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How to accurately price a used car – top tips from the experts

  • Pricing a used car when values are rising is hard work, but our experts tell you how
  • Our video above reveals the biggest mistakes people make when pricing a used car
  • Top tips to get the most accurate price for your used car

Time 9:50 am, February 10, 2022

With used car prices doing the seemingly impossible in the last year and actually going up, working out how much your car is worth is now harder than ever.

But if you’re thinking about cashing in on buoyant used car prices and selling your second hand motor, you need to know how much it’s worth.

For this article – penned with new car dealers and consumers in mind – we’ve chatted to the motor industry’s experts to reveal how the pros do it.


Prepare your used car for sale

Getting the most money for your car is firstly about preparation, explains pricing experts Cap HPI, the firm relied upon by the motor trade to tell them how much used cars are worth.

Making sure your car is clean, has all the history and documents collated ahead of the sale and you’ve found both keys is really important, senior valuations editor Jeremy Yea told Car Dealer.

‘If you have a used car to sell, a good starting point is to assess its condition in terms of cleanliness, damage and service history,’ he explains.

‘You really need to know your own car inside and out as this will help you sell it.’


Know the difference between trade and retail used car prices

To work out the price of your used car – unsurprisingly – Cap HPI’s Yea tells us to head to their website where they offer free valuations.

Here, you simply enter your registration and answer a few questions to get a price. 

You will need to understand the difference between the terms ‘trade’ and ‘retail’, though.

The ‘trade price’ is how much a dealer, or a car buying service like We Buy Any Car, is likely to offer you for your used car.

The ‘retail price’ is how much you can realistically expect to sell it for yourself in a private sale.

‘Familiarise yourself with both terms,’ says Yea. 

‘Don’t fall into the trap of expecting to get the same amount of money for your car (a trade in) as the ones like yours on dealer forecourts (the retail price).’

Do your research on used car prices first

While there are several websites that will help you find a used car price, we’d suggest surfing a few before you settle on yours.

Lots of things will affect the price – your car’s optional extras, how many miles it has done, and its service history, will all have an impact on price.

Find others like yours for sale online and see what they’re priced at. For a quick sale, price yours at the lower end of that scale if you’re advertising it yourself, if it’s got less miles and a better service history you can pick the higher end.

‘Research your price – and be competitive,’ says James Bush of consumer to trade selling site Motorway.co.uk. 

‘This is hugely important if you are not using an online valuation tool provided by the site you are looking to sell with. 

‘Pricing a car accurately is notoriously difficult. 

‘If selling to a trade buyer, a private seller should price their car for less than a dealer would sell it for. That trader will need to make a profit on the price in order to sell it on.’

People often forget the latter. 

Remember car dealers are a business with overheads to pay, you can’t expect them to buy your car at a private price when they have to add a warranty, prepare it and pay to store and advertise it.

Where can I get a used car price?

There are several consumer-to-trade sites – where you can attempt to sell your car directly to the trade – which will give you a price for your car. 

But remember, these will be at the lower end of the scale and you’d be able to get more for it if you attempt to sell privately. If you can be bothered with the hassle, that is.

Look at sites like We Buy Any Car and Motorway.co.uk which have tools that will value your used car for you.


Then head to the consumer facing used car advertising websites like Auto Trader, eBay and Motors.co.uk. These will show you how much dealers and private sellers are trying to sell cars like yours for.

Try and find one with similar mileage and spec. Consider the price you were offered by the quick sale routes to the trade, add a little extra and you’ll have a good idea of what to put yours up for.

‘Using Motorway, you just enter your car’s details and we will then provide a valuation based on the basic details of the make, model, age and mileage of the car,’ said Bush.  

‘This valuation is an estimated selling price and is generated based on historic offers placed by dealers on Motorway for similar vehicles, together with real-time automotive market data.’

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Auto Trader has a similar tool to help you price your car on their website.

‘You can do it on our website, for free,’ explains the ad giant’s Erin Baker.

‘It takes minutes and the price is based on hundreds of thousands of price observations from across the market, making it the most accurate and up to date valuation possible.’

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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