Warning over online car valuations that could leave you out of pocket

  • Warning issued after HonestJohn.co.uk readers hit with £70 fee for online car valuations
  • Readers threatened with debt collection agency if they don't pay within 30 days
  • Car owners should use free online valuation services, say Chartered Trading Standards Institute 

Car owners are being urged to be wary of high fees when seeking online car valuations. 

A number of readers have contacted HonestJohn.co.uk via Ask HJ after being hit with a £70 fee for requesting an online car valuation service from the website carrate.co.uk. The readers assumed the service was free and were shocked to receive a bill for £70, along with the car valuation report.

What’s more, they have been warned that if they don’t pay within a certain time frame an additional fee will be charged and after 30 days their debt will be transferred to a debt collection agency.

One reader said that he received the bill just before his eightieth birthday and it was “not the present I would want”.

 Keys And Money

The carrate.co.uk website promises "a valuation in seconds" on its homepage, but the £70 fee isn't disclosed until you read the small print in a pre-ticked box. 

>>>Have you incurred an unexpected fee or expense when using an online service for your car? Contact us via Ask HJ

Owen Kennedy, the lead officer on motor trade matters at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), says the website does not comply with best practice as the terms and conditions are “verging on not being readable”. 

The tick box is also not in the best position as people may be tempted to click ‘continue’ before reading it. 

Despite the service being difficult to understand, Kennedy has warned car owners that contractually they are agreeing to the terms and conditions of the service, in his opinion. 

Using Laptop 

Reader Derek Sowden is so aggrieved by the service he is refusing to pay. He informed HonestJohn.co.uk that the valuation he received was incorrect, giving him a price for a saloon car when in fact he has an estate. The report was also missing other key details such as the vehicle’s colour. 

We asked independent expert Simon Harris, head of valuations at UK Vehicle Data, what he thought of carrate.co.uk’s service. 

He said: “The language used in these valuations reads like legal jargon, and is extremely difficult to follow for those who don't have much experience of them. 

“If certain data is missing in the report, with fields remaining blank, it suggests the provider doesn't have the information and can't meet customer expectations. Some of the fields including information in the wrong place, or inaccurate information, creates unnecessary confusion for customers.”

Ordering A Car 

He added that it was “understandable” that readers would feel “aggrieved” at being asked to pay for an incomplete report and that consumers seeking a used car value need “clarity and trustworthiness” from whatever service provider they use.

CTSI’s Kennedy advised car buyers that there are “plenty” of free car valuation services available online from different providers. These include HonestJohn.co.uk, heycar, car supermarket chains and dealer-backed services. 

“It is worth trying a number of sites as different services may have different preferences about which vehicles they buy,” Kennedy said. 

HonestJohn.co.uk has sought a response from carrate.co.uk but the contact form on its website is unresponsive and the customer service email refuses to accept incoming messages.

Where can I get a free car valuation?

Free car valuation services are available online from a number of providers, including HonestJohn.co.ukheycar, car supermarket chains and dealer-backed services. 

What's the best way to sell my car?

There are a variety of ways to sell your car from online car buying websites to private sales, and selling or part-exchanging at a dealership. Read our guide on how to sell your car to understand the pros and cons of each method. 

Ask HJ

Can a car dealer change the part exchange value of my car after the contract has been signed?

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The answer to this question will depend on what agreement you strike with the dealer and the nature of the contract you sign. Usually, buried away in the terms and conditions of the sale, the dealer will reserve the right to change the price of the part-ex if they feel the value has changed due to market conditions or the condition of the vehicle has significantly changed. The dealer will most likely give you a provisional part-exchange value now, which will be adjusted to reflect its condition and market value as/when your new car arrives. If you are unhappy with this arrangement then raise it with the dealer now and ask them to confirm the trade-in value in writing, with no scope for backtracking at a later date.
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Can you advise if the rear boot spoiler I’ve fitted to my 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will reduce the price offered on a trade-in or sale?
Depends on the size and style of the spoiler. If the dealer/buyer deems it to be undesirable then they will need to remove it and will factor the fees for this in the trade-in/sale value. Likewise, if the fitment of the spoiler has scratched or damaged the paintwork then this will also affect the trade-in price.
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