At Car.co.uk, we’re proud to do things a little bit differently – so we’ve put together an insider guide that answers some of the most common questions about car value estimates, including:
- How does mileage affect how much my car is worth?
- How much is my car worth as a trade-in or part exchange?
- What’s my car worth as scrap?
- What’s the best way to check what my car is worth?
We’ve even gone into detail about different types of valuation you might find – and how to make sure you get the one that’s right for you. Want to know what your car is worth or looking to value a specific car? Use our free car valuation tool here.
How to use this guide
We’ve broken our valuation guide down into 4 different sections, each discussing explaining factors that can affect how much a car is worth:
- Part 1: What affects your car’s value?
- Part 2: How do insurance ‘write off’ codes affect car values?
- Part 3: Lesser-known factors that affect vehicle prices
- Part 4: Why does a car’s valuation depend on who’s buying it?
Of course, if you’re keen to get a price straight away – you can use our handy valuation tool with let you see what a car is worth for sale privately, as part of a part-exchange deal, or on a dealer’s forecourt.
Why do people want to know what their car’s worth?
There’s no single reason that people search for estimated car values.
For some people, a check to see how much a car is worth is a good way of working out whether they’re getting a good deal before they commit to buying. For other people, it’s useful to know how much a vehicle is worth before it’s put up for sale.
In some cases, it’s handy to get an idea of how much your car is worth so you can enter the correct value when you’re shopping around for insurance.
The trouble is, the car industry doesn’t have a single car worth calculator that it works from. Sure, there are trade price guides – but even then, there are adjustments that need to be made for things like mileage, service history, condition – and much more.
As such, a quick search will probably result in different prices – depending on who’s buying the car, why they’re buying it, and even things like the time of year.
Don’t worry though, as we work through this guide; we’ll explain each of thing factors that influence car prices – and how you can make sure you’re getting an accurate valuation.
We’ll start with the factors that can alter the price you’ll be offered for your specific vehicle. Whatever your needs, you can use our car price calculator to value your car by registration number.
Part 1: What affects a car’s value?
Take a quick look at any classified or car sales website and you’ll probably see different asking prices for what look like very similar cars. Even vehicles that are the same year, same specification level, and even the same colour can have significantly different prices.
The fact is, there’s usually more to a car’s value than meets the eye. Even the best mechanic couldn’t take a glance at a vehicle and tell you whether it’s got a full service history or tell you how many previous owners it’s had – but both of these things matter.
Here, we’ll answer some questions that cover almost everything that affects the asking price of a vehicle.
How does the current mileage affect how much my car is worth?
Usually, the mileage of a car will give you a good indication of the level of wear and tear you’d expect to find – both mechanically and cosmetically.
There’s no part of a car that’s indestructible. After doing a lot of miles (usually around 150,000+), some vehicles will begin to experience failures in major components – such as the engine, the gearbox, and the braking system – which is why high-mileage cars are usually significantly cheaper than low-mileage examples.
It’s not just high miles that you should consider though – it’s also a good idea to check whether the car’s current mileage means it’s due for a major service or other significant mechanical work. As an example; Ford Focus drivers should expect to pay for a comprehensive service every year or 12,500 miles for petrol cars – or every 2 years or 18,000 miles for some diesels. If a car is for sale just before this interval, the buyer will need to account for the cost of an imminent major service too – so there’s room for a little haggling if work is due.
For most common cars, major service costs will be somewhere around £180-£250 – but if you’re buying or selling a prestige or performance car, this can often be significantly more. A major service for an RS spec Audi could be anywhere between £500-£900 – and if you’re lucky enough to be in the market for a Lamborghini Huracán, a third-year major service is likely to cost upwards of £4,000!
The good news is, most dealers will be happy to give you a bit of guidance around what should have been carried out on a car. They may not be able to tell you about that car specifically, but they will usually be happy to give you the service intervals and give you the rough life-expectancy of consumable parts, like brake pads and discs.
How much do optional extras add to my car’s value?
