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Whether you’re selling an old car or trying to assess whether or not you are being quoted a fair price on a used car, knowing how to determine the value of a car is a good way to be a responsible consumer. Cars are major investments for everyone involved in the buying and selling process, so getting a straightforward sense of the facts will help keep everyone honest and protect your wallet as well.
Collecting your vehicle’s information
Step 1: Gather all your vehicle’s identifying information. The more information you can gather, the more accurate the judgement of a car’s value will be.
Every vehicle is different, so every value is going to be different. The most important part of your car’s description is its year, make, and model, such as a 2011 Toyota Camry.
Secondly, you should figure out the trim level on your vehicle, as this can change the value of a car. A 2011 Toyota Camry has several trim options, such as Sedan L, LE, and SE.
You can look on the exterior of your vehicle where this is sometimes noted, or else you can consult your manual or do an online search based on known features of your car.
Step 2: Look up your car’s mileage. Mileage is a major indicator of how valuable your car really is.
An older car with very few miles could be worth more than a brand new car with way more miles. You can find the mileage on your vehicle by checking the odometer on the instrument panel inside your car.
Step 3: Determine your vehicle’s condition**. The condition of your vehicle is obviously going to affect its value as well.
The general condition ratings are fair, good, very good, and excellent. These are somewhat subjective ratings but are based on real standards as well.
For example, an excellent rating means your car is almost perfect: there is no damage, the tires are new, service records are available, everything works properly, and so forth.
A vehicle that is rated beneath excellent has one or more blemishes in one or more of these areas. A fair rating, for example, indicates that very little of the service history is available, there are several mechanical issues, there are lots of cosmetic repairs necessary, and so on.
In order to get the most accurate assessment of your car’s worth, you need to be as honest and frank about its condition as possible. If you think it is in very good condition but it is in fact only fair, this will be a serious drop in value.
If you are worried about determining condition accurately, Kelley Blue Book has an online quiz to help you figure this out.
Get a value for your car
Step 4: Use an online estimator tool. The easiest way to determine the value of your car once you have all the above information is by using an online estimator tool.
Some examples of these are Autotrader’s Value a Car Tool and Kelley Blue Book’s CAr Value Tool. These tools allow you to fill out your car’s information (year, make, model, trim, mileage, condition) and return a value for the car. This is determined based on zip code, as prices often vary between different areas.
It may be worth it to investigate the worth of cars in other areas as well. If the prices are significantly different elsewhere, then you might be willing to drive a bit further if it means you’ll get a lot more or less depending on whether you are buying or selling.