With a host of websites now claiming they can tell you the value of your motor in a matter of seconds, how do sellers really know what to believe about the true worth of their car? Here's a short guide that could help you separate fact from fantasy.
What factors will affect my car's valaution?
The biggest factor that affects a given car's valuation is its age. Cars that were manufactured more than five years ago tend to suffer a big depreciation in value, regardless of the sort of condition or usage you leave it in when it comes time to sell up.
As a general rule, the more expensive your car was to purchase, the more value it will retain - that's why budget runarounds and family hatch-backs tend to depreciate much more quickly, unless you're talking about a really reliable premium-rate brand such as Audi, Mitsubishi or, perhaps best of all, Land Rover.
There is incentive to keep your car well maintained though, because its physical appearance - including, most importantly, the absence of any obvious skirmishes - as well as general cleanliness will also play a role in the oveall valuation.
Not least of all, the mileage is important too - in fact, for some buyers this will be the most decisive factor in valuing your car, since it tells them how long it realistically has left on the road.
Though it is only half of the journey, online valuation tools - including those facilitated by the likes of Auto Trader, Rac Cars and Confused - will give you a vague idea of what sort of worth your car has, and since they are in most cases completely free to use it doesn't hurt to punch in your details and see what sort of figure they throw up.
It's worth looking at them, but remember that in the case of - for example - We Buy Any Car - they are a bottom line business looking to purchase from people in search of a quick cash windfall, and as such they will quote you the lowest possible price.
Also bear in mind that the online valuation could be subject to change if they discover any cosmetic imperfections during the dreaded physical inspection.
What else can I do?
Sellers who are simply interested in getting shot of their old motor so they can start driving around their new one can simply accept valuations like these at face value - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that (in fact, in terms of leg work it's the easiest option).
But a seller committed to getting the best possible deal, in short, has to do a little more homework. Start by checking out local trading magazines - as well as online listings - to see what sort of amounts buyers are prepared to shell out for a model like (or at least similar to) your own.
Find out if there is anything you can do (within reason - you don't want to spend too much money on a long shot) to ameliorate factors adversely affecting your car's valuation. For example, is it possible to apply a cheap new paint job, or get a scruffy bumper replaced?
And if the free valuation tools don't do the job, you can always use paid ones such as CAP, which - in theory - ought to be more accurate in their price predictions.