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Investigation: Are you losing money to online car-buyers?

Model car on coin pilesSelling your car? We investigate where you’ll get the most money for your motor –dealerships, private buyers, or online car-buying sites.

When you come to sell your car, you need to make a trade-off between the price you get, and how quickly you want to make the sale.

For example, there are a number of companies online which will value your motor and make you an offer within the space of a few minutes.

Alternatively, you could head down to your local dealership and ask them to make you an offer or take the car in for part-exchange.

But the deal you get from one of these operators is unlikely to match the money you could make by marketing the car yourself through classified ads in the press or on the internet.

Sell the vehicle yourself, however, and you’ll have to factor in the cost of making your listing - on eBay you could pay as much as £50 - as well as the inconvenience of dealing with potential buyers.

We took a look at what kind of price you’re likely to get from a dealership, a private sale, and online car-buying sites, to work out whether selling a car privately is worth the extra hassle.

Our search for the best price

We used three examples in our search for the best price: a 2001 Ford Ka 1.3 litre Collection with 75,000 miles on the clock; a 1999 Porsche Boxster 3.2 litre cabriolet with 86,000 miles; and a 2003 Mini Cooper 1.6 litre which has clocked up 51,000 miles.

We found that selling your car privately could generate up to twice as much cash than trading it in or selling through an online car-buying website.

The Ford Ka

Our first port of call was motoring magazine and website Auto Trader. It charges £3.95 per valuation or three for £8, and uses the car’s registration and actual mileage to make its calculations.

For the Ford Ka, bought new for between £7,000 and £8,000, Auto Trader’s average dealer sale price was £1,500.

For part-exchange, Auto Trader gives three trade-in prices: “clean”, “average”, and “below”. For our Ka these were £645, £420 and £275 respectively.

So as you can see from this, dealerships’ mark-ups are normally quite substantial.
We also had a look at expected figures for private sales.

Auto Trader said the price for the Ka would be £1,175, while on eBay the cheapest “Buy It Now” price for a model with similar specifications was going for £800.

We also had a look at the valuations given by Webuyanycar.com. This site promises a sale in a matter of minutes.

Customers are given a free valuation which they can then accept, subject to an inspection at one of the company’s branches.
But this convenience seems to come at a cost with generally lower valuations than even some of the trade-in figures given by Auto Trader.

Webuyanycar’s valuation for our Ford Ka was £355, less an admin fee of £50. This was lower than Auto Trader’s part-exchange price.

The Porsche

For the Porsche, £38,000 when new, Auto Trader said it would fetch £9,200 and for part-exchange, between £4,425 and £6,100 depending on condition.

The site’s figure for a private sale was £7,550, while on eBay Boxsters from the same year were available for between £8,000 and £9,000 depending on mileage, although these were dealership listings and probably more expensive than the average private seller would charge.
Webuyanycar offered £4,845 less its £50 fee, subject to inspection.

The Mini Cooper

The Mini Cooper, £14,000 new, would sell for £5,500 according to Auto Trader, and for part-exchange would fetch between £2,725 and £3,675.

The typical private sale price would be £4,375, the site said, although similar vehicles were available on eBay for around £6,000 at the time we carried out our research.

Webuyanycar offered £3,240 less £50 fee, for the Mini, which was within the range given by Auto Trader for a part-exchange of a vehicle in average condition.

How they all compare

Breakdown of vehicle valuations

Vehicle

Mileage

Dealership price

Private sale

Part exchange

Webuyanycar.com

Ford Ka Collection 1.3l 2001 £75,000 £1,500 £1,175 £420 £305
Porsche Boxster Roadster S 3.2l 1999 £86,000 £9,200 £7,550 £5,250 £4,795
Mini Cooper 1.6l Hatchback 2003 £51,000 £5,500 £4,375 £3,190 £3,190

*Valuation based on average condition vehicle, Autotrader.co.uk.
**With £50 fee deducted; subject to inspection.

What to bear in mind

It’s worth remembering that the prices given by Webuyanycar are actual offers, subject to inspection, rather than hypothetical values, like the ones given by Auto Trader.

But the Office of Fair Trading criticised the firm earlier this year saying that in 96 per cent of cases, the inspection resulted in a lower offer.

The OFT told the company to make a number of changes to its business practices as a result.

A spokesman for webuyanycar.com said: "Our service takes away the hassle of selling privately and avoids prospective buyers having to come to the seller's house. Customers can come to one of our numerous branches and, if they so choose, sell the same day."




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Chris Torney

Chris Torney

Chris is personal finance editor at the Daily Express. He's been a journalist for more than 10 years and contributes to a wide range of finance and business titles.Read more from Chris



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