I think most countries have some kind of official or well know appraisal organizations which give official book values for vehicles which are used by the general public as a guideline for buying and selling, and by insurance companies for calculating payouts when cars are wrecked.

Let's say I want to sell a older car ( say 15 to 20 years old ) according to it's book value. What kind of assumptions go into that book value? Does it assume that everything in the car is basically in perfect condition, just old, or does it assume the normal kind of wear and tear a well maintained car of that age would have, like small oil leaks, worn out shocks, minor dings and dent or slightly faded or oxidized paint, etc...

If I'm trying to sell such a car according to book value, what are my obligations as far as pointing out what I would consider normal wear and tear in my region? I say in my region, because the typical practice here is that people do the absolute minimum as cheaply as possible to keep the vehicle street legal. This goes back of course to what assumptions go into the book value. Do I need to point out every little problem or potential problem I'm aware of, or can I ethically simply say that the car is in good condition for it's age and list the specific repairs I've done to it?

Where do you draw the line between trying to be a salesman, since of course you want to sell your car for as much as you can get, and making sure you are not being dishonest?

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    Appraisal organizations are a starting point, but market value is much more important. Having recently battled insurance (in the US) after my car was totaled, the claims agents will consider market value as well as Kelly Blue Book or NADA appraisals. While they prefer to use more official sources (Autotrader in my case) I finally accepted an offer that was based on examples I found on CraigsList. To toot my own horn, the final settlement was 144% of their original offer :D May 26, 2016 at 13:33
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    Maybe insurers are more customer-friendly in the UK, but after having my fairly old car totaled, the insurer specifically asked about any recent expenses to take into account in their valuation, for example one-off major repairs such as clutch replacement, or relatively expensive and long-lasting "consumable" items like new brake disks, a full set of new tires, etc. This didn't include normal regular servicing costs, of course. Their position (as stated on the phone) was that it was cheaper in the long run for them to make a fair initial offer and retain a happy customer, rather than haggle.
    – alephzero
    May 26, 2016 at 14:33

3 Answers 3


Usually the book value is actually a range of values, and your car will fall somewhere within that range depending on it's condition, mileage and extras.

If it's only a single value, then I'd expect that to be a mid-range value, so a car in average condition with average mileage and the expected wear and tear for it's age.

A lot of it depends on the laws and customs in your region, but here I'd expect the seller to declare anything that is broken or non-working, but wouldn't expect to hear much about the wear and tear aspects, as that's taken as given. I'd also take anything I see with a fairly large pinch of salt, as 'minor' problems often turn out to the symptoms of major ones the seller doesn't want to mention. I'd also take the price into consideration when viewing - if the car is at the top of the range I'd expect to pay for it's age, I'd expect it to be in really good condition, whereas a cheaper car I'd expect to see more wear and tear.

Have a look at other adverts for similar cars in similar condition, and base your price on them.

Also, never lie about something - if you get a direct question from a potential buyer, don't try to cover it up.

Personally, I hate selling cars, and I tend to be very honest about them, which probably means I get less for them than someone less ethical, but at least it means I can sleep at night...


Around here we have Kelly Blue Book. It will list values in perfect, good, fair, or poor condition.

perfect - low mileage, minimal wear and tear.
good - this is the category most well cared for vehicles will fall into
fair - runs and drives, has some cosmetic of mechanical issues
poor - unreliable, major issues

When selling, you don't need to point out everything, just hit on the main points that are outside of the norm. Anything broken or changed from the factory configuration should be mentioned.


So far as the UK is concerned, I would say you definitely need to declare anything which makes the car illegal - but most sensible buyers who want a car to use (rather than one to break up for spare parts) would not consider buying an old used car without a recent MOT (safety) test certificate in any case. In the UK, the MOT certificate may list items that "require attention, in the opinion of the inspector" (e.g. tires close to the legal wear limit) even though the car actually passed the test.

As for anything else, so long as you answer the buyer's questions honestly, it is legally the buyer's responsibility to check the condition of the car. Unless you are a dealer and offering a formal guarantee, you are selling it "as seen". Telling lies about its condition is illegal, but you don't have to say anything at all unless you are asked.

A record of the car's service history will add value. In the UK, if you have been a regular customer of a "large" car repairer business, they will often print you a complete copy of all the work they have done on the car in the past for free (or at a nominal cost), if you have lost the original paperwork.

If something happens (e.g. an accident or a new mechanical defect) that changes the condition of the car after the seller agreed to buy it but before the ownership is transferred, you should certainly tell the seller about that, and either let the seller walk away, re-negotiate the price, or pay for repairs to restore the car to the "as seen" condition yourself.

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