Manufacturers tend to create different specification levels for their vehicles. For instance, a Ford Fiesta is currently available with a basic ‘Style’ specification – then the level of equipment becomes more sophisticated as you step up through ‘Trend’, ‘Zetec’, ‘ST-Line’, ‘Titanium’ levels – before you get to the top of the range ‘Vignale’ spec.
Now, there’s almost £7,000 difference between a basic-spec Fiesta and a top of the line Vignale model – and there can be an astronomical £50,000 difference between a basic Audi A6 and a top of the range RS6 model.
As a result, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that there’s a difference in their values further down the line too – so you can expect higher specification cars to be worth more. Different specification levels make much more of a difference to resale prices compared to optional extras though – for instance, two well-looked-after Fiesta Vignales will generally be worth a similar amount, even if one has upgraded alloys and an optional boot spoiler.
Does service history affect what my car is worth?
In short, yes – a full (FSH) or part service history (SH) often makes a significant difference to the resale valuation that’s put on a car.
A vehicle’s service record usually considered to be the best way of working out if the car’s been well maintained. After all, a car will usually still run without being serviced – but without changing the fluids, filters, and other consumable parts, there’s likely to be unnecessary wear put on many components – which can result in very expensive repair bills.
Ideally, a pre-owned car will come with a ‘service book’ – a small booklet that a dealer or service centre will date and stamp to confirm that the appropriate work has been carried out on the car when required. Since most manufacturers recommend that a car is serviced every 12 months, one service stamp for every year since the car was made is desirable.
Does a vehicle’s MOT status change how much it’s worth?
A car with 6 months or more MOT will almost certainly be valued higher than a similar vehicle with little or no MOT.
Well, it’s all down to knowing if there’s anything wrong with the car. Every time an MOT is carried out, a record is made of work that needs to be done – either ‘major’ or ‘dangerous’ work that means the car cannot be used on the road until the problems are fixed – or ‘minor’ work which the MOT centre recommends be carried out before the next annual test.
If a vehicle’s just passed an MOT, then you can be confident that it’s free from any dangerous or major problems. Then again, if you’re buying a car without an MOT, it’s very difficult to tell if it’s going to need immediate work before it can be safely driven.
Will the condition of my car affect how much I get for it?
As you would probably expect, a car that’s in showroom condition will usually be worth more than one that’s picked up a few scrapes and bumps during its life on the road.
Although showroom condition is obviously desirable, it’s rare to find a car that’s perfect, so some reasonable wear and tear is expected. For example, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of stone chips, minor scuffs on alloys wheels, and the odd mark on the interior.
If a car’s got rips or tears to the interior, or bodywork dents and damage to paintwork, these are factors that are likely to see larger amounts taken off the vehicle’s value – simply because they will be costly to put right.
What’s my car worth if it’s modified?
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder – and that couldn’t be truer than when talking about modified cars. While modifications might make your car more attractive or increase performance, they might not be to a buyer’s taste – so you could find that modifications reduce what your car is worth.
Of course, there are buyers out there who might share your taste – so you might find that professionally installed modifications make your car more valuable, but even if they do, they will almost certainly reduce the number of people interested in buying the vehicle.
How will the age of my car affect how much it’s worth?
Age is one of the biggest factors that dictates a car’s value – and usually, the older it is, the less it’s going to be worth.
Now, that rule doesn’t apply to classic cars – but if we’re talking about modern vehicles, age usually means higher miles and greater wear and tear, so it’s fair to say that a 2010 Ford Focus would be worth significantly less than a 2019 Ford Focus.
You may also find that the value of your cars drops a little more when new models or ‘facelift’ redesigns are released too. As consumers, we like to keep up to date with the latest designs; so older designs become less desirable as attractive new models are launched.
Does the number of previous owners affect what my car is worth?
You might be surprised to hear it – but the number of owners a car has had can have a big impact on how much it’s worth.
