James Ruppert: An alternative to the price guide
Usually I don’t really know; I gave up the trade books long ago and spent the money I saved on actual cars. That’s because prices can be a rigidly defined area of uncertainty. They’re mostly guesses based on what the fleet market and industry people think they should roughly be. One reader wants to buy a price guide but can’t and refuses to pay one-off online fees. The thing is, used car prices are all around us: we just have to go and take a look.
First of all, I went for a walk around my local car lots to find out what a petrol Fiat 500 costs, and the answer is that the starting price is just under £3000 for a 2008 or 2009 1.2 Lounge with 70,000-80,000 miles plus a six-month warranty and a fresh MOT.
The Dacia Sandero is regularly trotted out as the cheapest new car you can buy, so what will a used one cost at my nearby main dealer? A 1.0 SCe Ambiance from 2018 with a modest 15,000 mileage is £6995. That’s the price of peace of mind, and the variations around nearby dealers are explained by lower or higher mileages – but I’m sure you knew that already. It’s worth playing dealers off between each other.
Car supermarkets don’t do deals, supposedly, and many charge an administration fee to process your purchase. Their prices aren’t always too reasonable and you need to cross-reference them with others’. That’s how I discovered that a BMW 116d Sport automatic with 75,000 miles up for £11,000 was a tad expensive.
It’s all about compare and contrast. I know that isn’t as simple as looking at a book, but these are real prices. The same goes for private sales, which can vary hugely from give- away to unrealistic past dealer level.