of salt.
At Motorway we have analysed 4,000 completed sales (cars that were sold through our online buying partners) and have done studies into how accurate the original valuations for those cars were.
We found that on average, a car valued above £5,000 online will actually be sold for around 6% less, it can go higher but it’s rare, so don’t get too excited when you see a high valuation online! It also depends on which way you are choosing to sell, so be cautious.
Also, the older your car is and the lower it’s value, the harder it is to provide an accurate online valuation. For example if you receive an online valuation of £500 online but your car actually has a broken headlight, your car may only be worth £300. That’s a 40% difference.
How do I get a car valuation at a dealership?
It may be a more old-fashioned way to value your car, but you should not rule out talking to a few car dealers local to you to get an idea of what your car’s worth.
Your local dealer could be a massive national dealership (Pendragon, Evans Halshaw, Inchcape and Lookers spring to mind) a brand franchise, e.g. Finchley Road Audi (London) or Andrew’s Car Centre, (Lincoln) or they could be a local dealership with only 5-10 used cars on their forecourt. It’s worth visiting a few of each type if you can.
The reason to speak to local car dealers is they could make the selling process very simple for you. Valuations quickly become buying offers and are usually based on having performed a full inspection of the vehicle.
Therefore a car dealer valuation is likely to be the actual price you will receive for your car. Also, chances are the person you meet at your local car dealer will be the one signing off the paperwork to make a purchase, so their price is often watertight.
That said, written offers from car dealerships are important. If you get a verbal valuation, we would always advise you to ask for a written offer on headed paper before taking the valuation as ‘real’ or ‘upholdable’.
Without a written offer, you risk your verbal valuation being reduced (or denied!) when the car dealer actually proceeds with the sale.
Brand franchises vs. standard car dealerships
Car valuations can often fluctuate with car dealers depending on whether the brand you are looking to sell is one the specific car dealer branch specialise in (or indeed want at all)
For example, if you are a Honda owner, your car may fetch a higher valuation if you visit a local Honda brand franchise. Hendy Honda in Exeter will prefer to buy a Honda car, while Volvo Cars, Birmingham will likely give the best prices for… you guessed it, Volvos!
That’s not to say that a car dealership specialising in specific brands will not buy a car of another make, but they will be much more likely to be receptive to buying your car if it matches their specialism. And not only that, your final valuation will likely be higher too.
However, for many people – especially those who live in more rural parts of the UK – small, local car dealerships that deal in all types of used car will likely be a more convenient, closer option.
The best thing is it costs nothing to get an offer to buy your car, so visit as many local car dealers as you can – their valuations may surprise you!
Valuations as part exchange / trade-in at a dealership
One thing that may affect your car’s valuation with a car dealership is the type of car seller you are. If you go to a car dealership looking to buy a new car, that could be helpful for your valuation as your car can be valued as part of a ‘trade in’ or ‘part exchange’.
Inevitably, you can use your car’s valuation as a ‘bargaining chip’ to get a better deal on the new car, so that all-things-being equal, you may get a better deal overall than if you were selling to one company and buying from another.
But it’s not necessarily all good news here. A lot of new car dealerships may suggest you will get a better deal on the new car only if you sell to them. Be careful here, as the amount you actually get for the car you are selling to get the better deal on the new car may not equal a good deal overall.
It is important to not get so over excited by the new motor, you end up accepting a poor valuation on your old car when you trade it in.
It may be best to get a quote for selling your car first (get them to write it down), and only then talk about potentially buying a new car.
Some general words of caution… it’s important for any car dealership to squeeze as much ‘margin’ out of selling a new car as possible. Therefore it’s better for the car salesman to buy cars as cheaply as possible so they can get the maximum amount of money when they sell the car on. Sales can either be at the branch (or another branch within the company if a franchise) or at an auction elsewhere. Buyer AND seller beware!
Car value calculators: how do I get a car valuation online?
Using online car value calculators, car valuations are free, highly useful and easy to get, but the results should only generally be used as ‘estimates’. The buyer will not have full details of your car and will not have inspected the vehicle at this stage. Online valuations should be seen only as an indicative guide to the price you will receive.
It is best not to ‘over focus’ on one price you have been given online by any particular car value calculator as the end price you will receive will be based on many factors. Using valuation averages is a great idea for the best, most realistic picture.