It’s usually to do with the fact that the more people who have had the car, the more likely it is to have had one or more of those owners who hasn’t looked after it quite as well as they could have done.
There are plenty of people who’ll drive a car for a couple of years, neglect to have it serviced, and sell it before something goes wrong. Of course, this isn’t true of all multi-owner vehicles, but since there’s no real way of knowing how it’s been looked after; more owners usually means a lower value.
Do missing or damaged parts change what a car is worth?
This is probably one of the more obvious factors that impacts how much a car is worth – but accident damage or missing parts will almost certainly reduce the price of the car.
That said, there are some things which most drivers won’t consider to be a big deal; a missing parcel shelf or ISOFIX cover probably isn’t the end of the world – but a missing headlight or smashed bumper will almost certainly make the car far less valuable.
Is a car under warranty worth more than one that isn’t?
Since a warranty protects you against most costs in the case of something going wrong with your vehicle, you’ll usually find that a car that has some remaining warranty is worth more than one that doesn’t.
Depending on your vehicle’s manufacturer, a warranty can protect you against problems from 3 years and 60,000 miles – right up to 7 years or 150,000 miles. In fact, some brands offer 5-year, unlimited mileage cover.
It’s worth noting that different manufacturers have different policies when it comes to transferring the vehicle’s warranty to a new owner. For most, there’s no problem – but some will downgrade the cover so that just major components are protected.
If you’re buying or selling a car that’s still under warranty and you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to check with the original dealer to see where you or the new owner will stand.
Does a car’s colour affect its price?
If you’ve looked at car configurators online, you’re probably already aware that some special metallic, satin, or limited-edition colours are a significant extra cost.
While you’re unlikely to pay or get back the full cost of these upgraded paint options when a car’s second-hand, you’ll probably find that certain colours are more desirable than others.
Again, this ultimately boils down individual taste. There are far more people who are in the market for silver cars than there are for pink vehicles – so popular colours tend to hold their value a little more than quirky shades.
How much is a scrap car worth?
A car that’s going to be scrapped is generally valued a little differently to one that’s going to be used on the road. Ordinarily, the value of a scrap car is decided by its weight; heavier cars tend to have more of the valuable metals and materials that can be recovered.
With this in mind, if you call a general local scrap dealer, you’ll be offered a price based on weight – but at Car.co.uk, we’ve created a scrapping service that makes sure you get the best possible price.
When you use our scrap my car service and enter your registration and postcode, we’ll instantly provide the best price from a UK-wide network of dismantlers, recyclers, and scrap dealers – including a number of specialists – so you can be absolutely confident you’re getting the best possible price for your old or accident damaged vehicle.
Part 2: How do insurance write off codes affect a car’s value?
Ever flicked through used cars online and spotted a bargain – only to find out it’s a ‘Cat N’ or ‘Cat C’ car?
If these insurance codes have left you scratching your head, don’t worry – we’ll explain exactly what each category code means and how they alter the value of a vehicle.
What is an insurance write-off?
If a car’s been damaged in an accident, an insurer will usually have an inspection carried out on the vehicle. This inspection will decide if the car is safe to drive and can cost-effectively be put back on the road.
For some cars, the level of damage incurred will mean it just cannot be driven again – so the scrapyard is the only option. However, some less-severely damaged cars may not be cost-effective to repair but might still be suitable for the road, if a new owner is prepared to do the work needed.
Cars that an insurer decides are not cost-effective to repair will still be written-off – but they may find their way back onto the market – especially if a used car dealer can buy the car and have the work carried out for a good price.
What insurance write-off codes can you expect to see?
Depending on the level of damage done to the car, insurance inspectors will apply one of 4 different codes – each reflecting a different level of damage:
If an inspector decides a car is a category A write-off, the type of accident it was in or the level of damage the car received means that it cannot be returned to the road and must be dismantled by an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF). You cannot buy or sell a category A vehicle.
A category B car has received significant damage and cannot be returned to the road. The bodyshell will be crushed, but parts can be salvaged from the vehicle. Only ATFs can purchase category B cars.
