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How to get a fair price for your car

Tips to ensure you get the best price for your used vehicle.

According to a car owner’s Survey by CompareGuru, a sample size of 1 000 car owners in South Africa have highlighted the following top five concerns when selling their car:

–        41.5%: Defining the value of the car

–        36.7%: Negotiating the price

–        10.6%: Understanding the paperwork

–        2.7%: Ensuring the safety of the payment

–        2.7%: Dealing with time wasters

Selling your car can be pretty stressful, right? It’s an area most of us don’t know too much about and one can’t help but feel like you’re on the back foot from the start. Here are some tips: 

Get proper comparative prices 

By far the best piece of advice is to go out and get at least two comparative prices for your vehicle. It will require a bit of legwork, but the effort will be worth the financial return.

  • Go online: there are a number of South African car buying service websites that – based on the model, mileage, age and condition – will be able to give you a reasonably accurate estimate of your car’s value. But…
  • Get it physically assessed too: No offer is final until the buyer has inspected the vehicle, and often one’s vehicle is further from perfect condition than you realise.

Be realistic in your expectations

Remember that a dealer has to incur a lot of costs to sell your car so you’re not going to get offered the price a model like yours is being sold for online or on the dealership lot. You can, however, use those retail values as a benchmark … it should be roughly 20% to 30% more than a trade-in price you can expect.

Know your car

This may seem like an odd piece of advice, but you’d be surprised by the number of sellers who get this wrong. Before you do your online assessment, make sure you know:

  • What model derivative you own. To put this into context, in the last decade you could have bought one of 16 000 different new-car make and model variants. Make sure you know exactly which one yours is.
  • What condition it’s really in. This means knowing its service history and what accident or mechanical repairs its had done. A physical assessor will likely pick this up.

Have the condition independently evaluated

Automotive experts such as Dekra and KwikFit can also provide you with a report on the condition of your vehicle. This may cost you a few hundred rand, but it could save you thousands when you are negotiating with a buyer. You’ll be able to push back on any attempts to low-ball you by declaring there are “problems” with your vehicle. 

Ask the dealer for a cash price 

Always ask for the cash price first and see what they offer you. It will give you a better idea of what the dealer thinks the car is really worth. Then ask for the trade-in price. This may be a better one, but it’s likely the dealer will recover that cash price/trade-in price difference in the deal on the new car you’ll be buying from them.

Some basic negotiation tips

You want to go in strong but don’t throw out a number that’s patently unrealistic – it will just chase the buyer away. Based on your comparative pricing research, decide on the ideal price you want, though leave a little wiggle room to negotiate

And don’t be pressured into signing the deal straight away – take some time to go home and give it some thought. If the buyer is getting too pushy, it’s a warning sign to walk away.

Don’t fix the bumps and scratches

There are two main reasons why it is best to let the dealership refurbish your car themselves:

  • It will cost them far less: dealerships will have industry contacts to get panel beating done and tyres replaced for a lot less. The price the dealer offers you is unlikely to warrant the cash you’ll spend fixing it.
  • They like to know what they’re buying: dealers don’t like to see signs of work done without knowing exactly how serious the original damage was.

But make sure it’s clean

Be honest about the accident history. Professional buyers will be able to see if the car has been in an accident, regardless of what you tell them, and not being honest about it will only make them nervous about what else you might be “hiding.”

Michael Muller, MD of  

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