Whether you are selling, trading in or just plain curious about what your car is worth, it is important to know how to get an accurate appraisal. Edmunds.com is here to help.
Where to Go
You can find the Edmunds used-car appraisal tool in three places: the "wired" or traditional Web site, our mobile site and our app for smartphones and tablets. The order of the appraisal steps is a little different for each, but the same information will apply.
Web Site: From your desktop or laptop, mouse over the "Used Cars" tab at the top of any page on Edmunds.com. When the tab expands, click "Appraise My Car." You can also access "Appraise My Car" here. (Bookmark it for the next visit.)
If you're getting the value of a vehicle that's older than 2001, use the traditional Web site. As of this writing, our mobile data doesn't go back any further than the 2001 model year.
Edmunds.com Mobile Site: If you visit Edmunds.com from a smartphone or tablet, you'll most likely see the site's mobile version. Scroll down and touch the "Used" tab. The "Appraise a Used Car" link is a bit farther down the page.
Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad App: On the Edmunds.com iPhone and iPad applications, start out by choosing the year, make and model of the car you want to look at. Next, touch the "Pricing" button. (On the iPad app, look for the "Options & Packages" tab.)
Edmunds.com Android App: The Edmunds app for Android devices is currently being overhauled. When the major update goes live, its functionality will be very similar to what you see on the iPhone and iPad.
Edmunds.com Live Help: If you have any questions about getting an accurate value for your car, please reach out to the Edmunds.com Live Help team for free assistance. Team members understand the process completely and will be happy to give you a hand.
Style and Options
Once you've entered the year, make and model of your car, you will need to supply some more specific information about it for an accurate appraisal. In this next step, you'll select the style, also called the trim level. The style can refer to the type of engine, standard features, or whether it has four doors. Here's a refresher on trim levels.
Major features, such as the car's transmission, engine type and whether it has all-wheel drive, can have a big impact on the value of the car. The same goes for options like leather seats, navigation, a sunroof or automatic climate control. If you can remember your car's options off the top of your head, great. If not, here are some suggestions on where to get the information you need.
The vehicle's original window sticker is the best place to find option information. Unfortunately, few people actually hang onto the sticker. Without it, your best bet is to sit in your car and make a note of its options. If you're using a smartphone, tablet or laptop (assuming you're within WiFi range), you can complete the options check from the driver seat. Otherwise, print out the options page from the Edmunds.com Web site and check off the items as you sit in your car, and then enter the information online. It is crucial to get the style and options right. Without them, you may be under- or over-valuing your car.
The Edmunds car appraisal tool has five condition levels: outstanding, clean, average, rough and damaged. Most people who use the tool will likely be dealing with just three: clean, average and rough.
You might be tempted to choose outstanding, the top condition level. After all, you've pampered your car the entire time you've owned it, right? But the truth is that few cars qualify for this rating.
Outstanding condition is reserved for older, low-mileage vehicles, where well-preserved examples are otherwise hard to find, says Richard Arca, senior manager of pricing for Edmunds.com.
"A good example would be a 1996 Chevy Impala SS with 70,000 original miles that has been garaged and still has the gloss on the paint," Arca says.
Another good example, Arca says, would be a 2001 Honda Prelude SH with 50,000 original miles that has very little wear on the interior and the factory paint that's still glossy.
Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) used-car prices are all set at "clean" condition, Arca says. The price of a car in less-than-clean condition is adjusted downward from there, and reflects what it would cost to get the vehicle up to clean condition. In the case of a 2001 Honda Prelude in average condition, the dollar adjustment is $1,411. That's how much a private-party seller would have to spend to bring it up to clean condition.
If your vehicle was in an accident, it could still be considered "clean" — if it was repaired with factory parts and according to the manufacturer's specifications, Arca says.
"In reality, cars that have been in accidents tend to lose market value, but there is really no way to gauge how much," Arca says. He adds that some of the factors that affect the value are severity of the damage, quality of repair and the demand for that particular model.
Be honest and objective about the condition level you choose. Try to see things from a potential buyer's perspective.
Understanding the Price
Regardless of the method you use to appraise your vehicle, you will be given three or four prices: trade-in, private party, dealer retail and certified used.
As the name suggests, the trade-in price is what you can expect the dealer to give you if you trade in your vehicle. This is always the lowest figure. If you want to improve on that number, there are some alternatives to trading in that you should consider.
The private-party price is what you can expect to get for the car if you sell it on your own. This is always a higher amount than the trade-in price, but it takes more work. Here's a quick guide to selling your used car that will give you more information.
The dealer retail price is aimed at used-car shoppers. This price is an average amount you could expect to pay if you bought the car at a dealership. Here's a quick guide to buying a used car for more information.
The Edmunds.com Web and mobile sites also list the certified used price if the vehicle is still relatively new. This also is aimed at used-car shoppers, showing what that vehicle's listed price would be if it were being sold as a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle.
This price will usually be the highest among the trade-in, private-party and dealer retail prices, since CPO cars sell at a premium over non-certified cars. The buyer is essentially paying for the thorough inspection and added warranty.
It's Easy To Be Real
Getting a realistic value for your car is key to what you do next, whether that's selling the car, trading it in or even keeping it for a while longer. By using the Edmunds.com car appraisal tool in any of its forms, you'll have a clear-eyed assessment of your car's real worth, not a number based on guesswork and high hopes.