Protecting your car’s part-exchange value ​

Why is it that you go to a car dealership to discuss trading in your current car for a new one and sometimes come away disappointed by the amount they value it at?

What goes through the sales staffs’ minds as they look at your car, decide if they want it and how much it is worth? More importantly, what can you do to boost that figure?

Here we take a look behind the scenes at what happens from that initial discussion when you walk into the showroom and say “Hello, I’m thinking of part-exchanging this car for another and wonder what you think I can get for it?”

Let’s begin with the good news. Other than your house a car is one of the few assets you have that will retain some significant value second hand; the bad is that it is rarely as much as you think or hoped.

However, there are several things you can do to maximise that value and we talked to Phil Nothard, one of motor trade’s most expert and independent analysts of the used car market. Phil is the retail and consumer specialist at cap hpi and editor of its Black Book where guide values for each make and model are published.

We asked him a series of questions starting with:

1. How does a dealer value a car and what are the factors affecting that figure?

Phil said: “In addition to the obvious visual, mechanical and provenance checks to look at its history there are other factors taken into consideration too when valuing a car.

“The colour and specification are important but we are looking for things that give us confidence in the car such as its number of owners, any supporting paperwork and having both sets of keys and just being able to show it has been cared for. These all help to build dealers’ confidence that it is a sound, proper car we can sell.

“Dealers also need to think about the cost of any preparation and refurbishment before they can put it on sale, how much time will need to be allocated to a valet, is it due a major service or tyre replacement, any smart (small to medium area repairs) work required to meet their retail standards and does the investment offer a return?”

In other words, you need to have the paperwork showing its service history and it will also repay you if you give the car a wash and a hoover beforehand!

The differences can be significant as these tables showing how typical family cars vary in value according to their condition from clean, to average and below-average demonstrate.

Ford Fiesta 1.0 Titanium 5 door
2015 20K miles
Retail £8,550                                                   
Clean £7,225
Average £6,750
Below £6,300
Renault Grand Scenic 1.5 dCi Dynamique Nav 5dr
2015 60K miles
Retail £9,725
Clean £8,225
Average £7,700
Below £7,200
VW Passat 2.0 TDi SE Business 4 door DSG
2015 80K miles
Retail £12,295
Clean £10,850
Average £10,200
Below £9,600

2. Assuming everything else is OK what is the worst `offence’ an owner can do to drive down the value of a car?

“Smoking! Smoking is bad for your health and your wallet. Lighting up in a car is a major problem for dealers. Smoke becomes ingrained in the fabric of the car and climate control, requiring a professional valet and a special ‘bomb’ to clean the air conditioning.

”Cleaning up the car can cost anything up to £150 and is still no guarantee that the vehicle will smell sufficiently fresh. Any actual burn marks obviously cost a lot more and a car used by a heavy smoker can easily be up to £2,000 less at trade-in, if the dealer will even touch it at all.”

Some dealers tell us they won’t buy cars from smokers because of the time and expense of getting the cleaned up car properly clean and ridding the interior of unpleasant lingering smell of tobacco.

Examples of how smoking can affect car values: A 2014 Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCI Titanium 5 dr Hatchback with 40,000 miles would be valued at £11,400 for a non-smoking car but £10,150 if it got a cigarette smell, a loss of £1,250.

For a 2016, 40,000 mile Mercedes E class the equivalent figures are £30,100 and £28,100, a drop of £2,000.

3. OK, having a car that is clean, which has a good track record of being serviced and the paperwork to prove it affects the trade-in values but how much does having a more specialist model rather than a mid-market one move the price?

Let’s take a sporty Ford Focus ST against an eco-friendly version of the same age and mileage as an example.

Ford Focus 2.0T EcoBoost ST-3 5 Door
2016, 20K miles
Cost New £26,310                                         
Retail £19,995
Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Zetec 5 Door
2016, 20K miles
Cost New £19,040
Retail £11,650

As you can see, the difference for the ST between its cost new and at 20,000 miles is £6,315 but for the less specialist EcoBoost Zetec the equivalent drop is £7,390.

Phil said: “Different models with the same mileage can often vary in value simply due to market forces. Supply and demand has a key hand in determining values. This means that some makes and models of cars are more likely to hold their value than others against their recommended retail price.”

4. What actually happens to the car once you have agreed a price, signed all the paperwork and handed over the keys? How do dealers choose which cars they buy in are sent to the auction for disposal and which to keep for their own stock?

“Dealers will examine the car and decide if it will sell as part of their own forecourt range. If there is an influx of a particular vehicle type, and it’s unlikely to shift from the forecourt, then they will probably decide to send it to auction where it will have a better chance of selling.

