While dealer price guides do exist, they are far from secret. Nor do they list prices for individual vehicles.

Instead, they provide a starting point from which an experienced person can calculate an approximate value based on things like condition, kilometres travelled and ‘market forces’ – something the average consumer simply won’t have the knowledge to do.

But there are other useful sources of information that the average consumer can use. This fact sheet looks at the common sources of price information, their limitations and how to interpret what you find. 

But be warned, if you’re looking for a simple DIY formula for determining the value of a specific vehicle, you won’t find it here – or anywhere else – because it simply doesn’t exist. 

Sources of price information

Apart from dealer guides, other sources include a variety of web sites, motoring clubs, registered valuers and various magazines and newspapers.
If you need a value that is accurate or that will stand up to scrutiny in a court of law (damages claims, divorce settlements etc.), you have no alternative but to employ the services of a qualified vehicle valuer. The valuer will need to see the vehicle and will charge for the service. Check the Yellow Pages under Valuers – General for one in your area.

Market value for insurance purposes can only be obtained from the insurer in question. 

RACQ

We offer two options. One is the on-line RACQ Car Price Guide and the other is by phone, email or mail through our Motoring Advice services. 

The on-line price guide is the least accurate of the two as it can’t account for things like distance travelled, accessories fitted and the type of transaction i.e. dealer sale, private sale, trade-in etc. It will provide a fairly broad price range based on a dealer sale and you will need to determine where the vehicle fits in relation to that range, based on the type of transaction, distance travelled, equipment / accessories fitted and your assessment of its condition. 

Remember:

  • private sale prices will generally be lower than those asked by a dealer 
  • trade-in values will also be lower as the dealer will factor in the costs of preparing the vehicle for resale, providing warranty cover and a margin for profit.

The information offered by RACQ’s Motoring Advice service is sourced from a dealer’s guide and considers the type of transaction, distance travelled and in some cases the accessories fitted. Like the on-line price guide, a range will be given and based on your assessment of its condition, you will need to determine where the vehicle falls in relation to that range. 

Important points:

  • prices given are based on a national average and can’t account for the effects of local market conditions.  
  • nor will these figures stand legal scrutiny.

Newspapers

Local newspapers can be a better source of vehicle price information than many appreciate. They have the advantage of listing many vehicles for sale in one place, and often in the region in which you are shopping. If the model you’re interested in is advertised in reasonable numbers, you should be able to determine a typical selling price range with reasonable accuracy. Other useful information often contained in newspaper advertisements includes distance travelled and options fitted. 

Important points:

  • newspapers will only provide the ‘asking price’. The actual selling price may be lower. 
  • many newspaper adverts are from dealers.  Dealer asking prices are usually higher than those of private sellers.

Magazines

Many magazines advertising cars for sale are aimed at enthusiasts and collectable vehicle buyers and can be a source of price information for vehicles that may otherwise be difficult to put a price on. These publications may be useful where no other information exists. But again they will only provide the asking price – the selling price may be quite different.

Other web sites and on line services

Various web sites offer vehicle price information, either free on line or for a fee. The limitations already mentioned apply to this source as well.

Factors that influence vehicle values

Condition

This is probably one of the most important issues affecting a vehicle’s value.  But it’s also one of the most difficult to quantify.  Dealer guides attempt to define condition. However, these descriptions are unlikely to be too meaningful to the average person.  Unfortunately, this is an aspect you’ll need to make your own judgement about.

Market forces

Market forces can be one of the most difficult things to factor in when considering a vehicle’s value as it requires a sound knowledge of the market in the area, which the average buyer just won’t have. For instance, a glut or a shortage of a particular type of vehicle or its popularity (or lack thereof) in a particular area can have a considerable effect on its value. It’s very much a case of supply and demand. If demand exceeds supply, the price will go up, but if supply exceeds demand the price can go down.

Dealer vs private sales

Dealer asking prices are generally higher than for a private sale as dealers must cover their costs and make a profit to stay in business. These overheads include advertising, making the vehicle ready for sale, the cost of providing warranty cover, rental of the premises etc. However private sellers can have a distorted view of a vehicle’s value, which could work either for or against the buyer. So it’s important to have a reasonable idea of what similar vehicles are selling for.

Trade in prices

When buying a new or used car, it’s easy to focus on getting the best trade-in price possible for your old car. However, trade-in values can be manipulated. So rather than focusing on the trade-in figure, it’s more important to focus on the change-over cost i.e. how much will it cost to get out of the old car and into the new one.

Distance travelled

The distance a vehicle has travelled has a great bearing on its value.  A popular dealer’s guide suggests that privately used vehicle travel around 15,000km each year while fleet or business vehicles travel around 15,000 km to 25,000 km each year.  Obviously there will be exceptions to this with some travelling either more or less.

Private and grey imports

Privately imported and used imports (also known as grey imports) can be less valuable than models that were supplied new to the Australian market. However certain performance and collectable cars can attract high prices. In many cases this is not so much due to the vehicle’s intrinsic value, but to its perceived value to the buyer.  It can be difficult to put an accurate value on these vehicles unless there is a history of local sales.  

Optional and accessory equipment

Some options and accessories can add to the value of a used vehicle while others won’t. Generally, optional equipment such as air conditioning, automatic transmission and power steering will have an ongoing value, while things like paint protection and window tinting will add little if any value. Dealer guides often use a sliding scale to determine the values of important accessories or equipment. These values reduce over time to the point where they will have little or no effect on the vehicle’s value.

Modifications

Modified vehicles are generally only attractive to certain buyers, therefore the effect of a modification on the vehicle’s value can vary considerably. To other buyers, significantly modified vehicles may be far less attractive. Often the value of a modified vehicle is related to the buyer’s perception rather than the vehicle’s actual value or the cost of the modification.