Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

How to trade your classics

Wheeler Dealing Published: 13th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

How to trade your classics
How to trade your classics
How to trade your classics
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Cars For Sale Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Can you sell your classic like a modern and part exchange it against another car – and is it wise to? We find out

One of the most frequent questions we’re asked here (apart from where’s that picture of the handsome editor gone-ed) is why doesn’t Classic Cars For Sale publish classic car price guides like some other mags? The answer is simple - classic cars do not have ‘set’ values! Although there are accepted price ‘brackets’, due to its specialist nature a classic can well be unique in its history, provenance and condition and so its final value is more down to what another enthusiast is willing to pay for it at that time. Enthusiasts know this only too well and so generally sell their classics privately for the best price, but this can take time and effort. What happens when you need to move your coveted collectible on quickly for some reason? Can a classic be sold via the normal motor trade network - and surely a classic car dealer is the best place to sell yours on to? Posing as typical buyers we punted a classic around the trade to see what we could get for it. When we last tried this experiment some three years ago it was with a different car and perhaps a different climate because there’s no doubt that the motor trade, along with much of the retail sector, is having a tough time of late. But would that work to our advantage we wondered?

The trade in

When we tried this analysis before we punted around one of the most popular classics around; a chrome bumper MGB GT. This time we used our project Triumph TR7 and the reaction could not have been more different! With an MG, everybody knows them and most like ‘em, but the TR7 has always carried a stigma that 30 years on remains. Our car is a better than average example. Purchased from TR7 specialists Robsport International based in Hertfordshire (01763 262263), it’s an early model essentially sound in wind and limb although a year stored outside has taken its toll - nothing untoward mind. It’s had just four owners from new (two being us and Robsport) and shows less than 50,000 miles on the clock, which could well be legit given how tight the car feels. What’s it worth? Here’s the difficult part because these unfashionable TRs can sell for buttons yet really nice cars are starting to bust the £4000 bracket. We reckon ours must be worth around £1500 - but what did the trade think?

General dealers

We visited a number of independent dealers, you know, typical high street emporiums that deal with anything and everything. Naturally the TR7 isn’t included in normal trade price guides so dealers needed to go on gut feelings. The first port of call was a conventional garage based in Essex selling a wide range of cars; our interest was in anything that posed future classic status. Showing curiosity in a ‘51 plate’ Mk4 Golf GTi (which has to be one?) the mature one-man outfit remembered TR7s well, gave a chuckle and offered between £500 to £1000 depending upon how serious we really were. Next on our list was a typical prestige specialist, which are sprouting up everywhere it seems. This particular one majored on BMWs and Mercs, but a sexy silver Audi Cabriolet on a T plate for £7995 caught our eye. With a red hood and matching leather trim this cabrio looked the part and had a service history to back it up. We were up for it but the dealer didn’t seem too enthusiastic about our trade-in, suggesting a private sale may be more appropriate but when pushed reckoned £800 as starter.

Verdict: We didn’t expect miracles… and didn’t get any either although having said that, we were sure that a deal could have been struck with the dealers we visited if we tried hard enough. No dealer was interested in driving the car and only one would have retailed it on the forecourt.

Main dealers

What about a main dealer? These large, posh outlets cost thousands of pounds a week just to run and so rely upon healthy sales to survive. And with main agents having a tough time right now, surely this was the time to strike it lucky? First stop off was a Peugeot agent where we ran the rule over a very good 206 CC on a 03 plate priced at £7000. The trio of sales staff we spoke to were very friendly and all came out of their nice warm showroom to look at our TR7, albeit more out of curiosity we reckon and remarked that occasionally they do take classics as trade-ins - a Caterham being the last one. Looking on eBay for a guide, a grand was offered. This sounded fairly reasonable until we discovered the dealer was actually running a special part-exchange promotion where £1000 was promised anyway - even for rusty non runners! Popping next door to a Renault dealer looking for a hot Clio or Megane produced similar results while a Saab agent is still looking at making an offer as we went to press…

Verdict: It depends who you deal with and the price of the new car, but don’t expect miracles. On the other hand, main agents rely upon shifting metal and happily take a ‘hit’ on an unpopular trade-in, thanks to the incentives and bonuses from the carmakers to take up the slack. The flip side is that you are invariably paying top dollar on the car you want to buy anyway and naturally it will depreciate more than a classic. But none said they wouldn’t take the car in a deal.