“Most dealers would have gone to the trouble to hpi check the vehicles they are selling so the next customer buying it has a lot less research to do themselves. The dealers are diligently proving that the car history has already been checked. It’s a confidence-building thing again, but this time for the buyer.”

5. What do they do before putting a second hand car up for sale on their forecourt?

“As part of the resale process dealers will aim to make the car look as good as possible to increase its appeal. This will involve thorough valeting and cleaning and ensuring the car is in tip-top condition. It should also undergo a multitude of checks to make sure everything is in perfect working order.

“There is a rule of thumb in the trade which says that if a car was to be sold as seen quite often they’d be unlikely to sell at all!”

6.Which are the ten slowest depreciating brands and ten slowest cars? What are the slowest depreciating types of cars, eg SUVs or sports cars and by contrast, which are the fastest at losing value? 

“Crossovers and SUVs are the strongest performers in the car market, along with a handful of high-performance cars. Large premium SUVs and luxury high-end executive models hold their value best, due to relatively low volumes and high demand in the used market. As with every model range, residual values (RVs) are most likely to be highest when the model is new and there are few examples on the used market.” 

Top 25 Sector Fuel Type Manufacturer Model Description Current New Price (£) % OCN (Original Cost New) Retained at 3yr/30k
2 SUV Diesel PORSCHE MACAN DIESEL ESTATE S Diesel 5dr PDK 45942 66%
3 Sports Petrol PORSCHE CAYMAN COUPE 3.8 GT4 2dr 64451 66%
5 SUV Petrol SEAT ATECA ESTATE 1.0 TSI Ecomotive S 5dr 17935 60%
6 Sports Petrol BMW M2 COUPE M2 2dr 43525 60%
7 Convertible Diesel LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE DIESEL CONVERTIBLE 2.0 TD4 HSE Dynamic 2dr Auto 47300 60%
9 SUV Diesel MERCEDES-BENZ GLC DIESEL COUPE GLC 220d 4Matic Sport 5dr Auto 40395 59%
10 SUV Diesel BMW ALPINA DIESEL ESTATE XD3 3.0 Bi Turbo 5dr Switch-Tronic 56105 59%
11 Lower medium Petrol FORD FOCUS RS HATCHBACK 2.3 EcoBoost 5dr 30645 58%
12 Sports Petrol ASTON MARTIN DB11 COUPE SPECIAL EDITION V12 Launch Edition 2dr Touchtronic Auto 167015 58%
13 Lower medium Petrol TOYOTA PRIUS HATCHBACK 1.8 VVTi Active 5dr CVT 23240 58%
14 SUV Petrol KIA SPORTAGE ESTATE 1.6 GDi 1 5dr 17760 58%
15 SUV Diesel AUDI Q5 DIESEL ESTATE SQ5 [326] Quattro 5dr Tip Auto 45575 57%
16 Sports Petrol AUDI RS 3 SPORTBACK 2.5 TFSI RS 3 Quattro 5dr S Tronic [Nav] 40250 57%
17 Convertible Petrol FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE 2.3 EcoBoost 2dr 34835 57%
18 SUV Petrol BMW X5 ESTATE xDrive40e SE 5dr Auto 52050 57%
19 Large executive Petrol PORSCHE PANAMERA SALOON 3.6 V6 4dr PDK 63913 56%
20 SUV Petrol JAGUAR F-PACE ESTATE 3.0 Supercharged V6 S 5dr Auto AWD 51595 56%
21 SUV Petrol BENTLEY BENTAYGA ESTATE 6.0 W12 5dr Auto 160200 56%
23 Sports Petrol MERCEDES-BENZ AMG GT COUPE GT 2dr Auto 96505 56%
24 SUV Petrol LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER SPORT ESTATE 3.0 V6 S/C HSE Dynamic 5dr Auto 63460 55%
25 SUV Diesel PORSCHE CAYENNE DIESEL ESTATE Diesel 5dr Tiptronic S 52689 55%
Bottom 30
1 Electric Electric NISSAN LEAF HATCHBACK Visia 5dr Auto 25975 16%
2 Electric Electric RENAULT ZOE HATCHBACK i-Expression Nav 5dr Auto 23390 18%
3 Electric Electric PEUGEOT ION HATCHBACK 5dr Auto 16940 18%
4 Electric Electric CITROEN C-ZERO HATCHBACK 5dr Auto 16940 19%
5 Upper Medium Petrol MG MOTOR UK MG6 MAGNETTE SALOON 1.8T 4dr 18610 20%
