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Retail used car prices are not falling as fast as trade guides suggest, says car dealer

  • Spencer Flint Automotive boss gives his opinion on used car values in latest Car Dealer Podcast
  • Boss Phil Johnston says retail prices are not dropping as fast as trade values 
  • He urges dealers to price cars based on their gut and take guide valuations with pinch of salt 
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Time 8:06 am, December 5, 2023

Used car dealer Phil Johnston says he believes retail used car prices are not dropping at the same pace as trade values.

Speaking on this week’s Car Dealer Podcast, the Spencer Flint Automotive boss said he thinks car dealers should take Cap HPI’s recent dramatic drops ‘as guidance’ and still act on their own gut feelings.

Cap HPI revealed another 4.2% drop in used car values in November during an exclusive video interview with Car Dealer last week.


This followed a similar 4.2% drop in October and equates to a near 18% drop overall for used car trade prices since April.

However, the advertised retail prices of used cars have not dropped quite so dramatically with Auto Trader reporting a 2.5% fall in November compared to October.

Auto Trader said yesterday that trade prices only show ‘one side of the story’ and warned that trade and retail prices of used cars are ‘no longer in sync’.


Johnston told the podcast: ‘The Auto Trader great price, good price guide has remained fairly static in the last couple of months and not dropped in line with Cap.

‘Cap values are frightening on certain vehicles, but having been around the block a few times I know that at this time of year values always are.’

The used car dealer, who specialises in premium vehicles around £50,000 in value, said he thinks dealers should use their gut when pricing cars.

Johnston added: ‘The Cap values are the Cap values, and we all know how they are sorted – they are based on auction prices and all this kind of stuff. But no one makes you take Cap as gospel when you’re buying a car. 

‘Certainly in the prestige end, Cap can be massively irrelevant. I think you have to have a bit more craft about you when you’re looking at how much a vehicle’s worth.

‘How much can you sell it for with, say, the panoramic sunroof, the 22-inch wheels, the deployable side steps or whatever that car has got, versus one that hasn’t got any of that.

‘Cap won’t necessarily differentiate between those two vehicles so if that means I am paying £2,000 more than Cap says I should do, but I have still got a really healthy margin then, guess what, I’m going to pay the £2,000 and own the car.’

Johnston said dealers need to remember that the trade prices being quoted ‘are a guide’.

‘I understand it feeds all sorts of metrics right across the industry and I get it,’ explained Johnston.


‘But people get obsessed with it. Well, who cares? If you’ve still got a margin who’s to say that Cap is right? 

‘You’re the dealer. You’re the professional, so why can’t it be you that’s right?

‘Sometimes I will pay what Cap says it’s worth and sometimes behind that, but if I think it’s worth it I’m not going to not buy it because a figure on a computer screen, or piece of paper, tells me I’m paying too much for it.’

Johnston told the Car Dealer Podcast about his used car dealership based at his home in North Yorkshire, near Wetherby.

He set the business up during the pandemic, converting an old barn at his home into a showroom for his cars.

Last week, Cap HPI was forced to defend itself in the face of the criticism it had received from some members of the motor trade over its recent price movements.

In its editorial to dealers, it reminded the trade that it moves prices based on ‘fact, not opinion’.

The firm said: ‘Values are adjusted within our Cap Live, daily, product based primarily off sold prices evidenced in the used market. 

‘Data is received from a large number of industry sources, from large and small physical and online auctions, fleet and leasing companies, finance houses, rental companies and manufacturers used car programmes. 

‘This all requires analysing by our team of editors and analysts, who also heavily reference the retail market, where we receive contractual advertised data from a number of high-volume used car websites.  No values are moved without evidence to do so. Movements are made based on fact, not opinion.’ 

You can listen to the full podcast with Johnston on all good podcast platforms by searching for the Car Dealer Podcast. New episodes are released every week.

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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