A lack of top-quality used cars means anyone with a good-condition vehicle to trade in may be able to bag a bargain. We explain how to take advantage.
Car buyers who have a vehicle to offer in part-exchange could end up quids in thanks to current market conditions – especially if their current motor is in tip-top condition.
Analyst CAP says that dealers are currently facing a severe shortage of used cars.
Average condition worsening
This means that trade-in vehicles which can be immediately put on sale are commanding "premium prices".
CAP’s Mike Hind says: "CAP charts supply and demand in the car market every day and the latest research shows the lowest ever level of forecourt stock among a panel of 100 used car dealers.
"The problem for dealers is that while overall used car supply is increasing, the condition of cars available in the open market is generally worse than a year ago."
He explains that this means dealers have a choice over how to boost their stock levels.
They can either buy cars at auction and have them reconditioned, or raise the amounts they offer for good-condition part-exchange vehicles.
"This is a genuine win-win situation for motorists offering a well-maintained, clean car to their dealer because both sides are benefitting," Hind adds.
"Put yourself in the shoes of the dealer: would you prefer to go out hunting through all the tatty cars out there for the minority that are easy to turn into a fresh sale – or would you prefer to have great cars brought to you by customers who are looking to buy another?"
Hind’s colleague Derren Martin says that the current market conditions can be blamed on the poor state of the UK economy over recent years.
"The reason there are more poor-condition used cars is mainly due to fleets and private buyers keeping hold of their cars for longer during austere times," he explains.
Older vehicles dominating
"As a result we are seeing more older, higher-mileage, poor-condition cars coming through.
"Based off the used car sales data we receive, in 2008, 20% of cars sold were between two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half years old.
"In 2014 that percentage has fallen to 13%."
Martin adds that six years ago, around one-third of sold cars were over six years old – now the figure is more than half.
How to bag the best deal
So how can you get the best possible trade-in price for your old vehicle?
"Make sure it’s clean – in fact, spotless," says Ian Crowder from the AA.
"Get any minor blemishes or simple faults sorted out – the garage will of course check these things and it will dictate the offer they make.
"Make sure the wheels are clean too: use a special solution, obtainable from any garage or car parts retailer, to get the brake dust off the alloys."
But he warns against buffing up the engine compartment.
Don’t arouse suspicion
"That could lead a dealer to wonder why it is so spotless – is it hiding an oil leak? If it’s a bit dusty that’s fine."
Crowder says that if there is only a short while left until the next MoT, it could be worth having a test carried out to confirm the vehicle’s condition.
He adds that buyers should check the value of their part-exchange vehicle online or in the small ads so they have an idea of whether an offer is fair or not.
"Remember you aren’t likely to get the full price that it will retail for on the forecourt," Crowder says.
"But then, the garage is taking the car off your hands, organising the marketing of it and taking responsibility should anything drastic go wrong."
You should also have all your vehicle’s documents, including service history, the V5C, MoT certificate, handbook, as well as two sets of keys.
"And make sure that the car has the accessories that it came with too: for instance if the rear parcel shelf has been lurking in your garage for a while, don’t forget to put it back."
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