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What’s My Car Worth? How to Find Its Resale Value

Your car's value depends on factors like color, mileage and condition. Check online pricing guides and local listings to estimate what your car is worth.
Oct. 11, 2017
Auto Loans
car value
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You’ve decided to sell your car and you wonder “How much is my car worth?” Maybe you want to compare the resale value to the trade-in value of the car. Or you may be thinking about refinancing your auto loan and are worried you might owe more than the car is worth.

There are many reasons why you might need to know how much your car is worth. Fortunately, there are also many tools to help you estimate your car’s value.

Car value estimators and pricing guides

Your first — but not last — source of pricing information should be free online pricing guides.

For a quick figure, try NerdWallet’s car value estimator, which uses data on millions of car transactions from the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). It’s easy to look up your car — just input a few details — and get an approximate value.

Your first source of pricing information should be free online pricing guides.

In addition, you should check and compare prices on car value sites like Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book and NADAguides, which will require more detailed information about your car and its condition.

You’ll probably notice a variation in pricing among the guides. That’s because each uses different data and unique algorithms. However, the car values should be within several hundred dollars of each other.

Get an accurate value for your car

Pricing guides are just that — guides that help you estimate your car’s value. They’re not precise enough to be followed to the penny. Even so, you’ll typically need to provide the following information to get the most accurate price:

Say you have a 2010 Nissan Sentra SL. Sentra is the model, and “SL” is the “trim level.” If you don’t know your trim level, look for the chrome letters on the back of the car. You can also find this in your owner’s manual or on your vehicle’s title.
Some colors are more popular and will command a higher price. Optional equipment means features that don’t come standard with the model. Examples are heated seats, a sunroof and leather seating. Sometimes, optional equipment is grouped in a package and given a fancy name, such as the sport or convenience package.
Different pricing guides use different ways of describing the condition of the vehicle. For example, Edmunds uses Outstanding, Clean, Average, Rough and Damaged. Whichever words they use, read the description of the condition level carefully and be honest when evaluating what matches your car.
Every mile you drive reduces your car’s value. If you’ve driven more than the average amount of about 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year, the value of your car is reduced. If you’ve kept your car in the garage and it has fewer than the average miles, your car is worth more.

Understand car values

Once you’ve input all of your vehicle information, you may see several different prices.

  • Trade-in value: This is the lowest amount you could be offered for your car, sometimes called the wholesale price. This tells you about what you should get if you trade in your car at a dealership when you buy a new car.
  • Private party resale value: This is the price for selling your car to anyone other than a dealer. If you advertised and sold your car yourself, this is about what you should expect to get after negotiations.
  • Dealer retail value: This is even higher than the trade-in or the private party price. It’s about what the asking price would be if your car were being sold by a dealer.

Research prices in your local market

When selling a house, a good real estate agent estimates its value by looking at “comps,” or comparable properties. You should follow the same general practice when you’re determining your car’s resale value.

Check the listings of comparable cars for sale in your area.

Go to the online used car listing site Autotrader and enter your car’s information, as if you were searching to buy your own car. When you see the results, find cars that closely match yours. Pay attention not only to the asking prices — what the seller would like to be paid — but also to how many similar cars are for sale.

It’s also worth doing searches for cars similar to yours on both Craigslist, which is localized, and eBay Motors, which can reach buyers across the country.

Put it all together

Following these recommendations will give you a clearer picture of the market in your area so you can determine a reasonable asking price when you sell your car. But remember, the market is changing constantly due to the weather, holidays and available inventory. The resale value you set will ultimately be a combination of many factors — including a gut feeling about the desirability of your car.

Keep one thing in mind, though: While it’s important to estimate your car’s value — using the tools we’ve described here — the real price of your car is what someone else is willing to pay for it.

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