Determining the Retail Value of Your Used Car

To determine your used car's retail value, do some research to determine the value of comparable models and then examine the condition of your own car.
Written by Jason Tushinski
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
To find the value of your car, research your make and model in resources like Kelley Blue Book, National Automotive Dealers Association, and Edmunds. And don’t forget to factor in the mileage and physical condition before deciding on a fair price.
Just as it's important to find good value for your used car, it’s important to get good value from your
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Do your research

It is so important to do your research when determining the retail value of your used car. Using reputable sources such as
Kelley Blue Book
, and
will give you a good idea of the average sale price for your make and model.
Remember, pricing will probably differ from one source to the next. But taken together, those price points will give you a realistic sense of how much you’ll be able to get for your used car.

Research other sellers’ prices

So, you’ve checked the above-mentioned Holy Trinity of car pricing sources. Now, dig a little deeper.
See what’s being sold online in places like
and in print, such as classified ads and dealer ads from your local area. Are those prices matching up with what you found in the guide book?
All of this extra information will give you an even better idea of what your car is worth and how much you can ask for it.
One other thing to remember: a "listed price" is the asking price. This is not gospel and it’s not set in stone. Expect potential buyers to treat your listing price as a starting point from which to negotiate. If and when you are looking to buy a used car, feel free to take that same liberty.

Difference between retail value and wholesale value

You’ll also want to keep the difference between a retail price and a wholesale price in mind when you’re researching the value of your car.
The retail price is what you’d pay at a dealership for the car. This is usually higher than a private seller’s price and definitely more than what you’d get for a trade-in of the same vehicle.
The wholesale price is essentially the trade-in price, or what you would get if you traded in your used car. This won’t match the retail price, and probably won’t be enough to buy another car outright, but you would be able to fold trade-in cash into your next car purchase.

Factors that impact the value of a used car

Now that you have a good idea of the value of your used car, it’s time to think about the various factors that contribute to the overall price of it.


To put it simply, more mileage on your car usually means more wear and tear—and this affects how much you’ll be able to get for it. Even if your car is in excellent condition, a lot of mileage on the odometer will often give a buyer pause and drive your asking price down.
Granted, even a used car with little mileage on it isn’t guaranteed to snatch a hefty price. If the used car you’re selling has very little mileage but has clearly not been taken care of, don’t expect big offers for your car.
MORE: How to track gas mileage

Vehicle condition

This leads us to our next metric—the physical condition of your used car. This is more subjective and is often in the eye of the beholder, but it can affect your car’s value.
Even a reliable, accident-free car can see its value depressed if a buyer notices any scratches, dents, or nicks on the car’s body.
Any issues with the interior—such as faulty electronics, torn seats, or a car that’s simply not clean—may make even the most eager buyer think twice about the purchase.

Your location

Certain types of cars sell better in certain areas of the country.
If you’re selling a used convertible in excellent condition, you’ll likely get a much better price if you’re selling on the one of coasts or in a warm-weather state.
Likewise, if you’re offloading a lightly used pickup truck, you’re likely to find much more interest (and better offers) in the northwest or midwest where these vehicles are most popular.

Options and add-ons

You might think your fully-loaded car is the cat’s meow because of all its bells and whistles, but some of those add-ons are more likely to boost your car’s value than others.
Diesel engines, moon roofs, all-wheel drive, and a premium sound system are all options that tend to boost the retail value of a used car.
Air conditioning, power windows and doors, and an automatic transmission, on the other hand, won’t bring any more value to your used car. While those options are great and used to bring value in the past, they’re now ubiquitous and won’t add much to the car’s value.
Vehicles with a manual transmission, such as in a used sports car, may increase the value of your car. In our world of automatic transmission, "driving stick"—as the cool kids like to say—isn’t as common a skill as it used to be.
This style of driving is considered more fun, even if slightly less convenient. If your used car is in good condition, its manual transmission may help boost its value.
Key Takeaway Some features boost the value of your vehicle, but others (like air conditioning and power windows) aren’t unique enough to add anything further.

Personalization—a value depressor

What’s personal to you might be off-putting (or downright hideous!) to a potential buyer. What’s more, it will be harder for a buyer to determine the quality of the work done to personalize the vehicle, even if they dig your car’s personal flourishes.
Spending a nice chunk of change to outfit your car with a giant spoiler, tinted windows, and oversized rims may seem like a good idea at the time, but you might regret that decision when trying to sell the vehicle.

Exterior color

It might not come as a surprise, but more conservative colors tend to add more value to a used car’s value than do flashier colors.
Blues, metallic greys, and silver are noted for boosting the value of used cars. On the flip side, colors such as brown, orange, and purple have the opposite effect.
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Frequently asked questions

Why do I need to do so much research to find the value of my used car?

Well, here’s the thing—you don’t need to do any research if you don’t want to. But if you want to get the best bang for your buck and maximize your car’s value, it is best to spend a bit of time researching how much your type of car, along with similar ones, are selling on the market.

My car has a manual transmission. Will this really boost the value of my used car?

It just might. So long as your car is in good working order, a manual transmission is relatively unique in cars today and can help boost your car’s value—especially if you have a very interested potential buyer.

Insuring the value of any car

No matter the value of your car, new or used, priority number one is protecting that car, yourself, your passengers, and other drivers.
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