6 Electric Electric NISSAN e-NV200 COMBI ESTATE Acenta 5dr Auto [5 seat] 28197 22%
7 Upper Medium Diesel CITROEN C5 DIESEL SALOON 2.0 BlueHDi 16V VTR+ [150] 4dr [Techno Pack] 24340 22%
8 Upper Medium Petrol RENAULT MEGANE SPORT TOURER 1.2 TCE Expression+ 5dr 19015 23%
9 MPV Diesel FIAT QUBO DIESEL ESTATE 1.3 Multijet 80 Active 5dr 14340 24%
10 Lower medium Petrol RENAULT MEGANE COUPE 1.2 TCE Dynamique Nav 3dr 19830 25%
11 MPV Petrol FIAT QUBO ESTATE 1.4 8V 77 Active 5dr 12460 26%
12 Supermini Petrol ALFA ROMEO MITO HATCHBACK 1.4 8V Progression 3dr 12905 26%
13 Lower medium
Diesel RENAULT MEGANE DIESEL SPORT TOURER 1.5 dCi Expression+ 5dr 19690 26%
14 Lower medium
Diesel PEUGEOT 308 DIESEL HATCHBACK 1.6 BlueHDi 100 Access 5dr 18025 26%
15 MPV Diesel FIAT FIORINO COMBI DIESEL ESTATE 1.3 Multijet Active 5dr 16128 27%
16 Supermini
Petrol FIAT PUNTO HATCHBACK 1.2 Pop+ 3dr 10935 27%
17 Supermini Diesel ALFA ROMEO MITO DIESEL HATCHBACK 1.3 JTDM-2 85 Progression 3dr 14550 27%
18 Executive Petrol HYUNDAI GENESIS SALOON 3.8 GDi V6 4dr DCT 49530 27%
19 City car Petrol SEAT MII HATCHBACK 1.0 S 3dr 8385 27%
20 Lower medium Diesel RENAULT MEGANE DIESEL COUPE 1.5 dCi Dynamique Nav 3dr 21430 27%
21 MPV Petrol RENAULT SCENIC ESTATE 1.2 TCE Dynamique Nav 5dr 20900 27%
22 MPV Petrol PEUGEOT 3008 ESTATE 1.2 Puretech Active 5dr 21055 27%
23 Lower medium Diesel VAUXHALL GTC DIESEL COUPE 1.6 CDTi 16V ecoFLEX SRi 3dr 23140 28%
24 Large executive Petrol AUDI A8 SALOON 6.3 Quattro LWB 4dr Tip Auto 98325 28%
25 MPV Petrol CITROEN C3 PICASSO ESTATE 1.2 PureTech Edition 5dr 16520 28%
26 Supermini Diesel CITROEN C3 DIESEL HATCHBACK 1.6 BlueHDi 75 VT 5dr 13815 28%
27 MPV Diesel FIAT 500L DIESEL HATCHBACK 1.3 Multijet 95 Pop Star 5dr 17810 28%
28 MPV Petrol RENAULT GRAND SCENIC ESTATE 1.2 TCE Dynamique Nav 5dr 22160 28%
29 MPV Diesel CITROEN C3 PICASSO DIESEL ESTATE 1.6 BlueHDi Edition 5dr 17585 28%
30 City car Petrol FORD KA HATCHBACK 1.2 Studio 3dr [Start Stop] 8940 28%

7. Is there anything an owner can do if they sell the car and the next week they drive past the garage and see it on the forecourt at say, £1,500 more than they got for it or what they think is an unreasonable difference between what they got and what the dealer now wants?

“In short, no. It’s important for consumers to try and get as much as they can for their car if selling to a garage so ensuring it’s in top condition for sale is key.

“If a dealer is selling it for more than what you got for it this is because they’ve spent time on making it even more saleable and are more aware of market trend, demand etc. However, dealers are within their rights to try and get what they can in terms of reasonable market values. If the car is mispriced it won’t sell.”

8. Final question.  How can an owner get a rough idea of what their car is worth before looking to trade it in so they know what to expect, what source can they go to for a valuation?

“Consumers should always do their homework. An easy way to do this is to check vehicle values online. It’s been possible for some time to get a free online accurate valuation from CAP

“However, hpi is about to launch an online valuations service specifically for consumers for the first time. This will give consumers the most accurate valuation available on the market of a vehicle whether they are looking to buy or sell. By simply putting in their registration plate details consumers will now be able to get an instant valuation on any vehicle. Visit

Alternatively you can get a vehicle valuation from Swansway Group. If you have any questions about how to look after your car please contact us.

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