Sharp practice exposed by online car companies.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen massive growth in the amount of alternatives, and just recently, with used car stock hard to come by, the space has become even more crowded.

Some of the newer sites, like Motorway, started as a sell my car comparison site but now use an online auction to sell your car to dealers rather than make an offer themselves, and they seem to be making a success of it.

Still, their technique to encourage people onto the site concerns some customers who have spoken to us.

Some people are saying that Motorway has made exaggerated claims over the price they are likely to receive, in some cases by as much as £1700.

What’s The Law Say?

In 2011 got into hot water with the office of fair trading when they were charged with advertising an online figure that encouraged people to visit one of their branches, at which point 96% of them received less than the online value.

Webuyanycar responded by changing their terms to clarify that the online valuation wasn’t guaranteeing a price they would pay but rather was a guide. So rather than taking steps to increase the accuracy of their quotes, they changed the small print.

The message hasn’t reached the public though, because every day we are told by our prospective customers that webuyanycar has made them a firm offer before they visit a branch.

Are Motorway Breaking Any Rules?

Motorway isn’t claiming that they will buy your car or guaranteeing they will pay what they quote, but instead, they encourage the seller to set a reserve price guided by previous results they have had from selling similar cars on the site.

This reserve price setting by Motorway and the claims by other similar online car buying sites are the focus of this blog post.

Car Buying Experiences Case History’s The Tesla Model 3

Both wewantanycar and Motorway were involved here but both these examples end with

Case 1.

A customer contacted us about selling his Tesla Model 3. Let’s call him Mike.

Mike had gone to several webuyanycar rivals before approaching us to sell his Tesla.

Below are the offers he explained he already had on the table…

Heres what our seller was offered by these 4 car buying companys

Their valuation disclaimers below copied from their websites.



Our free online valuation is a pre-inspection offer and is valid for 5 days. It is therefore possible to book in for an appointment within 5 days of receiving the valuation.



We make this price as accurate as possible but it’s not until we see your car and give it an onsite inspection that we can offer you a final price for your car. We guarantee our valuation for 4 days.



The Valuation is provided strictly on a ‘subject to contract’ basis and we have the absolute right to withdraw the Valuation at any time without any legal consequence or liability to you. The Valuation does not constitute an offer from us to purchase the Vehicle.



Your car will then be shared in our daily sale, and dealers in our nationwide network will make offers for your vehicle. 
You can choose to accept and proceed with the highest offer we receive, which becomes your final sale price

What Happened Next

We looked at the Tesla values and sale prices and made a firm offer of £37500 and said we could view it at his home the following day.

But convinced by Motorway that he would get the £39200 they had suggested, he decided to cancel our viewing and instead go with them unless we could better their offer. We couldn’t.

We went back over the vehicle valuation in the office several times, triple checked the details against the market, chatted with dealers and continued to scratch our heads.

Then two weeks later Mike contacted us to see if we’d be interested in beating Motorways offer of £37500

“Hang about,” we said “that’s £1700 less than you said they quoted”

“Well, yes, they said they would try and get me that; that was the reserve price, but I think that you and I know that was ambitious.”

 “And wewantanycar? Well, they came back at £37000.”, but that’s £1900, worst than their initial estimate,” we said.

So, because it was now after hours, we said we’d make some call’s and come back to him in the morning.

Talking to our dealers, it was clear that so many of them had been offered the vehicle from several different buying sites that it was difficult to find one that felt like making yet another offer to us.

This is the problem created by offering your car to several sites at once; for example, you wouldn’t auction a painting at several different art auctions simultaneously, as I am sure you can see, that would confuse all the potential buyers.

So, it took a while to get hold of one of our regular customers who always pay us that bit more because he knows that we inspect and deliver the cars ourselves, and he offered £37650

But when we got back to Mike, he had already been contacted by Motorway, who had talked him into accepting £37900, so he’d sold it.

Who Lost Out?

Well, we did, but unbeknown to the customer, so did he, because later that day, we got offered another £38200, but we were too late to the party, having been put out of the game by Motorways ridiculous reserve of £39200.

Case 2.

This one was almost identical, with Motorway offering £39613 for his 70 plate model 3 standard range plus.

Note the peculiar figure.

To put this figure into perspective, you can buy a new one, not identical but actually a better, facelifted car, for just £1400 more on a 71 plate brand new from Tesla available in two weeks at the time of writing.

This time the seller accepted a slightly lower offer than his reserve of £39613 and accepted £38950 from Motorway’s buyer.

This was also too high for us to comprehend until the seller told us that Motorway’s dealer had failed to show up after two weeks of chasing him.

Motorway put it back on the site for him, but this time the offers had all been very low, not unusual when dealers see a supposedly sold car appear back up for sale, as they assume that the first buyer pulled out due to some unspoken issue with the car.

How Does Motorway Work?

They replicate British Cars Auctions position in the supply chain; by pre-selling a customer’s car online, they then get the dealers to deal with the actual transaction directly with the seller and take a fee off the top for the introduction.

Just like an estate agent does when he’s selling a house

This is an interesting analogy because, like some estate agents, they appear to be using a technique sometimes employed in the property market of simply overstating what they think they’ll be able to sell someone property for.

They do this to make sure the seller chooses them to deal with the sale over the competition.

Some may call it overestimating or being overambitious others may call it lying to get your business.

