Are car-buying services a good idea?

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Selling a car can be tricky. A private sale is a hassle, even if it goes smoothly. But you often have to deal with a variety of time wasters and chancers. There could be advertising costs, too.

Part-exchange is no easier. Who wants to haggle with a car salesman, who essentially haggles for a living?

Three steps to heaven?

But there is an alternative. A number of firms, such as and, offer to sell your car in three simple steps. It starts with an online valuation. You simply type in the registration number of the vehicle and answer a few questions about the condition of the car. The valuation should pop up within minutes. Valuations are usually guaranteed for up to seven days and depend on a number of factors, including the market price of your car, its mileage and service history.

Rust never sleeps

The valuation is also subject to an inspection. So, if you forget to mention the dent in the bumper or the rusty paintwork, the company could pay less for the car. The valuation is usually free and you are under no obligation to follow-through and sell your car. You therefore have the chance to compare the offer with a part exchange deal or the cost of similar vehicles in the classifieds to check if you can get a better price.

Always remember that the service makes its money by selling your car for money than it paid you for it, so you’re essentially trading a portion of the value for ease and convenience of a quick, slick sale.

Let’s assume you decide to go ahead and sell your car. Some firms collect the vehicle from your home or workplace. Others expect you to take the car to a branch or drop-off centre. You would then have to make your own way home., for example, has branches nationwide, while the operates from drop-off centres in Yorkshire, the North West and the Midlands, as well as a number of Asda car parks. Other companies such as run a collection service.

Paper chase

Don’t just turn up with your car. You have to make an appointment first. It’s also a good idea to get the paperwork together. You will almost certainly need the log book, the service history, MOT certificate, spare keys, and your bank details. The company should give you a checklist in advance, or you can usually find the details on the firm’s website. Whether you take your car to a branch or arrange collection, the firm will inspect the vehicle before handing over any money. The inspection might also involve a test drive.

Potential problems

It’s at this stage that potential problems could arise.

If the car does not match your description or if the inspector discovers a fault with the vehicle, the company does not have to honour the valuation. It’s therefore important to give as much detail as you possibly can when you complete the online valuation form – and be completely honest, as the truth will out!

Transfer window

If you agree to the sale, the money should be transferred immediately to your bank account. The whole process can be over in 20 minutes, though you should be wary of letting anyone drive your car away until you are confident the money has arrived. Watch out for transaction fees, too. Some firms charge a fee when you sell the car to them, which could be as much as £75.

The fees should be made clear at the outset, but it’s worth checking, just in case. Car buying services usually accept all makes and models of car or van.

However, if you car is particularly old or is an import, you might have to contact customer services as an online valuation might not be possible.

You can also sell a car with outstanding finance. But remember that the remaining debt will be deducted from the sale price. You might be able to negotiate a higher price for your car through a private sale or even a dealer. But if you find it hard to channel your inner car salesman, then a car buying service is a quick, easy and haggle-free way to sell your car.

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