A Which? Car investigation has found that selling your car online could leave you seriously out of pocket.
We found that several online car buying firms ask sellers to agree to a legally binding contract prior to inspection, or to pay a fee even if the sale doesn’t go ahead. Which? Car advises that such companies are best avoided.
The biggest online car buying firm, Webuyanycar.com, doesn’t ask sellers to commit upfront to contracts or fees, so we decided to take a closer look at its service. Which? Car researchers offered to sell Webuyanycar.com a cross section of second-hand cars, ranging from a supermini, the Vauxhall Corsa, to a luxury car, the Mercedes E-class.
The investigators obtained online valuations from Webuyanycar.com then visited five Webuyanycar.com depots. They found that selling cars via this firm, rather than trading them in at a dealership, could leave the seller more than £1,500 out of pocket.
One Which? researcher offered to sell her Renault Modus to Webuyanycar.com. She expected an offer of around £4,000 (based on her prior research with car dealers and valuations expert CAP), so was surprised by the £3,320 valuation the site produced.
When the Renault was taken to the Webuyanycar.com depot, the offer was immediately cut to £3,190 (as the odometer had tipped from 30,000 miles to 31,000 in the week between getting the online valuation and taking the car in).
The Webuyanycar.com employee then pointed out a number of tiny imperfections on the car’s bodywork that he said would cost a total of £640 to fix. This amount was also knocked off the offered price, reducing it to £2,550.
‘Pressure to sell’
When the researcher refused to accept this price, she felt the Webuyanycar.com employee started to pile on the pressure. Although the £640 for bodywork repairs was eventually waived, taking the price back up to £3,190, the researcher felt the Webuyanycar.com’s employee’s tactics were so pushy that she felt in danger of leaving the depot without her car.
Three out of the five Which? Car researchers felt they were offered very low prices and had experienced ‘pressure buying’ tactics at Webuyanycar.com depots.
Although trade-in prices are often higher than ‘book’ price (the likely price of a car at auction), the experience of Which? researchers was that Webuyanycar.com’s depot prices were also lower than the CAP book price.
The consumer watchdog advises that people use this company only as a last resort. Part-exchanging your old car, or even selling it at auction (usually the least cost-effective method of selling), could be more profitable.
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, says: ‘Next time you get Webuyanycar.com’s repetitive jingle stuck in your head, remember: just because they will buy any car doesn’t mean they’re the best people to sell to. Think carefully before selling to an online car buying firm or you could be left seriously out of pocket.’
Webuyanycar.com told Which? that it doesn’t always offer the best price, but it does offer a quick and convenient service to sellers who need to realise the cash value of their car without going to the trouble of selling privately.
Legally binding contracts
Three firms – Wewillbuyyourcar.com, Sellcar-uk.com and Sellthecar.com – insist that sellers enter into a legally binding contract to sell the car at the agreed price after the online valuation. If they find extra faults they may knock the price down, but sellers won’t be obliged to sell.
Three online selling websites – Sellcar.net, Sellcar-uk.com and Webuyanycars.com – charge a fee even if the sale does not go ahead.
Which? Car advises sellers not to enter into any contract prior to their car being inspected, and suggests sellers avoid companies that charge fees (unless they are totally happy with all the terms and conditions).
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