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How to Determine the Value of Your Used Car or Truck

How to Determine the Value of Your Used Car or Truck


used car in AtlantaThe first question on most people’s minds when they need to sell a car is probably along the lines of: “How do I find out what my used car is worth?” While there are many resources on the internet for determining the value of a used car, it is still important to know how to interpret the information about a car’s actual worth. There are many factors to consider, such as: the condition of the pre-owned car, where the car is located in the country, what method of selling the car is preferred, etc.

The easiest place to start is to use an online resource, such as Kelly Blue Book, that will be give you a value based on the year, make, model, and mileage of the vehicle. These values are usually presented in three forms: private value, trade-in value, and retail value. Here is a brief summary of what each of these values mean:

Private Value – This is the value of a car if it was being sold by an individual – as in, not a licensed dealer. For someone wanting to selling their car online with Craigslist, or maybe sell their car at an auto auction, this is the value to pay attention to.

Trade-In Value – This is how much a dealer is likely to offer someone for their vehicle as a trade-in. Often, this is considered to be part of a down payment on the financing of a newer vehicle. This value is usually the lowest because this type of situation favors the dealer.

Retail Value – Assuming the car is in decent enough condition, this is the value that a dealer would charge for the car if sold on their lot with financing. This is the most because buyers expecting financing usually have to pay an extra price premium over buying from an individual with cash.

Using this method can help one determine the “book value” of a car. However, depending on the condition of the car, and how motivated one is to sell it, the actual value may be different. Sometimes, one can expect to sell a car for a little less than book value in order to get their car sold in a timely manner. This is why, when a seller is holding out on selling a car at a lower cost, one might say: “They want all the value.”

As far as the condition of the car, those most obvious factor to consider is the physical condition. Does it need new tires? Is there now, or has there in the past, been any body damage on the vehicle? From there one must consider the mechanical condition of the used car. How does the engine run? Does the transmission shift without any issues? Most used cars are bound to have some sort of mechanical or physical issue. Be sure to determine how these may impact how much a used car is worth.

Finally, it is always good to perform a VIN history search of a used car for sale. Since a buyer is likely to have conducted a search themselves, it is good practice to already have one handy. These used car VIN history reports will show any history of accidents, issues with the car’s title, and other important details. If someone sells their car at a public auto auction, they will most likely run a report for the customer.