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Why Used Car Price Guides are Usually Wrong

Most people turn to online pricing guides to figure out what their car is worth.

If you're wanting to get a ball-park figure, that's fine. But if you think pricing guides are going to give you an accurate number, that's a big mistake.

Pricing guides are meant to give you an average price, but there really isn't an "average" used car. Each one is different and what one may consider in good condition, another may consider junk.

Even though a pricing guide may state your car is worth $15,000, a dealer can easily knock that down by pointing out defects such as body scratches, non-factory equipment, unusual wear and tear - the list goes on and everything is subjective

There are also large price discrepancies depening on your location. If you're trying to sell a convertible in North Dakota, you won't get as high a price as if you were selling it in sunny Florida.

The pricing guides try to factor in geography, but it's impossible to keep up with the highly localized pricing trends.

A final reason pricing guides shouldn't be relied upon is the tendancy to undervalue prices so as not to offend dealers. KBB has a seperate pricing guide for dealers called KarPower which you can only access with a paid subscription. Although I haven't personally seen the prices in that book, there are car buying experts that claim the wholesale prices are usually 5 to 10% higher than what you find in the free consumer guides.

So while the pricing guides may be a good source to get an an overall idea of pricing, don't think of them as set in stone. The only real way to determine how much your car is worth is to shop it around and see what the market determines.

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar No-Haggle and Edmunds Price Promise 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.
- Gregg Fidan

Gregg Fidan

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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