Sales Talk : The Part Ex Expectation.

Uncovering the myths and incidents behind those showroom windows with a light hearted view!

When it comes to part exchange valuations, everyone considers their car to be top book and mint condition. Of course, it’s a salemans job to give as little away as possible, but you would be amazed at what people expect their unwanted (and sometimes undesireable) cars to be worth.


The Citroen ZX - One of the few cars to make drowning in cold gravy seem a better option!

The gold plated Citroen ZX:

Lets be brutally honest here folks, unless your old car is fit, clean, tidy and under 5 years old – its scrap. Well in a dealer environment it is, your average Vauxhall dealer simply could not and would not retail your 8 year old well worn Vectra. The smart money is had by cracking a deal for no part ex and offloading your clunker elsewhere privately, no matter how much AutoGlym you pour on or how many magic tree air fresheners you hide under the seats (yep seen it all) your doom blue 1.8 Club with non working air con is worth….. tuppence – even if the first owner was the Parish Vicar. But then again, dealers will compensate with a sometimes favourable discount.

The usual motoring inkies will give you a rule of thumb valuation, but this tends to reflect private selling figures, so don’t be offended if your dealer says he wont take it if you happen to own an ageing Mondeo with a flapping rear bumper – the best you will probably achieve is the finance deposit and not a penny more. To be honest, I find it a bitter pill to swallow when I hear the moaning and groaning of some people when it comes to what offers dealers have given potential customers. But you or I would be the first person to kick off when someone offers us a few bob less for our house, by muttering ‘cheeky ba****ds” – am I right or wrong?

Yes, I have sold for a living, and this includes cars, trucks, buses, coaches and even retail spares and accessories. There aren’t many areas of the automotive trade I haven’t skimmed across at one point or another in my working life, and the point of these articles is not to defend the salesman. The main point of my ramblings is to educate those who are unaware how the game plays or give some balance to the scales of injustice that often occurs in the motor trade. Far from being perfect, I have often been economic with the truth when it comes to making a sale, but that’s life, but to some out there who think ALL sales staff are cheating sharks – read on.

Of course, I know many a bent sales exec and I am pleased to say many have since either been flushed out or given in. Consumer law today with FSA guidelines & various codes of conduct HAS made things more transparent and secure for the customer. Who has had to go through the needs and requirement disclaimer recently? It’s a boring task, but it’s all there to protect YOU, the customer, against financial malpractice or hardship in the form of Asset Protection, GAP insurance and so on. Should people be interested, there will be tales of dodgy traders, but Joe Public can often be more bent and twisted than a bowl of spaghetti.

The customer thinks the dealers car is worth less and his part ex worth more, but from a dealers perspective, its totally the opposite. So working to those analogies, are either of us wrong? – No! It’s a simple game of wits or battle of the strongest. So with this in mind, let’s kick off with a customer I dealt with some time back who was looking for a new MG ZS looking to trade in his elderly knacker…

January is normally a very bad time for new car sales, and working on a cold Sunday in this month is the closest thing to death by boredom a person can get – aside a weekend in Rhyl. That Sunday afternoon a young couple were seen peering through the window of my demonstrator ZS 120+. We would usually take turns dealing with walk in customers, but my colleague Gary was busy with a punter, so I popped outside, pressed flesh and introduced myself. A bit of probing revealed they were not really looking to buy there and then, but would do for the right car at the right price – fair enough, so they were invited in out of the cold and a brace of coffee’s given, to thaw them through.

They had a part exchange which was an ageing Citroen ZX Volcane (the sporty one), it was as old as the Chilterns and a bit leggy on the mileage, but even though the Citroen ZX in general was even more dull than a blown light bulb, it was in stunning condition and to defend the Citroen, they marked a turning point in build quality. The guy was obviously a petrol head owing to the fact everything worked and was like new, and I kind of feel a bit guilty when it comes to banding figures about with old cars in super nice order as you know you will be poles apart when it comes to putting a value to them. Even after stating I would bowl him over for a no part ex deal, he persisted in asking for the value.

The MG ZS - Forget the colostomy bag looks, even the entry 120 models are superb to throw about!