On the fact of it, you should be able to strike a better deal with a proper classic car specialist. Due to the geographical reasons, we contacted many companies by phone only and so allowances have to be made. For this reason it’s not fair to name the dealers we spoke to, although a pattern certainly emerged: They just didn’t want our TR! Well that’s not strictly true - but we didn’t stumble across a classic car specialist that really wanted to take it as a trade-in. This was even more galling considering there are some pricey TR7s for sale in our mag! Cold calling a wide spectrum of specialists for a sub £10,000 classic (this included Stags, Lotus Eclats, Lancia Fulvias, MGBs) the response was muted and again £1000 seemed to be the marker, which was disappointing considering some of the cars we were interested in were - shall we say - pretty premium priced. Of course, the main reason for the lack of interest in our trade in is the fact that it’s a TR7 - anddealers said so! But taken as a whole we would have thought a classic car dealer would have offered more sympathetic valuations given that the customer could well become a valued client for many more years to come?

Verdict: Our choice of car wasn’t ideal to be fair, but it was still a surprise that specialists refused to part-exchange. We intend to repeat the study at a later date with a more popular car to see if the trend is representative. But it proves right what we said at the very start; that classic cars are worth only what somebody is willing to pay at that time. And it’s best to sell yours in our classifieds!

  • Ten top trade-in tips


  • Present the car in its best light. Even dealers will be impressed with a car in good fettle that requires little in time, expense and effort to retail and so offer you a better price

  • A thorough professional valet can add £££s. Car care experts can transform a tired looking car (see our feature in this issue!) by using top products and some crafty tricks of the trade. You can do the same at home…

  • Keep all the documents up to date. A sheath of old MOTs, a folder full of spent tax discs and a pile of invoices all point to a cared for car

  • Shop around. Classic cars are harder to sell in the general trade than a modern and as a result, many dealers will shy away from them and offer a price they KNOW you won’t accept! On theother hand you may stumble across a trader who knows and understands old cars and is far more realistic in valuations and terms

  • Sell the car with a current MOT and a bit of ‘rent’ (road tax) left on it. This will help re-sales enormously. If the car has only a few months MOT remaining, obtain a new one (keep old one)

  • If needed, have the car serviced and sorted out before sale. Apart from showing that the car has some form of service record (and many oldies don’t), it will show careful ownership - i.e. if the small things have been attended to then the major items won’t have been neglected either

  • Attend to any small jobs that cost little to fix but can add pounds to a car’s perceived value. Things like missing trim, tatty/loose wiring and so on are simple to rectify yet can change the whole perception of the car

  • Establish a realistic value for your classic car. Our adverts in Classic Cars For Sale provide a good barometer to a model’s real world price (and remember dealers will always ask more). Bear in mind however that at the end of the day a classic car is only worth what a buyer is prepared to pay at that time for whatever reason

  • Set the price you are offered against what the car may cost in any major repairs to sell it in an open market. If, for instance, the engine or transmission is past it (such as a busted overdrive, for example), a private buyer will usually spot this and demand a reduction. However your average modern car trader won’t be too bothered - because he probably won’t test drive it anyway! Plus your car will be ‘outed’ to auction or to another smaller trader

  • Remember that all dealers - be they modern, main or classic - factor in the cost of a trade-in allowance on the car they are selling. There is always room for bartering and manoeuvring because if a dealer wants your custom they will offer a deal. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s a fair one or not!

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Cars For Sale Magazine and save over 25%

Free Downloads