The webuyanycar TV advert is one of the most irritating, but memorable, we’ve seen in recent years. You know how it went….we buy any car dot com any make any model etc etc etc….. They attempted, and largely succeeded, in making consumers believe that their approach to buying your old car is more approachable and open than the traditional alternatives like selling privately or part-exchanging it with a car dealer.
This must be a good thing, surely? After all, selling your car is one of the most stressful transactions you will ever be involved in and anything that makes it easier has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?
The webuyanycar promise, that it will buy any car they have given a valuation on, sounds attractive and straightforward. So attractive and straightforward, in fact, that it has reduced the process to just three easy steps:
Getting an online valuation from webuyanycar is very quick and very easy. Testing it by entering the details for a 2006 VW Polo, I was asked for the car’s mileage, number of owners, and service history. After a couple of further personal admin details like name, email address, and my phone number I got an immediate valuation for the car of £3,110.
So, getting an initial quotation is quick and easy – and also rather shocking, because a quick glance at Autotrader.co.uk showed that the asking price for similar cars was between £1,400 and £2,400 more than the valuation webuyanycar gave me for mine…
In the interests of fairness, I should point out that the asking price of a car may bear little resemblance to what it is worth, and while the asking price for comparable Polos was between £4,500 and £5,500, they might not be worth that amount and might well sell for less.
So, to gain an independent valuation I turned to one of the United Kingdom’s most trusted car valuation websites, Parkers.co.uk, and entered the same details.
The basic valuation – which is free; more detailed and specific valuations are available for a small fee – gave a range of prices, the lowest of which was £4,155 for a private sale of a car in poor condition, still a thousand pounds more than you would get from webuyanycar. The trade-in value of the car was shown as £4,730, a price that would normally be seen as the lowest an owner of a car in good condition could expect to receive if they part-exchanged it with a car dealer.
So, while obtaining an initial valuation is very easy, it might be quite low. Perhaps the valuation will be higher when webuyanycar see the car in person? Time to book an appointment.
Stage two, booking the appointment, is just as quick and easy as stage one. I was offered a choice of appointments over the following days at my nearest branch of webuyanycar. Really, it couldn’t have been easier.
Ten out of ten for stage two then.
Stage three, getting webuyanycar to actually buy your car for the price they give on the initial valuation might just prove to be the most difficult part of the whole process.
The Internet is full of tales of unhappy customers who turned up for their appointment and were then kept waiting for hours before being offered considerably less for their car than they were expecting.
So rife was the problem that the Office of Fair Trading investigated webuyanycar in 2011. They found that up to 96 percent of customers were offered less than the initial valuation, with many facing a shortfall of hundreds of pounds. Yes, you read that right, just four out of every hundred sellers got the price they were expecting.
One whistleblower alleges that this isn’t a coincidence. He presented the Sunday Mirror with emails that he claimed showed that a 28 percent reduction in the car’s valuation was the target, and that knocking the price offered down by 16 percent was “not enough”.
The average reduction in valuations across the group was around 18 percent, with the highest being a branch on the East Coast who managed to reduce the figure by a staggering 47 percent – on average.
How do webuyanycar justify reducing the price by so such a large amount? It seems that they haggle and argue over the smallest stonechip, scuff, and fault; one undercover reporter working for Which, who experienced the process first-hand, said that: ‘It felt like game playing to see what they could get away with.’
Other tricks that disgruntled customers claim webuyanycar played included keeping them waiting for hours when they arrived for their appointment, relying on the fact that the customer’s new car purchase may have been arranged already, and even piling on pressure when the second valuation is refused nby the car owner.
Where does that leave the private motorist who wants to get the best possible price for their car with the minimum of inconvenience?
Although webuyanycar say they are aware of a few isolated problems in the early days, and claim to have tightened up their procedures since then, our example shows that you are unlikely to get the best possible price from them, even if they do honour the initial valuation when you arrive at their depot.
So, perhaps webuyanycar hasn’t revolutionized the secondhand car market in the way they claim or would like you to think. Their TV ads might be catchy, they might appear playful, and they might employ James Corden as their public voice but our advice remains the same as it has always been; make sure that you get an independent, third-party valuation of your car and then balance the convenience of how you sell it with the price you will achieve.
Selling your car privately is, and always has been, the best way to get the most money for your car for the majority of owners. Sure, it might be more hassle, but you will probably be left with more money in your pocket in the end.
The alternatives, including part-exchanging it with a car dealer or selling it at auction, are easier and less lucrative than selling privately but are still likely to be a more satisfying and rewarding experience than dealing with webuyanycar.