How to Set the Asking Price for Your Used Car
If you set an asking price too high, you may not get any responses. On the flip-side, you don't want to short-change yourself by pricing it too low either.
If you want to do it right, your first step should be to figure out the wholesale value of the vehicle. This is the price dealers are willing to pay for it.
The only way to figure this out is to shop it around to at least 3 dealers using our trade-in shopping guide. Only then will you know the true wholesale value. (Note: don't rely on pricing guides to give you a realistic wholesale price. They're a good starting point, but can be off by up to 15% depending on local market conditions).
Figure that you'll spend around $100 on classified ads and several hours responding to and meeting with prospective buyers, so you'll want at least $750 to $1,000 more than wholesale value to compensate you for the added expense and time.
If you're planning on buying a new car and you live in a state that provides a trade-in tax credit (see list here), you need to factor that in as well. For example, on a used car worth $10,000, the trade-in tax credit can save you up to $1,000 - but this is only available if you trade-in the vehicle at the same dealership where you buy a new one.
Add these figures to the wholesale price to come up with the minimum price you should accept from a private party. Important: this is not your asking price, but merely the lowest price you're willing to accept.
To figure out your asking price, we recommend you check out car listings at CarGurus.com. They calculate the average asking prices for over 3 million vehicles that are currently for sale.
Figure out the average asking price for vehicles that are similar to yours in year, style, and mileage. Next, find the highest asking price for a similar vehicle in your region.
Your asking price should be somewhere near the middle between the average and highest listed price. Use some common sense here - if the highest listed price is ridiculously high, use the next highest price, or average the top 3 highest prices to come up with that figure.
This method gives you a simple and quick way to price your vehicle based on real local market conditions. It also sets a minimum price you're willing to accept - ultimately helping you with your negotiations when prospects begin responding to your ad.
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.
- 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.