30 years ago, when I was a naive car salesman getting indoctrinated into the dark world of old school salesmanship, it was called “Balling.”

What is Low Balling And High Balling

So we’re all familiar with the term low balling, which is when someone makes you a very low offer in an attempt to get you to reveal the figure you really want.

Sellers often misinterpret this as an attempt for a buyer to pay a low figure.

More usually, it’s used to open you up to talk about the figure you will sell at.

If all you tell the people trying to help you sell your car is ” I just want as much as possible”, then it’s tough for them to get much interest from their buyers.

Faced with open-ended figures, buyers often switch off, or they will often respond with ” so what do they actually want” or “what will they take”, if you can’t answer that question, then there’s really no endpoint to the negotiation.

So Motorway insist you set a reserve figure or a price you will sell at, and there’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, that is the correct way to deal with the sale of your car.

Too High An Expectation

But what if you feel their suggested figure is too low? or you suggest a figure that Motorway deems to be unrealistic?

Well, if it were us, then we’d tell you so, we’d explain that we felt your price was unrealistic, why that was and what we were more likely to achieve.

If we felt we could get within £500 or so of your figure, then we might tell you we would have a go, and if that didn’t do it for you, then we would wish you luck and leave the door open in case you changed your mind.

We might even give you a backup offer in case you got messed about by a competitor.

But what we would never dream of doing is giving you false expectations that we weren’t sure we could follow through on.

But Motorway seems to be using a different tactic.

Getting Balled

High balling is just the opposite of low balling, and it’s designed to get you back to the table when you’ve made it clear you’re getting several offers from competitors.

As a young and naive car salesman, I was actually taught this technique to use as a last resort as your prospective customer walked out of the showroom door announcing they were off to check out your competitor.

Balling a customer is basically lying without lying

How To Know If You’re Being Lied To By Car Buying Companys.

Don’t fall for sharp sales techniques some car buying sites are employing

How can you tell if you’re being Balled?

Unless you’re American, who use the word as slang for something very different, then balling your customer in the motor trade refers to the simple act of throwing them at the competition.

Just as you would a rubber ball against a wall and then catching it when it bounce’s back to you.

Your customer, “the ball”, is thrown at the competition with the suggestion of a deal you will “try” to get for them if they come back to you and give you another chance.

And this is going to be some offer. In fact, it’s essential that the suggested offer couldn’t even be close to reality because then there would be a chance someone would actually do it, and that’s the last thing you wanted.

So it had to be so unrealistic that the competition wouldn’t even bother making your customer a counteroffer so that they would bounce straight off that competitor, like a rubber ball off a wall, back to you.

In our opinion, this is exactly what technique Motorway used on these Tesla customers in these examples.

So Why Would They Do This?

The answer is simple it’s just marketing driven by pressure to succeed at any cost,

And what of that cost? In example one, it resulted in a successful sale. The customer may have come to terms with the fact that he wasn’t going to get their initial reserve figure, but in the end, they got the last chance of his business.

In example two, it pissed off the customer.

But that’s still a 50% conversation rate which is good in our business, so motorway still gets plenty of good reviews.

Also, they had both cars on their site for sale, which was important to them.

Why? Because Motorway has recently had a £50m investment by venture capitalist’s and as you can imagine, they want to see results.

Who Are Motorway?

Motorway claim to be a new type of car-buying site.

They say they are taking a fresh approach cutting out the middlemen in the supply chain of cars to dealers.

They are not run by people who have motor industry experience but by marketers and technology entrepreneurs.

They have made sweeping statements about modernising the industry, driving it online and away from the showrooms and giving customers a better service.

But what they really mean is they have figured out how to take a slice of webuyanycars huge profits whilst not deploying any of their own capital in actually buying and selling the cars themselves.

Motorways founders explain how they are going to spend £50 million

In Summery

Despite what you may think, we didn’t write this to bash a competitor; in fact, we are a minnow compared to these big corporate intuitions and rarely do we come head to head with them.

Our small family business is more focused on building more personal and long term relationships with our customer’s than making £millions for investors.

But we thought it was important to highlight the difference between someone saying that they will “try” to get such and such a figure and someone guaranteeing one, which is what we do.

We also prefer to deal with our customers ourselves. Although our process is very similar to Motorways, we’d never dream of abandoning you to one of our dealers to complete the sale.

Because we know that some of them are just useless when it comes to the practicality of buying cars from the public.

I don’t think Motorway are a bad business, but some of the recent experiences from our customers highlight what can happen when you grow too big.

I thought about what I would do if I were in their position, would a £50 million investment force me to go back to how Id behaved 30 years ago?

I Imagined the pressure that those guys at Motorway must be under to perform and get customers onto their platform at any cost.

I thought about It long and hard, and right then, I felt better about those lost sales because I knew the answer…

No, I was better than that.

Phil Corker

If you want a guaranteed no-haggle offer to buy your car, then try and see how our small bespoke car buying company differs from almost every corporate buying site out there, then read the reviews they speak for themselves.

What makes our car buying service a better alternative to sites like and

We pay what we quote online, charge no fee’s and never pass you over to third parties

When you sell your car on our site, we make sure you only have to deal with us.

We make all the payments, inspect and collect your car.

In that way, we can guarantee a genuine 5 Star service with no fees, no lowered offers and no chance of being let down.

See Our Reviews.

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