A category N car has been damaged – but that damage has been classified as ‘non-structural’. Generally, this will be just cosmetic damage, and the vehicle can be safely used again as long as it is repaired to a roadworthy condition. Category N cars are frequently for sale.
A category S car has been damaged – and that damage is considered ‘structural’ – meaning the body or major components must be repaired to a roadworthy standard if the car is to be driven again. Category S cars are also frequently for sale.
What about category C and D cars?
In 2017, insurance write-off codes changed. Although category A and B stayed the same, category N and S replaced ‘category C’ and ‘category D’ write off codes respectively. Since a write-off category indicator stays with a car for life, it’s possible to still see ‘Cat C’ and ‘Cat D’ cars on the market. Although the wording of the codes changed slightly, the impact on a car’s value is the same.
How does a write-off code impact a car’s value?
Insurance write-off codes usually make a big difference to a vehicle’s value, reducing it dramatically. The reason is all to do with the big unknown that comes when significant damage has been done to a car.
A category N (previously category C) car is less likely to have any lasting underlying issues, but it’s not impossible that problems could have been missed. Category S (previously category D) cars will have required significant work to put them back on the road – so you need to be absolutely certain that this work has been carried out to an appropriate standard.
Of course, the level of damage needed to write-off a car depends on how the insurer values the car in the first place. For instance, 2 broken headlights and a cracked bumper wouldn’t write off a brand-new VW Golf – but could be enough to write-off a 15-year old Golf that they deem to have little market value. As such, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced repairer for a professional opinion on whether a Cat N or Cat S car could be a bargain buy.
Buying or selling a write-off
As a seller, it’s your legal responsibility to declare if a car has previously been an insurance write-off. If you’re a buyer, it’s a good idea to have a vehicle inspection carried out to be absolutely certain the car is safe from any dangerous defects.
If you’re planning on buying a written-off car to drive until it’s ready for the scrapyard, resale value probably won’t be a problem – but it’s important to understand that written-off cars can be difficult to sell on and will be worth significantly less than non-damaged vehicles.
Part 3: Lesser-known factors that affect vehicle valuations
Now we’ve covered the things that affect the value of all vehicles on the market; it’s worth taking a few lesser-known factors that influence vehicle prices. These are useful to know – as they can sometimes give you the knowledge you need to get the very best price for the vehicle you’re buying or selling.
How could the exact same car on the Yorkshire Coast be worth less than if it was for sale in the Midlands? It might sound like a trick question – but the location of a vehicle is likely to affect how much it sells for.
Firstly, you’ve got to consider accessibility. If you’re in a central area with good transport links, you’ve got a much larger audience to sell too. On the other hand, if you’re a long way from major towns and cities, fewer people will be willing to travel to look at or test drive the car.
It’s also worth thinking about the environment too. Vehicles that have lived their life near to the coast are exposed to far more salt in the air – a big factor when it comes to corrosion. In fact, some manufacturers even account for salt air; Vauxhall clearly outline the limitations of their new vehicle warranty, saying cover “does not apply to damage or corrosion caused by the environment” – and most other manufacturers are the same.
While there are some car fanatics that would jump at the chance of owning a car with a fuel-guzzling V8, most buyers are keen to keep their running costs as low as possible. As such, you’ll find that economical vehicles are more likely to hold their value and desirability for longer.
It’s not just fuel consumption to consider either. Service costs, the price of aftermarket parts, and the vehicle tax band will also make a difference to potential buyers.
It might sound like a sales cliché – but when you’re buying a car, you’re also buying an ownership experience. If you’re buying a reliable vehicle, then that experience is going to be largely headache free. The trouble is, buying an unreliable car could involve costly and/or frequent services, recalls, lots of warranty work, and even disputes with manufacturers or dealers.
Buyers will check reliability scores for a brand’s cars before they part with their money – so the more reliable the vehicle is, the better it will hold its value.