As most online car valuing services are 100% free, our advice is to perform multiple online valuations from various value calculators, then work out the average of all the online valuations you have performed. Averaging will give you a healthy ‘target price’ for your vehicle. It will then be possible to sell your car with confidence at this target price.
With a realistic valuation for your car, selling your vehicle privately is then straightforward on popular classified websites like eBay, AutoTrader, Motors.co.uk, Parkers , Gumtree or Exchange And Mart. It also gives you a ballpark figure to aim for if you choose to sell to an online car buying website like We Buy Any Car.
Many online car value calculators use a service called CAP (CAP HPI) to value your car as well as their own data about real prices they have seen on their websites. ‘CAP pricing’ has become a standard method by which to value your car and many services will actually query CAP when you enter your car reg details online. Many services also use CAP prices to benchmark or augment their own valuations.
These services represent some of the UK’s most popular car valuation services:
Parkers Car Valuation
You can get a free car valuation by number plate at Parkers. Their service is all about fair prices, so to paraphrase their own words “when you ask ‘what’s my car worth?’ the Parkers used car valuation calculator is designed to give you the fairest possible valuation”.
As well as their free service you can also adjust car valuations to reflect mileage, condition and optional extras. The ‘Parkers premium valuation’ offers a lot more detail to the free valuation and costs from £3.49.
Parkers always list the original price of the car when new and the used price you would expect to pay for it today at a franchised/ brand or independent dealer or through a private seller.
You can also search through their database of used car prices to compare real-time values.
Want to read more about the Parkers Guide?
Autotrader Car Valuation
At Auto Trader, you can get an instant guide price for your car – whether you’re buying, selling, part-exchanging or just want an online price. It’s a simple, effective calculator to get a quick idea of value.
It is worth noting that Auto Trader relies heavily on its own private sale prices from the Auto Trader website, so the valuation you receive will be skewed to the higher end and should not be seen as an ‘instant price’.
Many prices you see on the Auto Trader website will be from car dealers, selling at retail prices where the car has been checked, verified and will often have warranties in places. This data is worked into the Auto Trader valuation.
Auto Trader car valuation prices should therefore be seen as a ‘best case’, private sale valuation. The price you see will be reachable, but unlike car buying website valuations, it may be difficult to achieve quickly, particularly if the car is older than 5 years old and has more than 50,000 miles on the clock.
CAP HPI Car Valuation
Buying a car, selling a car or just curious about the value of a car? Unlike many valuation calculators who only offer one price, HPI Valuations provide four market values depending on who is buying or selling the car. CAP HPI is offered by HPI Ltd, the company behind the HPI Check – it can therefore be highly trusted.
- Retail valuation – this is the ‘brand new’ (original) vehicle value when the car was sitting un-driven at the car dealership
- Private sale valuation – this is the market value of your car when buying or selling to a private person (i.e. not a business of any kind).
- Trade-in valuation – the trade in value is the price a car dealer may offer as a part exchange for another car you want to buy
- Forecourt valuation – the ‘used’ car price you could expect to pay if you were to buy it today in cash directly from a dealer (with no part exchange)
The free valuation itself is simple enough to perform. Enter your car’s registration number and mileage into the calculator, provide a few details about yourself and the car valuation is provided instantly.
There is also a premium service – you can upgrade to a premium valuation to get three additional market values, plus a depreciation graph showing past, present and future values as well as likely ongoing running costs for your vehicle.
What Car Valuation
Valuing your car is simple on WhatCar? Enter your reg, describe the condition of your car and how many miles it has done, then tell them a few details to customise the service for you, then get your personalised car valuation.
What Car use CAP HPI as a ‘valuation partner’.
Want to read more about getting a What Car Valuation?
How do I get a car valuation on car buying websites?
Most online car buying websites (that say they will ‘buy any car’) will start by offering you an online valuation for your vehicle before taking you into their buying process.
This is the same for most of the market-leading services including WeWantAnyCar.com, The Car Buying Group, Money4YourMotors, We Buy Cars Today, Trusted Car Buyers, and of course market leader WeBuyAnyCar. You can see a full list of WeBuyAnyCar alternatives here.
To get an online valuation from a selection of these online car buyers in one place, you can value your car on the Motorway homepage.
