Valuation Service In Depth Report

In this review we’re going to look at three car valuation services to compare how they value five cars we’ve selected to cover a broad range of what’s being sold on the second hand car market in the UK today. While we can’t judge how accurate the valuations are as value in inherently subjective – what the buyer is willing to pay – we can see the process of the valuation and how much detail the services give us, giving you an indication of whether it’s worthwhile purchasing a car valuation.


Before we go on a word about how car valuation services work. There are two categories that most car valuation services fit into: those that just provide information and those that will buy your car for the valuation they provide. We haven’t reviewed any of the latter kind of service in this review, but they generally provide valuations that are lower than the informational services. This is because the rate they pay has to factor in their own costs of then selling your car onto a final buyer. While the informational car valuation services will typically give you a higher valuation it isn’t always achievable as the market can change fast. You should also bear in mind that there can be considerable costs in selling a car privately such as marketing it or if you go down the auction route in auctioneer fees.


Our method in this comparison of car valuation services involved us collecting registration plates of five cars we felt represented a fair sweep of what you’ll find available in the UK when shopping for a second hand car. We don’t know anything about the cars themselves – not even their condition, their mileage, or theirs owners. Instead we’ve taken an average mileage of 10,000 per year as our guide and assumed their in fair condition for their age. Our apologies if we’ve used your car in this review, the way car valuation services work meant we had to input real registration plate numbers for this research.


Of course certain types of car are always harder to value. Car valuation services largely rely on data taken from auction sales as these are the easiest way of getting a large amount of data quickly. The less common a car model the longer the time between auctions and thus the less accurate the valuation data is. Also remember that buyers at auctions might not be in the market for the same cars as private buyers, so figures generated from these might not quite reflect the private sale achievable price. Nevertheless the valuations tend to be quite accurate as many of these valuation services sell their product based upon the accuracy of their data.


The Cars We’re Valuing:

  • 1998 BMW 3 Series. Reg: S330 GKP. Assumed mileage: 140000 miles.
  • 2002 Ford Focus. Reg EK02 UJP. Assumed mileage: 100000 miles.
  • 2004 Audi A3. Reg WN04 LFV. Assumed mileage: 80000 miles.
  • 2008 Vauxhall Corsa.  Reg: AE58 GOA. Assumed mileage: 40000 miles.
  • 2009 Citroen C4 Grand Picasso. Reg LD59 YWG. Assumed mileage: 30000 miles.


WhatCar? Valuation


What Car is the most popular car magazine in the UK, but it also offers a car valuation service on its website. The service is completely free, so we thought we’d give it go to see how it compares with the paid valuation services most of us are used to using. Will we get what we paid for, or is there actually such a thing as a free lunch in this case?


The valuation service involves typing in your registration plate number so they can pull up the make, model and year, then telling them the condition and optionally the mileage. They also allow you to select the make and model manually if you’d prefer not to enter your registration number or are looking to buy a car and don’t know the registration number yet.


On the following page they request some personal details before giving you a valuation, these include your email and phone number and if you’re in the market for a new or used car. Clearly the trade off for getting a free valuation from them is that they’ll market cars to you.  After you’ve input these details you’re taken to your valuation. This includes the new price of the car plus four used valuations: the price a dealer would sell for, a private sale price, a price you’d get part exchange and a price you’d get selling to the trade. You can adjust the condition and mileage on this page too to adjust your valuation.


Overall this seems a great service for its price, but the trade off with giving your details out potentially to be used to try to sell you a new car is a trade off some people won’t want to make. WhatCar was also unable to identify some of our cars by their registration plates which meant a tedious process of selecting our exact car model which not every owner would know without consulting their car documents. It also didn’t allow us to input mileages over 100,000, something which most cars over 10 years old would have.


