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Paying a fair price for a used car

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 23 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Used Car Cars Car Prices Good Price Fair

A used car is, like anything else, worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. Sometimes the value placed on a car by a seller is very different to what a buyer is willing to pay. It is crucial, therefore, that a buyer researches car values and knows what will constitute a good price.

There are plenty of used car price guides available in the UK nowadays and Glass’s and Parker’s are two of the best known. Glass’s has been valuing cars since 1933 and estimates that over 90 per cent of car dealers refer to its valuations when setting an asking price or offering a valuation for a part-exchange. Parker's has been researching the vehicle market since 1972, and monitors 1.5 million vehicle sales every year – more than 4,000 every day – to ensure the values provided are as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

Data is collected from dealers, auctions and private sales to build up a definitive picture of the true selling price of cars. This information allows price guides to provide a figure a car should actually sell for – not the advertised price – and so ensure consumers get a fair deal.

Help When Negotiating

Some price guides may provide customers with a valuation certificate to help them through the negotiation process. All will offer several prices for the same make and model of car, varying according to the age and registration, condition, mileage and whether the car is being sold privately, through a dealer, or at auction.

Even with all these variables covered, many more are not, so always remember that the valuation given is nothing more than a guide. Putting a value on a used car is not an exact science. If a car is a special edition, has a high specification, low mileage or desirable colour, it could add a premium to the price. On the other hand, a poorly maintained car will have aged badly and depreciated quickly.

Price guides are not the only way to get an idea of a car’s worth. Have a close look at classified advertisements in newspapers and magazines to get a feel for the prices private sellers are looking to achieve. Many of the ads will plainly invite haggling by declaring that the seller is open to offers, so expect these cars to achieve less than their starting price.

Scan Classified Ads

Scanning the classified ads works particularly well for popular models, as there are usually many to choose from. It can sometimes help with particularly rare or older models too, as these may not be listed in price guides.

The easiest way to gauge dealers’ prices is to visit as many of the local used car dealers as possible. Do not be afraid to speak to the salesmen and ask if the advertised prices are open to negotiation. At certain times of the year, when dealers are overloaded with trade-ins, it is easier to find a bargain. Prices vary from region to region too, so shop around.

Finally, some car owners’ clubs offer valuation services. These enthusiasts will know more about the car than anyone else and should be able to offer an extremely accurate valuation, taking the car’s specification, condition, age and mileage into consideration.

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