Other online services to sell your car such as SellCar.co.uk and Southern Car Buyers will also give you a valuation to buy your car, but it is not instant and will be presented either over the phone by a salesperson and/or via a follow up email.
A note of caution…
It is important to realise with car value calculators offered by online car buying sites, that the valuation you receive is not a guaranteed car purchase price, but an indicative guide to the amount you will receive. That said, this valuation can quickly be turned into a ‘guaranteed quote’ by some services over the phone.
Many online car buyers offer a price match promise or best price guarantee that means once you have received your online valuation, you can call them up to disclose everything you know about your car and they will turn your estimate into an actual quote to buy it.
This quote is then guaranteed against other online car buyers so if rivals offer you more, you can go back to the original service who will match it.
However, every online car buyer bar none will need to perform a final inspection before handing over your money. On occasions, valuations may be highly unpredictable versus final prices paid – especially if your car has damage that is not disclosed at the time of the online valuation.
Sometimes you will be quoted your target price (or more) from an online car buyer, so on balance, it may be the best disposal route if your quote is sufficient – it’s certainly the quickest way to sell your car.
The purchase and quote is guaranteed and there is little donkey work to do, other than to prepare paperwork and (in instances where free collection is not on offer) drive to a drop-off centre or branch. See our ultimate guide to selling your car for a handy checklist of the documents you need to prepare to sell your car.
General points for every car valuation
Things that will reduce your car’s market value
Age of car – this perhaps the single biggest factor determining your valuation. Quite simply, the older your car is, the lower the value – used car buyers prefer newer cars! A 2016-registered Vauxhall Corsa that has done 10,000 miles will be worth more than a like-for-like 2015 Vauxhall Corsa of exactly the same specification and mileage. The price is lower on the 2015 model in this instance, simply because it is older.
The only exception to the ‘old is bad’ trend is classic cars where age trends can work the opposite way. Some of the most valuable classic cars are some of the oldest.
Mileage – the further your car has been driven, the lower the valuation will be. There is never an instance where a higher mileage is better for a valuation. Miles on the clock = wear on the car’s engine, parts, body and interior. There is simply no way to avoid this, other than to never drive your car!
Car condition – any damage to your car (either internal or external) will mean a lower valuation. When ‘car damage’ is specified, this is not about wear and tear (which is expected and normally already baked into your online valuation). It is about damaged bodywork or mechanical issues that either harm or reduce the effective operation of the vehicle or harm its visual aesthetic.
Service history – a full service history suggests the car has been well-looked after and cared for properly. There is a small amount of extra value given to ‘full-service history’ rather than ‘partial service history’ which suggest a lack of proper maintenance. If you lack service history, your valuation will be reduced.
MOT status – in the UK, it is the law that cars more than three years old need to have passed an annual MOT test. No MOT will always equal a lower valuation and suggest the car is operating in a semi-legal state!
Previous owners – the more previous owners a car has had, the lower the valuation. A high number of previous owners (in fact any more than ‘none’) suggests the car is older and/ or unwanted and possibly therefore less well looked after. More previous owners will equal less value.
Number of car keys – when you buy a new car, you are typically given two or more keys. When you sell your car on, buyers will expect you to handover all the keys you own. If you have less than two, unfortunately this will reduce the ongoing valuation as most car owners like to have more than one key. Buying a replacement from the manufacturer is always expensive and takes time, so
Documentation – when you sell your car on, you are expected to handover a V5C registration certificate, a service history log book, MOT certificate and any manuals and operating documents.
If you do not have any all these things, it can be problematic for your valuation. Regarding a V5(C) doc, the DVLA actually advises that you simply should not not buy a vehicle that does not have a registration certificate. Some car buyers therefore may look to avoid buying you do not own a V5(C).
Things that will increase your car’s value
Yes, there really are things you can do to get the highest possible car valuation. Spoiler alert:- get your shammy cloth ready!
Low mileage – of course you cannot legally rewind the clock on your car, but if it has low mileage for its age (e.g. anything less than 3,000 miles per year), this will be a good thing for its valuation.
Wear and tear means a car need more maintenance and have a shorter shelf life, so it is little wonder used car buyers love nearly-new cars that have low mileage the best.
It is therefore also not surprising that tampering with a car’s mileage clock (‘car clocking’) is tempting for those with a criminal mindset. This activity is not recommended.