This is where the road often gets bumpy, I knew it was worth about £600 tops at best, but I stuck my neck on the block and offered £800. The guy went ballistic and started cribbing on about how immaculate it was, how it had full service history, how he had spent over £400 on new tyres… and so on. So I invited him to take a look at the used car section and see how many ZXs we had, let alone K reg vehicles. He stated at how he been offered a grand from a mate, ‘take it” I said, and I promised him a deal so good, he would be like a small child on Christmas Eve. All to no avail, he had some crazy idea his car was worth £1500 because of the condition – really?

All of a sudden his Citroen seemed the best car on the planet, and after some heated discussions about how we would offer him trade value but a good discount, he was still having none of this. He was wrongly transfixed with what we were giving him for his car and NOT what the overall price to change was – the critical factor in ANY car purchase. His girlfriend could see the point and even tried to arbitrate, but he was well and truly on fire and eventually my colleague, who was now finished with his customer, came over and said ‘well sir…  if your car is that good, you keep yours and we will keep ours” – and off they popped!

They say every car tells a story, and the above ending is true, if your car is so good and nice to own, why take the risk of buying something else. When we were quiet at the dream factory, we would trawl through the Auto-Trader reading the ads and trying to spot the funny ones, or the ones that were just so awful. You know the type, a doom blue Mondeo Aspen with a picture taken on the drive, against a wall, in dark light with a broken bed stead in the background – genuine reason for sale! £895 or near offer – that’s right… because it’s sh*t.

Trader trawling its great fun and ideal to do for half an hour when `er indoors is watching Come Dine With Me or something else mundane enough to make you throw a wine bottle through the screen. Of all the motor trades low life and drudgery, the best fun can be had with the sole traders, they are a dying breed now, owing to old bangers being worth more money in scrap. But there on the internet sales pages are the traders who operate from the estate in Shameless selling a whole host of coffins like the vile Hyundai Atoz to something truly big and useless, scrotters such as Daewoo Leganza autos – petrol Frontera’s, and my all time favourite worthless wreck… the 1995 3.0 V6 Omega.

Oh hang on… whats this I see here?…. A 1993 ZX Volcane – now this looks tidy.


Mike Humble


  1. Good points, but I have seen dealers try it on with the German and Jap machinery that DOES hold a decent wad of residual into middle (or old) age.

    Once tried to trade my immaculate and low mileage Mark 2 VW Golf in for an 18 month old Focus, about 10 years ago now. Mines was a ’92 on a J – last of the line, and even then, mint ones (like mine) were still retailing for £2k on the independent forecourts – partly because of the undesirability of the disappointing Mark 3. The dealer’s offer?? A miserable £250 after the old “I will consult with my manager, he’s on holiday today but will try to get you a figure today” routine…..

    The bigger insult to this story was that the Focus in question was the salesman’s current daily driver which I got the test drive in – full of litter and in dire need of a valet (we will give it a full valet for you, sir). I walked out in disgust, and four days later stumbled upon an identical Focus at another Ford dealer that was six months younger, had half the mileage and was fully loaded with toys. Cause it was only a 3-door they were having difficulty shifting it so they had knocked another grand off. I put my money on the table and drove away three days and sold the Golf almost instantly for £1800 privately.

    The original dealer I went to no longer exists……it was a big dealer group that went bust a bout a year later – this being Glasgow of course it was sold out to the ubiquitous Mr. Clark of course.

  2. Oh gods, not the Frontera.

    That was a truely dismal car. My dad test drove one once and it was like sitting on the back of a Field Marshall on flotation tyres while parked in a bouncy castle.

    Needless to say that one went back, very rapidly. I seem to remember him actually making it policy (he was the fleet manager at the time) that NO member of staff was to have one, it was blacklisted because it was so unsafe.

    But I do have a problem with this ‘part ex’ situation. We sit and whinge about the environment – then use three times the energy to make a new car – to replace something that is only retired because the manufacturer doesnt have the parts – or the market has been so massaged that it has no value.

    Personally I dont understand this ‘value’ thing. Even the scrottiest vehicle with an MOT has a value (ok, so I am pushing my luck with a Frontera…).

    What was horrific to me was the £2000 ‘destroy a car’ bribe-a-thon. Mint Triumph Mayflower – destroyed, not to mention so much more perfectly good metal of lesser years and distinction…

  3. In a nutshell, the dealer wont really want your old car

    1 = space is a premium and dealers can’t afford to have old dogs lying around let alone spend hours trying to offload part exchange vehicles to the public or to traders.. the time involved and the money made at the back end isn’t worth it.

    2 = Most older stuff will go to auction and stay there till it sells and this costs money to transport them there, to offer them for public or trade sale and the cost to the dealer rises each time the vehicle fails to sell

    3 = If they do sell chances are at best, the dealer will break even. So the main reason an older car if offered less at part ex is counteract the risk with the above. This is why dealers when pushed will discount on the new metal.

    The choice is to have an over allowed part ex value or trade value with a discount on the new – either way the balance is semi equal.

    As I used to say to customers…

    “Worry not about how much we will pay for yours, but worry about how much you will pay for ours”

    Interesting what you have said about the salesmans demo. I have known one or two to be sacked for the same offence. No excuses for that I`m affraid”

  4. Some cars are desirable, some are not. Last anecdote of the day, I was (again) in my friendly Ford garage and I was waiting in the parts queue and overheard a conversation between the salesman and a guy who was trying to trade in his Ford Explorer (today it is hard to believe they tried to sell this gas guzzling Yank Tank SUV in Britain – think it was a knee-jerk reaction to the success the Jeep Cherokee was having at the time – despite its similar thirst for fuel, but somehow it is a cut above image-wise), but anyway I digress……..the crux of it was the dealer was offering pennies for the Explorer, despite it only being a couple of years old – of course this was round about the same time as the fuel protests when it was threatening to hit 90p a litre (how times change!), and well – nobody wanted a massive 4-point-odd litre monster anymore.

    The poor guy was almost in tears I think….although the other side of me was thinking “serves you right!”

  5. The Citroen ZX was a great wee underrated car in my opinion. I had 2 – an XUD ‘Elation’ and an XUDT estate.
    Reliable, comfortable, good handling (saved my bacon a couple of times!) and economical. The Elation had some electrics (sunroof, remote locking) but not electric windows!
    They did have a bit of an image problem (though the mk2 with the bodycoloured deep front bumper looked a bit better) and the 306 and Xsara from the same platform seemed to sell better.

  6. I generally tend to sell my cars privately, my taste in motors is a bit leftfield at times and I know the sort of thing I like is going to sit on a forecourt for months and will be priced accordingly. At the end of the day these guys are there to make money for themselves and the company they work for so it’s in their interests to give bottom dollar, that’s business.

    The one time I did trade in was when I changed my “workhorse” Proton Impian GSX for a dealer demo Gen-2 Ecologic. I’d bought the Impian for £3495 at 3 years old and 20k miles, over the next 9 months I put a further 23k on the car and was in 2 minds about changing it for the Gen as I liked the idea of LPG and filling up at 47p/litre. After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing the dal came back at £3300 for my Impian. Needless to say I took it.

  7. I remember looking a sporty(-ish) nearly-new Micra back in the late Nineties. I had a Sierra 2.0 XR4i on a H to p/ex, and I knew I’d get about £500 for it. I was all set to buy the Micra until the spotty like oik started dissing the Sierra and pointing out every imperfection, before offering the £500 that I expected and would have been happy with. I pointed out the huge dent on the side of the Micra’s door that was going to be my major negotiating tool and said “are you going to fix that?” He said “er, no”. I replied “well stop pointing out touched up stone chips on my car then” and left. Prat – everyone knows you bull up the customer’s part ex and then explain that times are hard for older cars etc!

    I eventually got £1200 for the Sierra against a two year old Escort – before you say I did well, I took out Ford’s finance so I can assure you that I didn’t…

  8. Sounds like that sales chap had been “processed”

    Some sales training states that you should point out every imperfection on the trade in to the customer so their mental expectation is lowered somewhat.

    In reality, what this does is exactly like you stated, the customer gets the needle and before you even get to stab away at the calculator, you are on the defensive before you are even half way there.

    My own take was to note down the serious problems ie: ill fitting panels or bad paintwork. Something like an elderly Sierra would not have mattered too much as they would have been an auction or trader car and I would have avoided the “whats this whats that” affair of the salesman you depict.

    Trouble is, many dealers go into auto pilot and because the sales guys / girls often have no prior experience, they become groomed as t`wer and follow the “process” to the book. My slant was to use the best parts of the process and add your own ideas and thoughts into the mix.

    But we don’t live in the ideal world sadly, I made a comfy living and that was it. I was never the ultra high performer and nor am I ashamed to admit it, but I went to bed each night rarely with a guilty concious. Realistic and fair if I am honest.

    • Gotta say Mike, I’ve been reading your posts and essays for a while now and as a previous car salesman, manager etc, you bring everything to life in such a vivid way!

      Keep up the good work!!

  9. My local car auction is always swilling with dealer p/ex’s (you can tell them as the lot number starts with a 6.) Unfortunately it seems most of the dealers putting the cars in seem to think they are worth as much as the original owners thought they were worth, so remain unsold.

    Hence they are known as ‘boomerangs’ as they always come back at every auction.

    In any case, they are rarely faulty free.

  10. Back in ’95 my parents bought a new Toyota Carina E. Their part-ex was the shagged old C Reg Mk2 Astra 1.3. So that car was what 8/9 years old at that time. They got £1000 part ex on it! In 1995 remember, though I’m not privvy to thje full details of the deal, thats surely a hell of a figure. The Astra had awful camshaft clatter, the head gasket was blowing and the paint was so faded it wasn’t red anymore it was pink – it was a knackered old dog. According to the DVLA online tax checker it did live on until 1999 though.

  11. Talking about Citroens, when I was selling cars I shared my showroom duties with a young salesman who would always run to the showroom window to see what the perspective buyer had rolled up in and if it was a bit toxic he would make himself scarce and would be very happy for me to” have this one ” may be the next customer would role up in a nice low milage Fiesta.
    On the first Saturday of a very snowy January no one had been into the showroom untill a client in a Citroen GS rolled my mate, decided it was time to go and put the kettle on, my attitude was you can always have a go I have nothing to lose any this man was very realistic about what his car was worth and before long he signed up for a new Nissan Stanza, he collected the car 4 days later stopped to pick up a perscription at the chemist and a lorry hit his staionery car and wrote it off. The next Saturday with the blessing of his insurance company we ordered him a replacement two commisions all in one month from one customer with a GS on a very slow month. I don’t remember any low milage Fiestas’ being offered in PX that month !

  12. I recall the ZX being regarded as a very decent car in its day. Wiped the floor in group tests with Escorts, Astras and Golfs. All these essays about the poor car salesmans lot seem to confirm what a rediculous process new car buying is in this country. Is there another product or commodity where we are expected to barter and beg the way we are when we buy a car? How hard could it be for manufacturers to understand how much a car cost to build, establish a profit margin and costs for sale/distribution and then price accordingly? The current process has absolutely no transparency and always leaves buyers wondering if they have got a decent deal. The way salesmen are renumerated just muddies the water further. They expect buyers to navigate this minefield and make snap decisions on what for many wil be one of the most expensive things they will ever buy and get indignent if someone wants some time to think about it! The whole process is rotten to the core and needs a complete rethink.

  13. @Paul
    “Is there another product or commodity where we are expected to barter and beg the way we are when we buy a car?”

    In a word. Houses. Although you can legally buy and sell privately almost nobody does so (or realizes they can)also how legal would it be if you offered a dealer £11k for a car but got a call the following day to say sorry its gone to Mr Jones for £12k?

    Another great ‘blog Mike lifting the lid on what may seem like a closed world and for what its worth I agree that the vast majority of salespeople are normal human beings just trying to make a living.

    Sometimes garages offering low prices for part exes can be a good thing. My mother was offered just £500 for her low miles 45 diesel saloon so offered it to me for not a lot more than that and paid for her C3 on her credit card. The discount for ‘cash’ was better!

    Oh and I hope Doom Blue is not Oxygen Blue 🙂

  14. Well it should be noted that sometimes the punter actually gets more then they expected for the p.x. of their old car. Its happened to me a couple of times, I got myself into the mind that I wasn’t going to get much as the cars had been used hard and needed things like a new clutch or timing belt. Also being under no illusion that the car will ever see the dealers forecourt I would come to the dealer with a rather honest outlook about the cars qualities (and too negative as I found).

    In the end there are factors to consider in that most people myself included don’t want to go through the hassle of private selling, dealing with time wasters, continued maintenance and MOT on an increasingly elderly vehicle and having a car clutter up my drive when I want a new one. Also on a pure financial basis the old car will be the major part of any deposit for the new one on a finance package. The dealer wants to shift some new or nearly new metal on finance of some form to meet his target and get his commission.

    In the end my feeling is the punter needs to be honest with themselves when they walk into the dealership knowing that the sales guy has a degree of flexibility in messing around with the finance and p.x. etc…to get through to the happy conclusion of the punter signing up for ‘X’ years of finance , getting the replacement car and the old one shifted whilst the dealer meets his goals.

    P.S. I had a K Reg Burgundy (my friends called it poo brown) MK1 Citroen ZX 1.6 petrol. Fantastic comfy car and considering the engine was getting a bit sticky inside and how little I paid for it I was highly surprised at the £800 PX I got for it from a Ford main dealer for a V reg Peugeot 306 1.8 16V. Then again I think part of the story in that respect was the dealer was doing one of those we have new stock coming in and we want to clear our older second hand stock weeks…Loved that car, looked good, went well and fairly cheap to run…felt sad when I PXed it a few years later.

  15. My experience – actually my only one since it’s been the first and only car I ever bought! (the others I’ve stolen – haha just kidding)

    Early Spring 2010 I put myself on the market for a new car (at the early age of 31 – wow) namely for a late-model Ford Fiesta, giving our ’00 Fiat Punto 1.2 16V as a px.
    I arrived within inches of making a deal for a 3-dr 1400 TDCi but at the last moment I pulled out since the available colours (for immediate delivery) didn’t quite suit my taste and the guy (whom I don’t blame) couldn’t (or wouldn’t, but that doesn’t matter now) cut 100 € more off the final price. Ok, maybe I’ve been a bit picky but in the end you know, I’d have had to wait some more time and pay like 5-600 € more for a new car to be ordered, if I insisted on having the light blue I actually liked.
    So off I went and tried my luck at our usual Fiat dealer we’d been usually buying from in the past. After not-so-much dealing I got a deal for a new 1.3 Multijet 3-dr GrandePunto – in light blue and at the same price I’d wanted for the Fiesta. And bear in mind – there were buying incentives from Ford at the time but none at Fiat officially, even though it has to be said that the Grande was being phased out. Delivery time would be a couple months – all was duly signed and I left a deposit for it.
    And that’s where all the fun started – a few days later I noticed that the water temp gauge on my old Punto was acting quirky. Unfortunately I somehow knew what the problem could be, and a quick pop at my mechanic’s (not the dealer) confirmed my fears – bloody head gasket was f%&king gone.
    Luckily my workplace is just a mile or so from home and spring was beginning, that meant I could well use my motorbike to get there – but I wanted to be honest with the salesman too, he’d always treated us very well and I found no reason why I should try and scam him. (We Italians aren’t all lying and cheating b@$t@rds, y’know. 🙂 ) So shortly after I went to talk to him and exposed what the issue was – I genuinely was unaware about the blown head gasket, luckily he believed me and told me to just keep silent and not move the car till delivery.
    All went well, my old car ended up in a mass sale to a used car trader – my new one is not 100% perfect but I’m overall satisfied with the purchase.
    I hope I can keep my GP for like 8-10 years but should the need arise for another car, no doubt I’ll visit them again.

  16. My father, having been a main delaer sales manager would probably have had a coronary if he’d still been alive, but at age 18 I had my first encounter with a showroom sale. It was 1983, I had a Marina 1800 super coupe with vinyl roof and wood dash (sexy eh?!) The dealer – Frank Voisey Cars in Bristol had a 79 MKI Cavalier 1600L saloon up for £1795. I offered the Marina to chop in, the salesman offered me about 300 quid I think and I took it – no haggle.
    The follwing year I visited some dodgy horse trader and chopped the MOTless Cav, and actually dealed down to a 74 Jag with a short ticket. I was expecting a key for key deal so was surprised when he offered me 200 quid – MY WAY! that was a useful wedge to me back then so took his cash and drove off in my new Jag.. I was young and foolish then of course, a salesman’s dream, not old and stupid like now..
    On occasion I buy the odd car to sell and people are amazed at the price I get them for, somehow stunned at my cheek but the truth is used cars are worth jack right now..
    Frontera..yeah..Bought one off a friend for 200 quid, it was a very nice one for what it was so was confident of a killing. Sold it the following day for £700 on the proviso it had a new ticket, no prob.
    A mere 500 quid later it passed..some you lose..
    I had a G plate Audi 100 a couple of years back that I’d paid 400 for with new tax on, good car, ran it for a while thn PX’d it in a garage for an N reg SAAB 900 convertible at £1400, he gave me 600 quid for the Audi! then hired it out, it was always out !

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