How to get the best price for your car

08 September 2016

Before you sell your car, read our guide to getting a good price for it.



According to a survey carried out by car selling platform tootle.co.uk, 68% of women in the UK dread selling a car, with 30% of them naming dealing with buyers as the most stressful part of the process.

It’s a figure which is no doubt fuelled by (sometimes unfair) clichés of patronising or aggressive dealers. 

But although a 2013 investigation by Auto Express actually found that women were offered better prices by dealers than men, a survey of 48,000 women by Different Spin in February this year found that women are still three times more likely to have a negative experience at a dealership than their male counterparts.

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Women move online

So what impact has this had on the industry? Recent figures seem to suggest it’s increasingly driving women online. Buyacar saw a 58% increase last year in the number of women bypassing the dealer and buying through the internet instead - double the increase seen for men.

The same trends can be seen for car selling, where a raft of online car buying services have emerged to replace the need for that forecourt experience which so many sellers seem to dread.

But the increase of online options and our shift in car selling habits throws up interesting questions around who is emerging as winners and losers in this new way of selling.

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Older sellers miss best prices

Data from tootle.co.uk’s survey shows that those over 55 are far less likely to shop around for the best price than younger sellers - with 42% of sellers aged 55+ getting only one quote before agreeing a sale versus just 21% of those aged 18-24.

Anecdotally, this is likely to be the result of increased propensity among older consumers to part-exchange their old car when buying new. It also follows general trends around lower internet usage - particularly among the 75+ age group.   

Getting the best price

What many sellers don’t realise is that they’ll get the best price from a dealership specialising in their particular make of car (ie Ford, BMW, etc), especially if the vehicle is less than 6 years old and has less than 60,000 miles on the clock.  

By contrast, if you want to part-exchange a Ford at a BMW garage, you’ll get a poor price - because that dealer can’t sell the Ford on his BMW forecourt. This means he has to offload the car through auction - which will cost him money, which means he will give you less in the first place.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a particular car may be more or less attractive to a dealer at any given time. 

If they already have four similar cars in their showroom, they probably won’t give you a great price for yours. On the flipside, if they have a customer already lined up for your car, they’ll give you top dollar.

The point is, without shopping around, sellers can’t be sure they’ve got the best price. Which means many of those 55+ year olds who only get one quote before selling are probably missing out on the best deal.

Clearly there’s only so many dealerships within a logistically acceptable radius that sellers can visit - so what is the best way to get enough quotes to be sure you’re getting a fair market rate?

Shop around online

Here’s where the online sales channels can help. Most dealerships have an online or phone valuation service. 

Although it’s tricky to get a truly accurate price without a physical inspection, this should give sellers an indication of whether the part-exchange price (or any other offer) they’ve been given is a fair one.

Prices offered by online car buying services can also be a useful comparison. It’s worth bearing in mind that sellers frequently report being ‘chipped’ down at the handover stage from the price they’ve initially been offered online - meaning the deal can end up being much worse than expected. 

But for comparison purposes, they provide another good ‘check’ on what a dealer or private buyer may have offered.

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Best time to sell

So if those are some of the best ways to sell, when is the best time? As the new 66 plates are launched in September, there will no doubt be a glut of used cars coming onto the market. Although this extra choice can boost interest from buyers - particularly in ‘seasonal’ cars such as 4x4s ahead of winter - it can serve to depress prices.

Some makes and models will always be attractive and pricing will hold fairly steady. But common cars, such as Fiestas and Corsas, can suffer when there is oversupply. So where possible, sellers should avoid peak selling periods if they want to get the best price.

Cara Whitehouse is the chief marketing officer at tootle.co.uk, an online platform helping customers find the best offer for their car from a network of competing dealers.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.