With a ‘mileage correction’, a 2015 VW Tiguan with 35,000 miles on the clock can suddenly become a 2015 Tiguan with 5,000 miles on the clock – that reduction alone will add about +20 to 30% on to its selling price.
Clocking or no clocking, mileage is a major barometer of a car’s valuation and tampering is common. In fact 1 in 16 cars on UK roads is predicted to have illegally altered mileages.
Showroom condition – no matter how old it is, if your car looks great, i.e. like it has just been driven out of the showroom and has no bumps, scrapes or visible damage, it will help your car’s valuation. Aesthetics do count, just not as much as many people think.
Polish it up (shiny wheels) – you can help your car’s valuation by polishing it up and making it super-clean inside and out. Either clean it and shine it up yourself, or take it to a professional hand car wash who will perform a ‘valet-style’ cleaning service.
Shiny wheels are great, as are polished dashboards, dust-free mats and stain-free upholstery. Go for aesthetic perfection before selling your car, your valuation will thank you.
In reality, dealers or buyers will do their own valet on your car, but presenting it to a potential buyer after a fresh valet makes people feel much more confident that the car has been looked after throughout its lifetime, and that inevitably helps valuation.
Easy fixes – got a scratch on the paintwork? Cigarette lighter is missing? Cracked a windscreen or got a hole in the exhaust? Get these kinds of non-critical imperfections fixed, replaced and rectified. It will likely all feed into your valuation and help you get a better price.
But there is a limit…
If you have a large amount of obvious, bodywork damage or internal problems that mean the car will not drive or operate properly, consider the cost of putting it right is actually worth it.
Make sure you do the maths on any work you undertake for your car before selling it. For example, just before you sell it, spending £1,000 of work on the car is pointless if the vehicle is only worth £900 on car valuation websites.
Added extras that are unlikely to increase your car valuation
Many car owners assume that every ‘improvement’ to their car will add value, however there are numerous modifications that will actually hamper the resale value of your motor. Here we outline a few…
DIY work – anything that feels like a homemade user modification will not help your car’s valuation. Most end consumers like standard used cars that look the same as when they left the factory. They usually do not want to have added spoilers, go-faster stripes, stickers, decals, over-sized exhaust pipes and the like.
Anything that has the look and feel of DIY and/ or creates a ‘‘boy racer’ or ‘Barry Boy‘ kind of feel to the car is a ‘great big no’ for your valuation.
Alloys (including alloy wheels) – alloy wheels or chrome bumpers may look shiny and expensive, but many car buyers do not actually want them because they look out of the ordinary.
If alloys were added to your car by the manufacturer when you specced out your car (i.e. the original alloy wheels as an added extra), that may be a good thing, but ‘home made’ alloy wheels that were added as additional ‘chrome work’ by a third party may be a car valuation disaster.
Non-standard climate control – car buyers of all types typically love standard options, because they’re manufacturer sanctioned and standardised. One thing that is relied upon is a working air-con and ventilation system that is functional, standard for the car in question and so low on maintenance. If you’ve installed a complicated climate system of your own, this could be really problematic for your valuation.
Fancy stereo systems – got a Blaupunkt CD player with Technics amp, subwoofer and an MP3 storage drive under the passenger seat? It may sound great, but it will do little to improve your valuation.
Most used car buyers will not add any extra value to this kind of thing and would probably prefer it if you were selling the original ‘un-pimped’ sound system that was built into the car when it was brand new.
It could be worse than simply ‘not adding value’, you may need to accept a drop in price as the bespoke music system may need removing for a standard option to be installed.
Unusual paint colours – unusual colours internally and externally are not helpful for valuations. Unorthodox colours for paintwork would include orange, purple, bright neon green, gold, pink or even yellow.
Most car buyers are looking for a car painted in standard colours, e.g. blue, grey, black, silver, white or red.
A ‘strange’’ colour will be unlikely to help a valuation, especially if it has been applied after it was bought new as it will likely then need a large amount of respraying work to return it to the original colour, all of which will massively harm the valuation.
Ready to sell your car? Compare car buyers at Motorway.
Want to read more about what your car is worth? Try our guide to how much your car is worth.
If you are looking for more great tips, have a read through some of our other guides: