How Car Dealers Value Cars

May 17, 2019 | Car Brisbane News

How are cars valued?

When it comes time to sell your car, you’re going to want to get the best price – everyone does! But not everyone knows how much their car is worth, or how cars are valued. As experts with years in the trade, we feel well equipped to give you some tips on what dealers and car buyers are looking for when valuing a car for purchase. While it might be too late for you on some of the points covered here (assuming you’re reading this at the time of wanting to sell), there will absolutely be some actionable takeaways to help you squeeze a little more out of your old car. For the points you can’t use right now, you’ll know them for next time, and can take good care of your new car in preparation for the day you come to selling it.

There are really two main categories that a car buyer is looking at when valuing a car: the condition of the vehicle (which spans a wide range of topics) and the presentation of the car at the time of valuation – i.e.: is it clean?
These two points, while quite broad when explored further, are basically everything a buyer is looking at. We’ll explore these a little deeper below and give you some advice on what you can do now if you’re planning on selling, or what you can do from the day you get your car to ensure it retains the best possible value.

Once you’re ready to sell, we’ll gladly book in an appointment to value your vehicle and take it off your hands for cash! 


What to look for when valuing a car


Kilometres travelled

This will be one of the first things most car buyers look at when it comes to valuing a car. It’s a good initial impression of what they can expect if they buy the car. It also lets them know if certain maintenance jobs should have been carried out – e.g. the infamous timing belt.

It’s obvious to say that a car with fewer kilometres on the clock is generally worth more, although, as you’ll learn, there are many more factors to take into consideration when it comes to valuing a car, and kilometres alone are not the main deciding factor.



The bodywork of the car (i.e. the exterior parts of the car – doors, bumpers, wheels, lights etc.) can play a big part in how much your car is worth. Dents, scratches, missing panels, broken light clusters, scuffed wheels etc. are all going to bring down the value of the car. Although we realise that it may well be the world’s most reliable and economical car under the scuffed body, first impressions count. More often than not, when someone wants to purchase a new car – whether from a dealer or second hand – they will hope for it to look shiny and new, not pre-beaten and tired-looking. These dents also give the impression that the car has been mistreated, leading to questions of “what else is wrong with it?”

While large dents and deep scratches will likely damage the resale value of your car, the smaller marks can often be cleaned up fairly easily and inexpensively. Using a cut and polish product can buff out small scuffs and scratches, while a good panel beater will be able to get minor dents and bumps out of most panels.

It’s worth noting that these kinds of minor wear and tear are expected on an older model vehicle, and as long as they’re not obvious, they shouldn’t have a huge impact on the resell price. You have to consider though, that the next owner may want to have these blemishes removed, and if they’re large bumps and scratches it could get pricey. Newer vehicles will likely feel the impact of marks more than the older models.


Hail damage

When it comes to valuing a car, hail damage is an unfortunately common sight for us at Cars Brisbane. Living in Queensland, we’re hit with hail all too often, and as many will have seen, it can do some very serious damage to vehicles – even completely totalling them in some cases!
Unfortunately, although out of most people’s control, hail damage will affect the resale value of your car. How much it is affected really depends on how severe and extensive the damage is.
How to avoid hail damage affecting how much your car is worth? Insure your vehicle. Make sure you have fully comprehensive insurance and be sure to check it is covered for hail damage. It can be hugely expensive to rectify hail damage, but your insurance company will save your wallet in your time of need – that’s what insurance is for.


Wheels / Tyres

What condition your wheels and tyres are in can affect how much your vehicle is worth. This becomes especially true the larger the wheels are.
Here’s a scenario:
A Porsche Cayenne SUV pulls up to the dealership: it’s a beautiful vehicle, striking bodywork and an unmistakable ‘face’. The Porsche has been kerbed repeatedly – the black wheels have lost all the paint around the rim and have huge gashes in them. The tyres are bald and have splits and chunks missing from being hit against the kerb so often. These wheels are enormous and can cost in excess of $2,000 to replace – the tyres have to be enormous to fit these gargantuan wheels (notice how wide a Porsche’s rear wheels are next time you see one) and can also cost upwards of $2,000 for a full set of the recommended Michellin tyres + fitting. If you’re not willing to pay to have these replaced (or repaired in the case of the wheels), expect that cost to be deducted from the value of the car.