Again, lots of drivers see the appeal of high-performance cars – but most car buyers are looking for sensible transport for commuting, shopping, travelling, etc. With this in mind, cars with lower insurance groups are generally more desirable to a wider car-buying audience.
Supply and demand
Across virtually all industries, consumers have favourite brands and products – and the car industry is no different. Certain makes, models, and specification levels can become particularly sought-after – especially if they were fairly uncommon or costly when brand-new.
If you’ve got a desirable vehicle, this can definitely work to your advantage – as buyers are often willing to overlook minor (and sometimes major) issues to get behind the wheel of their ideal car.
New car sales
It’s not unusual for manufacturers and dealers to run promotions, special events, and even big discounts on new vehicles – and if they do, the knock-on effect to used car values can be significant.
Dealers and manufacturers have a huge number of tools they can call on to sell cars. They might be able to offer special 0% finance; they may add servicing packages, offer guaranteed part-exchange values, specification upgrades, free insurance, and much more. Private sellers obviously don’t have these perks to add into the deal – so if this happens, used vehicle prices have to come down to stay competitive.
Part 4: Why does a car’s price depend on who’s buying it?
Now we’ve looked in detail at some common and uncommon factors that will influence the price of vehicles; it’s a good idea to look at the different types of valuation you might see offered. When you receive a vehicle valuation from Car.co.uk, you won’t just receive one price – instead, you’ll get a range of prices.
It’s all about who is buying the car – or who you’re buying from. An approved pre-owned vehicle bought from a main dealer is likely to cost more than one that’s for sale privately – but, since a dealer has to make money, it’s likely that they will offer a lower price if they’re buying your car.
We’ll walk you through the different types of valuation you’ll get for your car, and what they each mean.
Private guide price
A private guide price is the value of your car if you’re buying it from or selling it to another member of the public.
Trade guide price
The trade guide price is the amount you would expect to pay for the car if it was sitting on a trader’s forecourt, ready to be driven away.
A trade price is generally more than a private sale price – firstly because a trader will make a profit when they sell a car – and secondly because the car will often be inspected, valeted, and may sometimes come with a warranty.
Part exchange guide price
part exchange valuation is the amount you can expect to get for the vehicle if you’re going to trade it in for another vehicle. Since this will usually be with a car dealer, you can expect this price to be a little lower than a private sale price, as the dealer will need to prepare it for sale and make a profit when they do.
Auction guide price
Sometimes, vehicles find themselves at motor auctions – where dealers and member of the public gather to bid on cars. There is no opportunity to test drive a car at auction, and the audience is usually quite small – which tends to mean that cars sold at auction fetch a lower-than-usual price.
What’s the best way to value your car?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that we think our car valuation service is the best way to find out how much your car is worth!
Where other services might only give you a single price, we understand that finding out how much your car is worth isn’t quite that simple. The valuation we provide will depend on all the things we’ve covered here – but as a result, you’ll get the most accurate set of prices, whether you’re buying, selling, or part-exchanging.
Part of the reason we’re so confident that our service is the best way to work out how much you can sell your car for or how much it’s worth as a trade-in is because of the car values calculator that we’ve created.
How do we calculate your car’s valuation?
To get an accurate price for your specific car, we check industry guides and thousands of private and trade advertisements.
When we’ve got the price to base our valuations on, we’ll adjust those based on your car’s specification and the condition you’ve told us that the vehicle is in.
When complete, you’ll get a set of valuations that are highly accurate and unique to your car.
How long does it take to get a valuation?
As long as you’ve got most of your car’s details to hand, our valuations are very quick! In fact, inputting your car’s details is usually the longest part of the process – and that only takes a couple of minutes.
When we have all the info we need, our unique system will compare prices from across the internet, and you’ll get your valuations instantly. That way, you can get your valuation when you need it – whether you’re getting an insurance quote online – or you’re in the middle of haggling for a great deal on you. Free DVLA number plate valuation of your vehicle is possible through Car.co.u, get your free car valuation today!