Find Out How Much a Car Is Worth

If you’re buying or selling a car, you’ll need to have an informed understanding of a vehicle’s value. The most basic way to get an evaluation is to use a blue book service like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or the National Automobile Dealer Association, which are widely reputable sources in the automotive industry when it comes to vehicle assessment. On top of the blue book evaluation, you can research vehicles on your own, or inquire about a vehicle’s value at a dealership. Once you’ve found a price that you’re comfortable with, you should adjust it based on what you know about your vehicle and how much effort you’re willing to put in when it comes time to buy or sell it.[1]


Using a Blue Book Service

  1. Use a blue book evaluation service to get a general estimate. Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds, and the National Automobile Dealer Association (NADA) are companies that assess the values of vehicles. They use records from private transactions, dealer trade-ins, and suggested retail prices to generate an accurate evaluation for a car. Blue book evaluations tend to carry quite a bit of weight in the context of a negotiation over a vehicle since their assessments are generated based on a variety of different data points.[2]
    • Kelley Blue Book is the most popular evaluation index. It is the tool most commonly used by private sellers and buyers to establish an average price.
    • Edmunds offers a few different categories for a car’s condition when you’re appraising it.
    • NADA is most often used by dealers to get a wholesale price since it includes information about wholesale vehicles in the evaluation.
  2. Go to an evaluation service’s website and enter your car’s information. Select whether you’re pricing a new, used, or personal vehicle. Enter the car’s year, make, model, and mileage. Click on the search function to advance to the next screen.[3]
  3. Answer the menu prompts about the car’s style, color, and condition. There are always different prices for different versions of a car. For example, a Chrysler 300S and a Chrysler 300C are priced differently based on each version’s specific features and modifications. Each evaluation service will automatically list the possible choices for your specific car. Select the car’s style and click the “next” button to advance. Answer the similar prompts about the car’s color and overall condition.[4]
    • If you’re not sure which version of a car you want to look for, click the option in the middle of the available choices for the mid-level version of the car.
    • If you’re looking for an evaluation of your car but don’t know the style, look at the back of your car. There are usually 1-3 letters or numbers (like 4C), or a buzzword (like TurboX). This is your car’s style.
  4. Use the estimate as a baseline assessment for the value of your car. The estimate screen will list 2 different evaluations. The trade-in price is what you can expect a dealer to buy or trade your car for. This number will be lower than the private party value, which is the price that you could reasonably fetch if you sell the car on your own.[5]{{greenbox:Tip: On a KBB report, the white, green, and red sections indicate the strength of your vehicle’s position on the market. Green is an average vehicle, while vehicles in the white have something special about them that makes them desirable. Red vehicles are less valuable due to condition or supply on the market.}}
    • Selling a car on your own will fetch you a higher price, but it’s more work.
  5. Repeat the process with the other services for more accuracy. Each blue book service uses a slightly different algorithm for evaluation. Use the search functions on each website to get a total of 3 data points for your car’s value.[6]
    • While NADA and Edmunds are helpful for getting a second and third opinion on a car’s value, KBB is the industry standard when it comes to evaluating a car’s worth.
  6. Access an individual car’s CARFAX and review the Consumer Report. CARFAX is a reporting service that pools information from insurance companies, dealers, and police reports to generate a snapshot of a vehicle’s history. Ask a buyer or seller for a CARFAX report to get a picture of a car’s repair and accident history. Consumer Reports is an organization that reviews and investigates makes and models of cars. They’re an excellent resource for reviewing a car’s overall status before buying or selling.[7]

Finding the Price of Similar Cars Listed Online

  1. Go online to a major auto retailer.[8] Sites like TrueCar (, Autotrader (, and CarMax ( are all good places to start. These larger online retailers tend to carry a lot of inventory, so you’re more likely to find comparable vehicles in their search engines. You are going to search for identical vehicles with similar mileage numbers, so you need to find a lot of cars. This makes the bigger online retailers a great place to start.[9]
  2. Look for cars that are the same exact year, make, and model. If you’re trying to find the value of a 2014 Toyota Camry, search “2014 Toyota Camry” into an online retailer’s search engine. Try your best to avoid deviating from the year, as the difference in price between a 2014 model and a 2015 model can be massive.[10]
  3. Write down the price of each car with the same mileage as the one you're valuing. As you continue to search across different platforms, write down the price of every car you find that is the same year, make, and model. Try to stick to cars with similar mileages and conditions to get a more accurate picture. If you encounter a listing that seems radically high or especially low, you can ignore it. There may be special modifications or unique damage to those particular vehicles.[11]
    • Since you’re looking at cars that are the same make and model, the difference in mileage between listings shouldn’t be too massive.
    • A margin for mileage should be around 20,000 miles in either direction. So if you want to find the value of a car with 100,000 miles on it, look for cars that have between 80,000-120,000 miles on them.
  4. Repeat this process based on listings at local dealerships. Car dealerships have a little more freedom than major online retailers when it comes to how they price their cars. Since the price of a car is influenced by the supply and demand of the local market, find cars with the identical make and model at nearby dealers. Write their listed prices down on the same sheet of paper where you were jotting down the prices from online retailers.[12]
    • You shouldn’t have to get up from your computer to do this. Almost every dealership lists their available inventory online.
    • Wholesale auto auctions are not typical dealers, so you should avoid using these companies to source your information.
  5. Add the prices together and divide by the number of vehicles to get an average. Total up each price you wrote down, then divide by the number of prices. This will give you an average price based on all of the listings that you found. You can use this number as a reasonable baseline for the value of your car.[13]
    • Since you used a variety of sources, this evaluation will serve as a decent middle ground between the local and national market.

