I'm trying to get a handle on used car pricing and the difference between clean and average.

In my case I'm looking at a used VW Golf that looks like it has a scrape from a column in a parking garage. There's no dent, but it looks like they tried sanding/painting over it so the color doesn't match in the sunlight. It's a little hard to see in the photo, but it looks like not only did they sand the spot, they also tried spray painting a similar color over the whole area so it has a matte finish (about the area of a forearm).

I'm thinking it should be around $400 in value in my mind - is that fair? I'm asking because I'd probably resell the car in 2 years time and want to adjust the value appropriately so I don't lose out too much when I sell it.

Here's a photo:

Car damage

How much should I discount/haggle off the "clean" value of the car for something like that? Does that mean the car is "clean" or "average" in terms of blue book or Edmunds TMV value?

  • 1
    Take the car to a body shop. In the US body shops usually do free estimates with the hope of courting your business. Use the estimate to see how much the seller is willing to bargain. Splitting the cost seems like a pretty fair way to handle it. Having said that, if I were the seller, I wouldn't negotiate based on body damage, I'd just wait for a less scrupulous buyer. Sep 15 '16 at 13:20
  • @MooseLucifer exactly what I was thinking haha. Why negotiate when you can wait for someone who pays less attention to small details?
    – Dalton D
    Sep 15 '16 at 13:32
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    Important question
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 15 '16 at 13:44
  • It's a 2010 year model Sep 15 '16 at 21:31

You could speak to a bodyshop, get the price for a repair and attempt to haggle that off the price. However, you could approach it a different way. If the damage has been done to the vehicle, it says something about the previous owner. If the repair has been poorly executed it says something else about the previous owner. My angle would be "Look, I have to sort out the mess that's been done by the previous owner who clearly couldn't drive and couldn't paint. I wonder what other poorly repaired damage is lurking that isn't staring me in the face. I am interested in the car but I'd only give you X for it because I have to sort that mess out plus whatever else I can't see."

Surely the correct answer to the question "How much discount...?" when buying a used car is; As much as possible. Remember, you can always walk away and find another car for sale but the seller has no option but to sell this one. If they can't sell it to you, how long before another buyer comes along.

It may be that I'm ruthless when it comes to buying cars but I'd quite happily, with a clear conscience, use any signs or damage followed by poor repairs to haggle as big a chunk of the sellers asking price as I can.

EDIT Also bear in mind that Volkswagen antiperforation warranty states the car must be regularly inspected and that all repairs meet their standards. It's probably safe to say that the repair pictured would void that warranty. Another bargaining chip...

  • Excellent answer. Excellent.
    – anonymous2
    Sep 15 '16 at 14:43
  • "You can always walk away and find another car" is not really accurate unless you have excess budget, in which case you could afford to just pay to have to cosmetic damage fixed after you buy. There's no unlimited supply of cars that match your needs/preference/price range/etc. in a small enough radius of you that you don't spend more on transportation than the price difference. Sep 15 '16 at 16:44
  • There doesn't need to be an unlimited supply of cars, there only need to be one or two. The car pictured is a Mk6 Golf. Today, within 40 miles of my house, there are 126 of these cars for sale. Everyday, more cars become advertised. Unless you are buying something very specific like a Lancia Delta S4 Stradale Abarth (of which there are 5 wordwide) then, believe me, there will always be another car. Sep 16 '16 at 9:12

To a large extent, it depends what the car is worth to you. For myself, a little scratch in the side of the car doesn't bother me at all. Sure, it will be a problem for rust later (maybe). But at that point I'll probably have other scratches in other places, so a rust job will be in normal order.

However, judging from your post, I'm guessing that you are more meticulous about your vehicles than I. Even so, I would judge that 400 is a bit high to negotiate off. I'd start more like 200 or 250 and if he wants to cross negotiate, go for it.

Again, it's your call to make. It depends how much value the scratch takes off the car for you, and how much the seller is willing to negotiate off. It also depends what the clean value of the car is, and, of course, what country's dollar you're talking about.

  • sure, the 200-250 seems reasonable for the scrape - the part that bothered me more was the spray paint over the surrounding area making the paint there have a darker matte finish (it extends halfway to the gas cap) - makes it look more suspicious. It's a bit hard to see but you can see the color difference in the photo a bit Sep 15 '16 at 13:27
  • Do you suspect old removed rust underneath or significant metal thinning? If so, I agree it's more valuable.
    – anonymous2
    Sep 15 '16 at 13:37
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    My attitude would be; these cars come with a 10+ year bodywork warranty but they have to be inspected. Has that horrible repair been approved or is that the bodywork warranty void? (Followed by a request for a big discount) Sep 15 '16 at 14:39
  • @MonkeyBonkey: If you know what you're doing, you can probably remove the spray paint with minimal damage to the real paint using some light super-fine sandpaper and rubbing compound. Sep 15 '16 at 16:46

Kelley Blue Book typically has four categories that a car can fall into: Fair, Good, Very Good, and Excellent in increasing order of car condition.

The Very Good rating details these points as the major characteristics of a car that is in Very Good condition:

•Has had minor paint touch-up and/or bodywork

•Requires minimal reconditioning

•The engine compartment is clean and free of leaks

•Is free of rust

•The body and interior have minimal signs of wear or visible defects

•Wheels are flawless

•All tires match and have 75% or more of tread remaining

•Has a clean title history and will pass a safety and smog inspection

•Most service records are available

With that being said, it's obvious that the car has HAD minor paint touch-up and/or bodywork. The other points are all things that you'll have to look at as well. If the car is completely free of leaks, runs well, has no rust, a good interior, decent tires, and has been serviced regularly then I wouldn't take more than $100-$200 off of the asking price since the car is a very nice unit overall.

If you really want to haggle though, a lot of bodyshops will give you quotes on how much they think a proper repair will cost (edit *just noticed that MooseLucifer mentioned this before me, kudos). You can then use that to your bargaining advantage. Good luck in purchasing a car!

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