Used Car Pricing Guides Estimate Used Car Values

by Don Elliott on May 4, 2011

Historically, used car pricing guides have been a familiar site at car dealerships and wholesale auto auctions. The printed books were published biweekly or monthly and carried in the back pocket of wholesalers and used car managers everywhere. More recently, access to used car values is readily available online. The traditional printed used car pricing guide companies have moved closer to the market by providing car values on their websites and in mobile apps that are updated more often and that can provide more detail.

The good news is that many of these websites and mobile apps are available to consumers, often for free. UnderstandChevy Used Car Valueing the differences between the various pricing guides is important when using them as tool when shopping for your next used car. Remember, these are all “pricing guides.” None of these sites will actually buy or sell a vehicle. The used car value for a 2006 Chevy Impala LS has been calculated from each site as of this date. As you can see, the estimates can vary considerably and can change daily based on market demand for each vehicle.

Kelley Blue Book- Kelley Blue Book is arguably the most recognized used car pricing guide. The free site is worth a visit as an early stop when car shopping. It provides a wealth of information on all aspects of buying and selling a car. The new car section offers assistance to determine which model and accessories are available, manufacturer suggested retail prices, invoice prices, and a fair market price including rebates and special packages. You are asked to provide your zip code because some packages and incentives vary by market area. Also, Kelley makes money by referring you to local automobile dealers when you “Request a Quote” or “Locate a Dealer.”

The used car section provides four separate “book” prices that might be helpful: trade-in value, private party value, suggested retail price, and certified pre-owned (CPO) value. The “trade-in value” is generally considered the wholesale price, or the amount that you should expect to be able to sell your car to an automobile dealer.

For example, on May 2 2011 – a 2006 Chevrolet Impala LS, Good Trade-in Value, 75,000 miles = $7,875

Edmunds – was one of the first online pricing guides. Edmunds provides straightforward pricing information on both new and used vehicles and is free to consumers. Terminology is easy to understand for someone who is not a car fanatic. They use their registered term “True Market Value” to refer to a combined trade-in, private party and wholesale pricing guide. Edmunds does not ask for condition or mileage when determining their True Market Value, both significant variables when determining used car values.

For example, on May 2 2011 – a 2006 Chevrolet Impala LS, True Market Value = $9,296

Black Book – Black Book is recognized as the wholesale pricing guide used primarily by car dealers and at auto auctions. All of the Black Book products must be purchased. Black Book is a business publication. However, Black Book determines their guidebook prices by closely monitoring actual wholesale transactions making their car values closest to typical wholesale market prices.

For example, on May 2 2011 – a 2006 Chevrolet Impala LS, Clean Trade-in Value, 75,000 miles = $8,220

NADA Guides – The Blue and Yellow N.A.D.A Appraisers Guide is a familiar site at car dealerships, at banks, and with wholesalers. went online 10 years ago. NADA Guides was established as the data-gathering arm of the National Automobile Dealers Association (the NADA). Consumers will find the site full of free reference information along with access to pricing guide values on cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, RVs and manufactured homes.

For example, on May 2 2011 – a 2006 Chevrolet Impala LS, Clean Trade-in Value, 75,000 miles = $8,775

In summary, the car guides vary in their guidance as to used car values, ranging from $7,875 to $9,296.  This potentially could reflect the difference between a wholesale and a retail value, but then again, what’s the old saying?  “What is something worth? I guess what someone else is willing to pay for it…”

Send us a comment if this summary of the most popular used car pricing guides was helpful to you.

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