Getting an Estimate from Other People

  1. Go to multiple dealerships to see what they would trade it for if you’re looking to trade. One way to determine what a car is worth is to take it to multiple dealerships in your area and inquire about its trade-in value. Make a note of what each dealership would be willing to pay for your vehicle and average these numbers together. This is a practical method to determine what you could get for a car if you needed to sell it immediately.[14]{{greenbox:Tip: It’s a good idea to let the salesperson know that you don’t plan on selling your car as soon as you introduce yourself. This will let them know that they don’t need to turn on the sales tactics and should make talking to them much easier.}}
    • Dealerships are generally going to offer you less than the KBB evaluation. This is because they make money by reselling a car, and can’t usually turn a profit by paying the established KBB value.
  2. Enlist a qualified friend to examine your car for a subjective opinion. If you know someone that knows a lot about cars, ask them to inspect your vehicle.[15] Once they’ve taken a look under the hood, ask them about the condition of the car. Even if they don’t know a lot about pricing, they’ll be able to tell you whether the car is really worth what KBB and personal research indicate.
    • Ask them what they would pay for it if they were looking to buy a used car. This number is going to be less scientific than other research methods, but it could give you an idea of what the average private buyer would be willing to pay for it.
    • If you’re considering going to buy a car, show a knowledgeable friend the listing to see what they think. Their gut reaction to a car’s listing should give you a good idea if you’ve found something worth pursuing.
  3. Place an ad online to see what price people are willing to pay to test the market. Place an ad in the classifieds section of a social media site for your vehicle. List the price slightly above what the KBB evaluation and see what kind of responses you get. If a lot of people seem interested in seeing the car at the price you listed it at, it could be an indicator that you should sell it yourself. If you aren’t getting any responses, it may be that the market isn’t interested in your car and you should just take it to a dealer.[16]
    • You can post a potential seller’s advert in a car forum to see what car experts think of the deal.
    • Just because you post an ad doesn’t mean that you have to sell the car. There’s no harm in seeing how the market reacts to a listing.

Taking Other Factors into Account

  1. Lower your estimated value if your car has had a lot of work. A car’s value is impacted if a vehicle has had a lot of work done over the course of its lifetime. Lots of repairs indicate a long history of maintenance issues, which means that potential buyers will assume that they’ll have to get a lot of repairs done in the future. Even if the car has been fixed like new, potential buyers will still be hesitant.[17]{{greenbox:Tip: Major service costs typically turn up around 30,000 miles and then every 20,000-30,000 miles after that. Avoid having to repair a car, which will lower its value, by selling it before a major turning point where there are some big repairs coming up.[18]}}
  2. Raise your evaluation if your car has low mileage and little wear and tear. Your car increases in value if it gets good gas mileage, hasn’t been driven for a lot of miles relative to its age, and is well below the normal state of wear and tear. Look at the average mileage and overall appearance of cars that are the same make and model. If your vehicle looks better and has fewer miles on it, you can easily raise the evaluation.[19]
    • Cosmetics are important. If your car has no visible dents on the exterior and a clean, well-maintained interior, then you can consider adding on to the value of an assessment.[20]
    • The average mileage rate is around 10,000 miles a year. So if you’ve had your car for 6 years and you’ve put less than 60,000 miles on it, you can raise the evaluation by 5-15% based on how far below the average you are.[21]
  3. Increase the estimated value if your car is certified pre-owned. Certified pre-owned cars are vehicles that have been inspected by a reputable dealer. They are often eligible for long-term warranties. Because they’ve been inspected, they typically fetch a higher price when they are released to the market.[22]
    • For a vehicle to get a pre-owned certification, it typically needs to have low mileage and a clean driving record.
    • Pre-owned certification can raise the value of a car by 10-20%.
  4. Consider specific changes your car has gone through to make minor adjustments. Once you’ve got your number, you can adjust it accordingly based on what you know about your car. If your vehicle reeks of smoke, subtract a couple hundred dollars for cleaning. If it just got a brand-new paint job, you can add a few hundred. For future repairs that you know are coming up in the next year or so, deduct the cost of the repair divided by 2.[23]
    • Custom modifications like spoilers or unique paint colors may be cool to you, but they can lower the appeal of your car considerably. Modifications can lower the value of your car by $100-500.
    • New cars depreciate rapidly. A car typically loses around 20-40% of its value in the first year of driving, and then 15-18% of its value every year for the next 5 years. After that, mileage, history, and condition are the key factors in determining a car’s value.
  5. Modify your estimated value based on how much effort you want to put in.[24] If you’re willing to sell the car on your own, negotiate for a higher price, and walk away from potential buyers, feel free to add a few hundred dollars to your evaluation! On the other hand, if you hate haggling and need a quick buck, be willing to lower the price of your car. Value is subjective and you should modify an evaluation based on your personal goals and needs.

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