How Much is My Car Worth?

by Don Elliott on March 28, 2011

Finding the value of your car is easy.  Kelly Blue Book, Black Book, or the NADA Guide have sites with tools you can use to figure out a price range of the value of your car.  There are three types of prices when buying a car or selling a car: trade-in, private party sales, and retail sales.  Pricing depends on a number of factors such as the car’s age, mileage, condition, region, and any optional equipment or special features. Understanding used car pricing is critical to getting the most out your vehicle.

Trade-In Value: Sometimes referred to as the wholesale price, Kelly Blue Book defines this as, “The amount consumers can expect to receive from a dealer for a trade-in vehicle.”  Knowing this price is important.  If you choose to trade, then you should understand how a dealer values your car.

Private Party Value: This is the price you can expect when negotiating with another individual.  Go to the grocery store, newsstand, or your front porch for the newspaper.  Some newspapers will run more ads for used cars on particular days.  It may not have the exact car you want, but it can give you an accurate reflection for what used cars are selling for in the region.  This is something Kelly Blue Book or the NADA guide can’t supply on a day-to-day basis.  Don’t use one over the other.  Take both!

Retail Value: When you walk onto a lot this is the dealers’ asking price for a used car.  Also keep in mind that this is where you can begin negotiating with them. Remember they have taken the trade-in value of the car and marked it up so the vehicle sale can be profitable.

Although pricing online is a good indicator of what the used car value is, searching locally may give you a better idea what the car is worth regionally.  Look in the classified section and the dealer ads. Begin with comparing your car to others of a similar model year, condition, and mileage. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t tell the difference between the dealer and classified ads.  Dealers do this intentionally because they want to showcase their cars to as many potential customers as possible. Always assume any price you find is negotiable.

Don’t stop with just the local publications, either.  By gathering several sources of regional used car values, you will be prepared to negotiate in private or with a dealer.    Here are three sources for regional used car values online:  Auto Trader, Ebay Motors, and Used Cars.  Searching online at these sites allows you focus on your local region, and get car price listings instantly. The search results you gather are the asking price, however, not what people are actually paying!

Please leave us some feedback!  Did one of these websites provide useful or more valuable information than another? Perhaps you found another site that was very helpful, let us know!

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