So having discovered the car you really want... and need... how do you establish if the advertised price is a fair one given the condition ?

The trade uses either Glass's Guide - referred to in the trade as Mr Bottle - or the CAP Guide - the Black Book - both of which are carefully guarded within the trade so don't expect to get a peek over the dealer's shoulder or to be able to buy one in your local newsagent, you won't. Both are prepared by averaging actual sale prices of thousands of used cars across the entire country each week, 6 million used car sales every year remember, are very accurate and frequently updated.  

However, while neither of those 2 tomes are accessible to you there are now a number of guides which have appeared in the last few years to fill that void, are  available in most newsagents and do fill that gap very well, usually for just £2-3 pounds each. They work by sampling prices across the whole used car business and auctions and are generally pretty accurate but as their sources vary so they can vary considerably in many respects not least pricing so often a consensus view across the 2 or 3 market leaders will give the best understanding of the value of your chosen car.

It is worth noting that some specialise in either newer or older - popular classic - cars so do check with the cover details that you get the right ones.

Most offer similar information with prices for 3 or 4 different conditions of each model from A1 - best - to Trade - worst - and the 2 extremes of the range can vary considerably.

Buying or selling don't delude yourself about which group your chosen car falls into, if it's genuinely A1, absolutely pristine, expect to pay the top price for it with no or little room for haggling. Conversely if it's pretty tatty there should be a much lower starting price and more opportunity for haggling but bear in mind you are now taking a greater risk and testing your know-how more.

Bear in mind the best dealer deals are always with no trade-in or "swapper". Don't expect the dealer to give you a huge discount and maximum trade-in, dealers are not charitable organisations, they are trying to make a living.

Abstracted from the book “Buying a Used Car” © G Benge 1997-2007

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