How to Know How Much to Ask for Your Used Car

If you have a car that you no longer want, there are a few ways to get rid of it. You can donate it or gift it to someone, sell it privately, or trade it in at the dealership.

For nearly everyone who owns a car, there is a significant financial investment into the car purchase and you want to realize as much of that money back as possible when the time comes to get rid of it. In that way, a private sale is your best option to get the most for your car.

It’s difficult to set the advertised price because most people aren’t expert car salespeople. The price of a car is based on a handful of factors including:

  • The car’s appearance and physical condition
  • The car’s mechanical condition
  • The current mileage
  • The demand in the marketplace for you vehicle
  • The features and options in the car

Following these guidelines, you can set the price for your used car to get the most money from its sale.

Part 1 of 4: Consider the car’s trade-in value

When you are selling a car, you can determine your vehicle’s approximate market value by comparing your car’s trade-in value at the dealership.

Step 1: Have your vehicle appraised by a car dealer. Usually it is the used car sales manager at a dealership that performs used car appraisals.

Clean your vehicle well and empty it of personal contents so the dealer can see its true condition.

The appraised trade-in value is lower than your car’s advertised and selling price. The dealer accounts for potential reconditioning costs, mechanical repairs, and includes a margin for profit as well.

  • Tip: You may have to pay a small fee for a car appraisal if you don’t intend on trading your car in or selling it to the dealership.
price worth KBB
Image: Kelley Blue Book

Step 2: Visit Kelly Blue Book for your car’s value. In your web browser, go to KBB.com and select the category “What’s My Car Worth.”

Step 3: Enter vehicle information. Enter your vehicle particulars including the year, make, model, and accurate mileage, then click “next”.

On the next screen, select your vehicle’s configuration, then click “next” again.

Accurately select the vehicle options your car possesses along with its color, then click “See Blue Book Value”.

Step 4: Determine the value. Choose the option “Trade in to a Dealer” with your vehicle’s condition and click “Get Blue Book Value”.

The results are shown as a range of values depending on condition with your car’s approximate trade-in value marked on the chart.

  • Tip: Most vehicles are good to very good condition, though you should select what your car’s condition accurately reflects.

Step 5: Calculate your car’s advertised price. The trade-in price is usually about 20% lower than the fair market value price for your car.

Average the dealer’s appraisal amount with the Kelley Blue Book trade-in valuation, then multiply the result by 1.25 to see the price you should look to get for your used car.

Part 2 of 4: Determine the fair market value

You can use online tools to determine a fair asking price for your vehicle. Fair market price tools take into consideration vehicles listed for sale in your area so you can accurately determine an asking price for your used car.

KBB homepage
Image: Kelley Blue Book

Step 1: Navigate on your computer to KBB.com. Kelley Blue Book has a private party value tool to determine a fair valuation for your vehicle.

Step 2: Click on “Check my Car’s Value” on the left side. This will direct you to the appropriate portal.

Step 3: Enter your vehicle’s information. On the next page, enter your vehicle’s basic information.

This includes the year, make, model, and its accurate mileage. Click “Next” to proceed to the next step. Select every option that your vehicle possesses along with its color.

If there is an option selected by default that your vehicle doesn’t have, uncheck it for the most accurate results.

Step 4: Click on the “See Blue Book Value” button. This will reveal your car’s value.

Step 5: Select the option “Sell to a Private Party”. This starts you on the process of finding a buyer.

Step 6: Determine vehicle’s condition. Once you’ve made your selection, you need to assign a condition to your vehicle.

Try to be unbiased and fair or you may value your vehicle high because of an emotional reason.

Step 7: Click on “Get Blue Book Value”. You’ll see results on the following page on a chart showing the fair market value range of your vehicle with your vehicle condition highlighted.

This number should be very close to your asking price for your vehicle when you list it for sale.

Part 3 of 4: Compare with similar vehicle listings

You can determine your vehicle’s fair advertised price based on the listings for similar vehicles in the marketplace.

Step 1: Search private sales on online sites. Common sites include ones such as AutoTrader.com and Craigslist.org.

Be sure to look only for vehicles near your location and for models that are within 1 year newer or older than your vehicle if there aren’t many listings.

Step 2: Widen the search area. If you have a specialty vehicle, widen the search area until you have 5-7 similar vehicles to compare with.

Step 3: Select similar vehicles. Select vehicles with similar equipment and mileage for the most accurate comparisons.

Step 4: Average the prices. When you have 5-7 comparable vehicle listings, average out their advertised prices.

This is a great way to determine a starting price point for your car.

Part 4 of 4: Set the advertised price

Your advertised price is largely dependent on your vehicle’s condition, though you are free to set your advertised price higher or lower at your discretion. You’ll also want to have a firm number in mind for your desired selling price.

Step 1: Figure out a minimum price. Decide on an minimum amount you would be satisfied selling your used car for.

The selling price may be the amount you still owe on your car loan or a number you believe is fair. Typically, your selling price is somewhere between your trade-in value and your advertised price.

Step 2: Set your price. Set your advertised price 5-10% higher than the minimum price you would be willing to accept.

For example, if your car has a trade-in value of $9,000 and you’d be happy selling your car for $10,000, advertise your car for sale somewhere around $10,500 to $11,000.

  • Tip: A lower advertised price typically garners more attention and more inquiries about your car while a higher advertised price leaves you more room to negotiate. Use the strategy you are more comfortable with.

Pricing your used vehicle properly will not only help your used car valuable ad get attention but will help you get the best price possible as well. If you want to establish credibility with any potential buyers, have a pre-purchase inspection performed by one of YourMechanic’s certified professionals to verify that your car is in the promised condition.


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Attila

19 years of experience
906 reviews
Attila
19 years of experience
Cadillac SRX V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Edison, New Jersey
Attila was great! Very knowledgeable and actually detected a fault during a pre-purchase inspection that would have cost me later.
Lexus ES350 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Fords, New Jersey
He is very good—offered all the significant details we needed from the inspection. Helped us figure out what needed to be fixed.

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Chevrolet Impala V6-3.6L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Shawn was prompt, professional, and delivered the promised service as expected. This was a used vehicle pre-purchase inspection. Shawn also had to drive to multiple locations to perform the inspection, as the address listed that I provided him with was not accurate, but he still made it to the correct location within his time window and completed the inspection.
Toyota Sequoia - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Akron, Pennsylvania
Shawn was very prompt in communicating with me and was good at helping me decide whether to purchase a used car. He help me avoid a car with a repaired rusted frame that could be a danger to my family's safety since we were planning on using the car to tow a travel trailer!

Luis

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Luis
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Honda HR-V L4-1.8L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Warren, New Jersey
Luis was great. He showed up on time, acted professionally, and gave me confidence with a pre-purchase car inspection.
Acura RDX - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - South Hackensack, New Jersey
Luis did a thorough pre-purchase inspection for me, and found several major issues that made me pass on buying the car. Had I purchased the car, I almost certainly would have ended up paying thousands in repairs down the road. Thanks Luis!

Robert

20 years of experience
1089 reviews
Robert
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Hyundai Elantra L4-2.0L - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Englewood, Colorado
He did a pre-purchase inspection for me. He was knowledgeable and fast, and knew what he was looking for. I really appreciate all the pictures and documentation he took of the state of the car before purchase. He noted potential issues with the car that I wouldn't have been able to notice. Would recommend.
GMC Savana 1500 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Golden, Colorado
I trust Robert. He gave me a list and we will take care of it the week of June 29. I will know then that my vehicle is ready for the winter and is safe to drive. I look forward to getting things ready for another winter of careful driving.

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