Our advice is to try your best not to hit the kerbs at all, but if it’s too late and you already have some scuffs, it might be worth contacting a professional who can repair the wheels. It’s usually not bank-breaking, and a good wheel guy will have them looking brand new in a few hours. As for tyres: if they’re bald, it’s illegal. Weigh up if the cost of new tyres will be worth your expense, or if you’re happy to absorb the cost in the price you’ll get for the vehicle.


Service History

Being able to prove your car’s maintenance history will serve you well when it’s time for a car buyer valuing your car. If the car has been well looked after, and you can prove it in the log book, it’s going to make the car much more valuable. If the car has been serviced by the manufacturer consistently this will get you extra marks – while usually more expensive to do so, these mechanics are specially trained to work on your vehicle. This means they know the ins and outs, common faults, and will use the best parts produced by (or recommended by) the manufacturer to ensure the vehicle is performing as well as it should.
There is so much mystery around a car with no service history that it makes buying it a real gamble.

Since car dealers will need to get a valid roadworthy certificate before selling the car on, they want to make sure they know exactly what to expect to ensure it will pass this. A strong history of servicing will put their mind at ease somewhat.

When you buy a new car, be sure to have the log book filled in each time any maintenance work is carried out so there is an official record of each oil change, part swap and service. Ideally, you should have your services done by the manufacturer (certainly on high-end vehicles), but we understand you likely have your own mechanic whom you trust.



The windscreen is a big, expensive pane of glass, so any damage to it can be costly to fix; not to mention it will fail a roadworthy test. Unfortunately, most of the time, windscreen damage is unavoidable and unforeseen – stones from the road, hail or even birds can cause chips and cracks in your windscreen.
Our recommendation here is to make sure windscreen damage is covered on your insurance. Most insurance companies will cover windscreen repairs with a minimal excess charge but be sure to check with your provider.


Interior / Upholstery

The interior of your car plays a big part in how car buyers value cars. It’s fairly easy to manage the upkeep of the interior yourself as well – you don’t need a mechanic for this, just a vacuum cleaner and a duster.
Car valuers understand that general wear and tear will come from daily use of your vehicle, and some minor damage is bound to occur – especially on older model cars – but any very noticeable, more serious damage is going to have a negative impact on the value of your car.

A well-kept, clean and fresh-smelling (not masked with an air freshener) interior is going to bring joy to any car valuer.



It goes without saying that if your car has an oil leak, that’s a bad sign – it needs repairing. An oil leak could be something minor like a faulty oil filter, or it could be something quite serious and expensive like a cracked sump.
It’s not only oil that leaks though – radiators, brake lines or power steering fluid are just a few of the liquids that can leaks from a vehicle. The best method to avoid any of these is simply regular maintenance. Your mechanic can spot any warning signs of these before they become a problem and will let you know.


Knocks and Noises

If your car has any unusual noises coming from it, it’s usually not a good thing. When it comes to valuing a car, unwanted noises and knocks will absolutely bring down the value. Sometimes it’s more economical for you to sell without repairing the noises – in some cases, people didn’t even know the noise was there or didn’t think anything of it!
While we won’t go into every possible noise that could occur in your car, this is again a case of regular maintenance to avoid unwanted noises. Cars have a lot of moving parts, and inevitably some will fail – it’s unavoidable – but regular servicing will bring to light some parts that are looking worn, and your mechanic should flag it with you. Some are simply invisible without pulling things apart – wheel bearings for example, cannot be checked until it’s too late and are making a grinding noise.



Turning up to sell your car after a recent detailing is going to make any car buyer very happy and will potentially net you some extra cash. Too often do we see cars pull up full of rubbish and looking like they have never been washed. While this doesn’t say anything about the quality or condition of the vehicle, it does raise concerns of “what else has been neglected?”, and unfortunately first impressions count. A car that has been cleaned, detailed and kept looking smart its whole life is much more likely to have been regularly serviced and maintained than one where the owner hasn’t made time to give it a wash.

Every little helps, and spending a little cash on having your car detailed (or even doing it yourself to save the money) can make a big difference to how your car is valued.


The takeaway

You likely picked up on the main point throughout this article that is the key to getting the most out of your car. It’s simple: regular maintenance.

Look after your car and it will look after you both on the road and when it comes to selling. Be the owner who sells their car at the top end of the pricing scale, not the bottom end. We’d be happy to recommend trusted mechanics to you if you require one – give us a call.

Now you know a little more about how car buyers value cars, take these tips and prepare your vehicle before you bring it in – we’d be happy to take a look over it and give you a priceget in touch!

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