With used car prices high, there’s never been a better time to sell your car. If you no longer need to commute because you’re working from home and want to cash in, or just want to make the most of the smaller “switching cost” gap to a new model, you could be surprised at the kind of prizes you get.
Selling a car is always a process that scares most of us, mainly because it can be stressful and time consuming. However, there are several companies that say they’ll save you the hassle and get you a better deal than you’d get by trading in the showroom when you buy your new car.
To test these claims, we looked at deals offered by some of the biggest car buying and selling sites. We asked for top prices for our car, a 2015 Mazda MX-5. It’s in great condition with one owner, full service history from the supplying dealer, and below average mileage.
To get a benchmark price, we ran a data check on the car. While these are typically used by buyers to check a car’s history, most also offer an appraisal to help you understand the current market. We used the company that won our car data checker group test – Total Car Check – and received valuations of £11,580 at a private sale, £9,780 at an auction and £9,250 for an exchange of parts.
What’s the best way to sell your car?
So it was the turn of car buyers, what popular way to sell your car could give us the best price and the most hassle-free experience?
- Selling cost: £39.95-£84.95
- Evaluation: £11,520 (starting price)
Auto Trader is arguably the first port of call for anyone looking to sell a car the “traditional” way. It certainly has a large audience and it’s simple to set up your ad, with a process that encourages you and helps you complete the necessary online forms. We were surprised by the cost though, which starts at £39.95 and goes up to £84.95 for the ‘Ultimate’ package, which includes an additional promotion.
The site also includes a useful suggested starting price for your car; in our case it was £11,520 – below TotalCarCheck’s suggested private sale value. The price you accept after haggling is up to you, but it’s fair to assume that most buyers will expect to cut at least £300 off your initial asking price.
- Selling cost: £0
- Evaluation: £9,225
Relatively new to the auto business, Cazoo has caused a stir with its easy way to buy a car. It now advertises a way to sell your car just as easily, with a “no haggle” price and free same-day payments – unlike rival We Buy Any Car.
Cazoo will only re-evaluate or reject the car if it is “significantly different” from the condition you describe or if more than 1,000 additional miles appear on the odometer. Drop the car off at one of the 21 Cazoo locations and there’s no charge either, or they’ll come to your house and collect £99.
The price is fair compared to the suggested trade-in value and is safely above the final “bargained” offer from We Buy Any Car. Seems like a better deal than some methods here – but you can get a better deal without too much effort.
- Selling cost: £0
- Evaluation: £10,300
The Highway takes a slightly different view of the Commercial Auction Highway, which it says will help you get a better deal. You upload your car’s basic details such as age, mileage and condition, and the site gives you an indication of the price you’re likely to fetch. If you are interested, you can then answer some more detailed questions about the condition of the car and upload photos.
These will be sent to Motorway’s over 4,000 dealers, who will bid and bid and you will receive the best price. If you agree, the dealership will arrange collection and payment, which usually takes place on the same day.
In terms of simplicity, it’s a winner, and the price we were offered also seemed reasonable, considering the convenience.
- Selling cost: £350-400 (£90 fee if not sold)
- Evaluation: £10,000-£10,500
If a dealer doesn’t want your trade-in put on their own forecourt to be sold, it’s likely to be sent to auction for disposal. It’s possible for you to bypass the trader and put the car up for auction yourself, and you should realize more value without too much effort. There is no guarantee of the price it will reach, but you can set a reserve.
The downside is the cost. We looked at the nearest sale from our chosen dealer – Letchworth Motor Auctions – and noted that the sale price would be £350 if the sale price was £8,000 to £9,999 with an extra £50 in more if it was over £10,000. If the car doesn’t sell after three auctions, you can withdraw it and pay just £90. These fees seem expensive, but if the reserve is set at £10,000 and it sells, you will still get paid compared to other methods. It’s marginal if it beat a dealership offer here, though.
- Selling cost: £0
- Evaluation: £9,500-£10,000
If you’re trading in a new car, it’s only natural to give the vehicle supplier a chance to assess your trade-in. It’s definitely the most convenient way to get rid of a car if you’re buying a new one from the same dealership, because you just have to drive your old one and leave your shiny new one.
We also thought our MX-5 would be prime stock for the dealer – Norton Way Mazda in Letchworth, Herts – as it was originally supplied by them and serviced in their workshop. The dealer had made us an offer to exchange for just £7000 for a brand new replacement last summer, so we called and asked to update the value if we were to exchange now. He promised to call back within 30 minutes, but didn’t. When we hunted the next day he came back with a £9,500-£10,000 “ballpark”. It’s not the best price here, but it beats the We Buy Any Car offer by some margin.
We buy any car
- Selling cost: £0
- Evaluation: £9,735 (online), £9,050 (in person), less £74.99 in fees
As presenter Phillip Schofield says in the We Buy Any Car TV commercials, the company offers you a “hassle-free” way to sell your car, which will likely get you a better deal than if you traded it in. That may be true, but our experience with the service has shown that it may not meet your expectations.
After entering the details of our MX-5 online, the site returned a quote of £9,735, which was very close to our expert’s auction value for the car. He then encouraged us to go to a local agency to make a transfer appointment. We did and were greeted by a rep who noted some minor stone chips but found no other faults.
Despite this, his offer was £8,900 with a bonus of £150 ‘if we sign today’. On top of that there would be a transaction fee of £74.99 and an additional £24.99 if we wanted the money the same day.
- Selling cost: £19.99-£69.98
- Evaluation: £11,000 (approx)
The world’s largest auction site also offers the ability to advertise a car in a classified format, similar to its rival Auto Trader. It’s also usefully cheaper, starting at £19.99 with advert appearance upgrades costing £2.99 and 49p. It’s always possible to use an auction if you’re feeling brave and unsure
of true value. The cost is £14.99, but you will be charged an extra £9.99 to add a reserve price and you will pay 1% of the final value to eBay, up to a maximum of £45. For our car that would have been a total of £69.98.
All of the comparable MX-5s on offer were classified ads, but we looked at the auctions of several other mainstream cars and they all settled on a price slightly below the guide value for a private sale. eBay seems better suited to vintage and unusual cars, which are harder to value than our mainstream Mazda.
Do you really get a better deal with one of these “no hassle” sales options? Our experience suggests not, and also that there are ways to get a better deal without too much effort. The difference between We Buy Any Car’s online price and its genuine offer also seemed surprisingly large, while rival Cazoo offered a clearer price with fewer hidden costs.
Before accepting a low offer, we suggest trying your own social media, or even word of mouth to sell a car. A quick mention on Twitter that our MX-5 was for sale was enough for us to sell it with minimal fuss at the suggested private price – that’s £2,500 more than the lowest offer – and it didn’t bother us. cost nothing. A private sale is always the best way to get the best price, but not all of them go as smoothly as ours.
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