WhatCar gave us the following valuations on our cars:

  • 1998 BMW: Refused to value as registered prior to 1999.
  • 2002 Ford Focus: Dealer £1580, Private £1310, Part Exchange £1245, Trade £1095
  • 2004 Audi A3: Dealer £4080, Private £3825, Part Exchange £3695, Trade £3495
  • 2008 Vauxhall Corsa: Dealer £5290, Private £4570, Part Exchange £4450, Trade £4230
  • 2009 Citroen C4: Dealer £9820, Private £9410, Part Exchange £8805, Trade £8380

AutoTrader CAP Valuations:

AutoTrader teamed up with CAP, the company used by most dealers, to provide a car valuation service to ordinary car owners. The service isn’t free, the current prices are £3.95 for a single valuation or £8.95 for three (a saving of £2.90 of buying three valuations individually). The valuations given include three part exchange values based on condition, a price a car dealer would charge, an average private sale price. The prices can be adjusted for optional extras and damage. This latter part is what sets it apart from the free valuation service offered by WhatCar, but it’s debatable if it’s always worth paying for unless you were considering doing repairs as it will give you a good idea of if the additional value from being repaired will be more than the cost of the repair. Also given the data is based on CAP’s value database which is extensively used in the trade it’s likely to be the most accurate.

First you put in your registration plate number and mileage, or if you don’t have the registration number there’s an ability to select make and model. Then after confirming the details are correct you select which optional extras are on the car. You’re then asked for payment, after which your valuation is presented. You can then modify it for damage which gives you different valuations based on different forms of damage. You can PDF, bookmark and print the valuations. One of our cars CAP failed to provide a valuation on after we paid due to a system error.


Overall this is great data from a reputable source. The main reason you’d want to use this paid service rather than relying on the free services out there is to find out of repairs are worth doing prior to a sale. For the £3.95 price it could save you a lot of money you’d otherwise overspend doing repairs which don’t increase the cars value substantially.


AutoTrader CAP gave us the following valuations on our cars:

  • 1998 BMW: Dealer £1100-£1125, Private £860-£940, Trade In Clean £290-£310, Trade In Average £230-£240, Trade In Below £180-£190
  • 2002 Ford Focus: Dealer £1875-£2100, Private £1575-£1700, Trade In Clean £860-£920, Trade In Average £720-£770, Trade In Below £590-£630.
  • 2004 Audi A3: Dealer £4525-£4950, Private £3775-£4100, Trade In Clean £3125-£3325, Trade In Average £2775-£2950, Trade In Below £2400-£2575
  • 2008 Vauxhall Corsa: Dealer £5475-£5995, Private £4850-£5200, Trade In Clean £4025-£4275, Trade In Average £3650-£3900, Trade In Below £3300-£3500
  • 2009 Citroen C4: CAP was unable to provide a valuation due to a system error Car Valuation

WiseBuyers is a little different from the other services in that it doesn’t allow you to use your registration plate details to quickly find your car. The site might look like an enthusiasts site but it’s actually run by CDL, a large group that provides car data to many brand names and also runs the MyCarCheck service. You’ll need to select the make and model of your car from a list to get started. This can be quite tedious if you don’t know the exact model of your car including its engine size. gave us the following valuations on our cars:

  • 1998 BMW: Retails £2150, Private Good £1670, Private Average £1340, Private Poor £1050, Part Exchange £1490, Trade £1368
  • 2002 Ford Focus: Retail £2500, Private Good £1790, Private Average £1260, Private Poor £790, Part Exchange £1440, Trade £1287
  • 2004 Audi A3: Retail £4890, Private Good £4030, Private Average £3510, Private Poor £3090, Part Exchange £3790, Trade £3577
  • 2008 Vauxhall Corsa: Retail £5485, Private Good £4365, Private Average £3865, Private Poor £3435, Part Exchange £4135, Trade £3939
  • 2009 Citroen C4: Retail £9780, Private Good £8210, Private Average £7460, Private Poor £7090, Part Exchange £7990, Trade £7613




For cars that are in good condition you can get enough free valuation data from services such as WhatCar and WiseBuyers not to need to purchase a valuation. Having multiple sources of free information insures accuracy and can be useful in negotiations with a buyer. However if your car has damage the AutoTrader CAP service is highly useful in working out if it’s money well spent to fix and repair the issue prior to sale, or if the cost of the repair would be more than the additional value the car would get. We haven’t compared these valuations with car buying services which give a value they’ll buy at here, but from previous research sometimes the values offered by these services out perform some of the private sale prices offered and often outperform the trade and part exchange prices.