How much is your car worth?

If you’re getting ready to sell a car, one of the most important things to know is what you can get for it—what’s it really worth, and what’s the best way to price it?

There are a few sources that are good key indicators to help you determine what your car is worth.

Look it up on car pricing sites

You’ve probably heard people refer to ‘book value’ when talking about used car prices. The ‘book’ they’re talking about is usually the Kelley Blue Book. It’s a price guide, published by an automotive research company of the same name. The Blue Book, or KBB, has been around since 1926 (which is impressive, given that there weren’t actually a lot of cars around back then).

All you have to do is enter the details (make, model, year, mileage, color, options) of the car you’re looking to buy or sell, and it’ll give you the Kelley Blue Book value—a price range to expect. It has different ranges for whether you’re planning to buy or sell privately (where you’ll typically get the best price), or buy from or trade in to a dealer.

Online cars for sale listings

Look at sites where used cars like yours might be listed—it can at least help you determine things like how many cars similar to yours are available on the market. Look for cars that have similar options to yours, and are similar colors. Also check out things like transmission—for example, in some cars, a manual is rare and desirable, so those cars may actually sell for a bit more than a similarly-equipped automatic.

Also look at dealers’ sites that have used cars similar to yours, to get an idea of how many are available in your area. If there aren’t many like yours, that also can mean your car is worth more. Remember that those dealer prices will be at the very highest end of the spectrum—as a private seller you generally won’t be able to sell for what a dealer can.

When you look at all of the above, it’s helpful to see what’s available, which things command premiums, and general price ranges. But remember that those cars haven’t sold—some sellers may price their cars above what people will actually pay. So it’s also helpful to find sites that will let you see sold listings. (That also only tells you what the cars were listed at; chances are the sale price was lower, but at least you get a better idea.)

So…. what’s my car worth?

Ultimately, as the saying goes, ‘your car is worth what someone will pay for it’. That can be impacted by all sorts of things, not the least of which is finding the right buyer—someone who has a particularly strong desire for something your car offers (especially if it’s rare) is going to pay more. Maybe even more than market value. But those buyers are rare.

So the best strategy is to decide what the very lowest price you’re willing to accept is. Then, add on some profit to give yourself room to negotiate (because most buyers will offer you less than your asking price). And also factor in your timeframe—if you’re not in a hurry, price it on the higher side and try to maximize your profit. If you really need to sell quickly, then a lower price will of course bring you a lot more interest and likely help you make a faster sale.

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