How to find out what your used car is worth

If you are looking to sell your vehicle, one of the first things you are going to do is try to figure out what it’s worth. Regardless of whether you are going to sell it to a dealer on trade-in or if you are going to sell it privately, it’s the most important factor to know. So how do you find out how much your car is worth?

Look at comparable listings for your car

This is probably the best way to get an idea of what your car is worth, and it’s a little known secret in the car industry that despite several valuation tools, the used car manager will always compare your car to other listings. Make sure you look for the same model year, trim, and try to get as many of the same options. If you have a rarer vehicle you might have to look across several model years which is ok but make sure to check the same generation of vehicle. For example, you could look at a 2015-2017 F-150 which would be considered close enough as they are 13th generation F-150s, but trying to look at 2014-2015 would yield two different generations.

The next two most important factors to consider are milage and condition. With mileage it’s obviously the lower the better. A vehicle with 40,000 miles is going to be worth more than a vehicle with 80,000 miles, that’s pretty simple. It can even get a little silly, with a car with 99,000 miles yielding a much higher value than a 100,000 mile car. Of course condition can sometimes be tied directly to mileage. Potential buyers will naturally attribute higher mileage with worse condition, as vehicles are more driven things like tires, brakes, and other components are more worn down. It’s important to make sure your car is up to date on all maintenance and looks in decent condition.

Try a dealership

The next option you have is to go to a dealership and see what the trade in value is on a vehicle. Take your car into a dealer and ask them what it’s worth on trade, dealers are more than happy to do this with you in the hopes they’ll sell you a vehicle. Some dealers don’t even care about you buying a car, they just want inventory, but it’s something to be aware of. I will tell you that dealerships will offer you a trade-in value that is actually about 70-80% of what your car would sell for on their lot, also known as the “retail price”, or what you could get for it privately. As such, you can reasonably add 20-30% to the value they give you and use this as the sale price when you list your vehicles.

Try an online estimator or trade-in tool

There are several of these online from all the major automotive manufacturers and other companies such as AutoTrader, Kelly Bluebook and the Blackbook. They can be fairly inaccurate as they don’t factor in location most of the time, or current market trends. I would actually recommend using this only as a last resort, as the other methods are much better. If you do use them, you can almost always assume the value given is on the lower end of the scale for your car.

Get a vehicle appraisal

Finally, your last option is to get an appraisal from a certified appraiser. This is especially worthwhile if your vehicle is a classic car or something that is very obscure or unique. Vehicle appraisals might not be worthwhile for you if have a common vehicle, for example a Toyota Corolla. But if that’s not the case, an appraiser will assess the value on the car based on the tombstone data of the vehicle such as the model, trim, options, mileage and condition. But the appraiser will also look into things such as the history on your specific vehicle, any modifications, and current market conditions. The only downside to vehicle appraisals is that they are often on the high side of the scale so be aware of that. There is also the downside of having to pay for an appraiser to take a look at a car.

Good luck!

About Meds

Ben is widely known as the car sales guy to his friends and family. He does not work at a dealership, although he has done so in the past. He currently works in fleet in the automotive industry and is a numbers guy. He currently drives a rather boring 2017 Ford F-150 as his daily, but his passion is his 2018 Ford Mustang GT. Disclaimer: he does not work for Ford, although he is a big fan.