How Much is My Car Worth?
Figure Out Exactly What Your Car is Worth Whether You Trade it In or Sell it Yourself
Many people never realize the full potential of their used car when they end up selling it. Figuring out exactly how much your car is worth can save you literally thousands of dollars. There are several different ways to do this. Let's take a look at your options:
1. Use Pricing Guides to Get Ballpark Figure
The two most popular used car pricing guides are Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides. Luckily, both offer used car pricing for free on their web sites. You can easily look up their suggestion on what your car is worth depending on the mileage, location and condition. However, many people complain the guides can get outdated quickly and the prices can be off by hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. It's a good idea to only use these prices as a ball-park figure.
NADA Guides: http://www.nadaguides.com
The NADA Guides pricing is pretty straightforward. After entering your mileage, location and options, it displays 4 different prices depending on the condition of your car and whether the car is a trade-in, or if it's sold at a dealership (Retail Price). The downside to the NADA Guides is that it doesn't give you a price for "private party" sale, which is when you sell the car yourself to another person.
Kelley Blue Book: http://www.kbb.com
Kelley Blue Book touts itself as "the trusted resource" when it comes to used car pricing. They're the most popular car pricing guide and provide a lot more information than the NADA Guides. The process is similar in that you enter your mileage, location, and options and KBB returns 3 different sets of prices depending on whether the car is a trade-in, private party sale, or retail (dealer) sale.
The trade-in value is always the lowest, but it's the easiest way to sell your car.
The private party price is what you would get if you were to sell the car to someone else (not a dealer). The price difference is quite drastic (about 50%), which is why we always recommend you sell the car yourself.
Finally, the retail value is the price dealers will sell the car on their lots. This is a good target to aim for if you're selling to a private party.
Now that you've gotten an idea of what your car is worth, you can fine-tune and use the following methods to narrow down the price range you can expect to get when you sell your car.
2. Figure Out True Trade-In Value
Although we don't recommend you trade-in your car, if you insist, at least follow these directions to get the best price for your used car.
The biggest mistake people make when trading-in their used car is to trade it in at a dealership that doesn't sell that same make. Always shop your car around to dealers that sell that nameplate. If you're trading in a used Honda, go to a Honda dealership.
Most people don't realize you can trade-in your car at any dealership. It doesn't have to be the same one where you buy your new car.
Next step is to call nearby dealerships and ask to speak to the person who buys used cars. Tell them the details and ask if they're interested in seeing the car. If no, then you've saved yourself a trip. If yes, tell them you'll be over in a couple of hours. Repeat this process until you have at least 3 dealerships interested.
We've written a full article detailing how to negotiate when you're showing the car to these dealers: How to Negotiate the Best Price for Your Trade-In.
3. Figure Out Real Private Party Price
There are 3 great ways to figure out what price others are listing their used cars for. The best tool we've found is a graph provided by Vast.com which plots the listing prices of any used car depending on mileage. The graph also shows the average price as an intersecting line:
Here is the graph for a 2002 Honda Accord EX
As you can see, the average price with 100,000 miles is about $8,500. That's inline with what the pricing guides suggest. Our advice is to use these graphs and price your car a bit higher than the average price depending on mileage.
If you go through this whole process, you will get an excellent idea of what your car is worth.
My Recommendation for Car ShoppersTrueCar No-Haggle, Edmunds Price Promise, and 1-800 Car Show are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
California Residents - Important:There is a new online car buying service called Roadster, available only to California residents, which I highly recommend you try - especially if you hate the stress of haggling with a car salesman. They provide an expert concierge who negotiates the price of the car and delivers it to your home with zero hassle - you never have to interact with a dealership. Here is my in-depth review of Roadster and why I recommend it.
- Gregg Fidan
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About: Gregg Fidan
Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.
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