How Much Is My Car Worth Really?

By Austin Kilham · November 17, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How Much Is My Car Worth Really?

The value of a car depends on a lot of factors, from the make and model to age, condition, and mileage. How quickly you want to sell and where you live can also play a big part in how much money you get for your car.

It’s important to understand these factors as you appraise your vehicle. Here’s a closer look at resources you can consult as you determine how much your car is worth.

What Is a Good Price for My Used Car?

In 2023, the average used car price hovered around $29,000. Whether you’re able to sell your car for above or below that price will depend on a lot of things. First of all, mileage has a big impact on price. The more you’ve driven your car, the less it will be worth.

A car’s condition is also important. Are there repairs that have to be made or parts that need replacing? Does the car have an accident history? If so, the value of the car may be negatively impacted.

The older a car is, the more wear and tear it’s likely to have experienced. As a result, older cars usually cost less than newer counterparts.

Some factors that can impact car price are more surprising, such as where you live and how quickly you need to sell it. The weather in your area can take its toll on your vehicle. Harsh New England winters and salted roads, for example, can cause metal components to rust. Sunny climes have their own issues; too much sun can cause paint and other finishes to lose their luster.

Last, if you need to sell your car quickly, you may find yourself accepting less money than you would have if you’d the time to wait for a buyer willing to pay full value.

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Understanding the Different Estimated Values

There are a few different ways to calculate estimated car value. (Keep in mind, these terms apply only to cars you own outright; different calculations go into valuing a leased car.) Here’s a look the most common terms:

Market Value

The market value of a used car is a reflection of how much buyers are usually willing to pay for a given vehicle. It will depend on factors such as location, make and model, mileage, and condition. See below for resources to determine market value.

Recommended: How to Save Up for a Car

Trade-In Value

Trade-in value comes into play when you’re considering buying a used car or a new vehicle. It’s the amount of money a dealer is willing to give you for your old car that you can then put toward the purchase price of another vehicle.

The trade-in value is often lower than top market value. That’s because the dealer needs to turn a profit when they resell the vehicle.

If you’re trading in your car for a new or new-to-you model, your credit score will impact how much your next car really costs including interest. There is generally no baseline credit score required to qualify for auto financing, but lower scores will pay significantly higher interest rates. Similarly, higher credit scores will get better deals on auto leasing.

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Recommended: What Credit Score Is Needed to Buy a Car?

Private Party Value

You may encounter the phrase “private party value” as you research how much your car is worth. This usually means the fair market value when selling your vehicle to an individual rather than a dealership.

Instant Trade-In Dealer Quotes

Brick-and-mortar dealerships and websites, such as Kelley Blue Book, Vroom, TrueCar, and Carvana, may offer instant cash or instant dealer trade-in quotes.

The process is similar to looking up the value of your vehicle online. You often need to share only a few details about your car, such as vehicle identification number (VIN) or your license plate number, and the company will come back to you with an offer of cash for your car.

Once you receive an offer, there will likely be an in-person follow-up to review your vehicle before you receive any money.

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Common Car Value Estimate Resources

There are a variety of resources available where you can research car prices and estimate the value of your vehicle.

Kelley Blue Book

The Kelley Blue Book, or KBB for short, is an online resource for finding the value of new and used vehicles. It dates back to the 1920s, when the company published an actual blue book dealers would look at to establish pricing information and car values.

To research your car’s value, you can provide your vehicle identification number (VIN), license plate number, or year, make, model, mileage, and zip code. You can also input the equipment that is included on your vehicle and the color of your car to further narrow down the value.

Black Book

Similar to the KBB, Black Book offers VIN-specific valuations. However, it also integrates vehicle history report data from Autocheck, such as reported damage to the vehicle. The company then offers an adjusted valuation based on this information.

National Automobile Dealers Association

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) provides resources for shoppers looking for new and used vehicles. Use the website to compare prices on similar vehicles to your own to help determine what the going market rates are. The company also provides shopping guides that can help you learn more about the car buying and selling process, and glean tips for what buyers are looking for in a used vehicle.


Edmunds offers an “Appraise My Car” tool that also allows you to search vehicle values by VIN, license plate number, and year, make, and model. The California-based company was founded in 1966 “for the purpose of publishing new and used automotive pricing guides to assist automobile buyers.”

Who Gives the Most Accurate Car Value Estimate?

Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are two of the most widely used and trusted general reference sites when it comes to valuations of particular makes and models of used cars and trucks.

Each site may show different values for the same vehicle, but no site consistently provides higher or lower estimates than the other.

Car Brands With the Highest Resale Value

The brand of a car, also known as its make, can have a big impact on resale value. Some makes are more popular than others, often due to a reputation for safety, fuel economy, or durability.

According to research by iSeeCars, the following 10 cars had the lowest depreciation in 2023.

Make and Model

5-Year Depreciation

1. Porsche 911 9.3%
2. Porsche 718 Cayman 17.6%
3. Toyota Tacoma 20.4%
4. Jeep Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited 20.8%
5. Honda Civic 21.5%
6. Subaru BRZ 23.4%
7. Chevrolet Camaro 24.2%
8. Toyota C-HR 24.4%
9. Subaru Crosstrek 24.5%
10. Toyota Corolla 24.5%

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Importance of Add-On Options

Pricey add-ons, such as splash guards, alarm systems, and tinted windows, don’t always add value to used cars. In fact, once a car is two or three years old, they may have little effect on value at all.

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity?

The Takeaway

The value of your car will change from year to year as it ages, and supply and demand shift. Staying on top of your car’s value can help you make informed decisions about your net worth, as well as decisions about when to sell or trade in your vehicle for a new car.

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How do you estimate the value of a car?

You can estimate the value of your vehicle using online tools such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or Black Book.

How do I find the fair market value of my car?

You can estimate the fair market value of your vehicle using online tools such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or Black Book.

What is the difference between market value and fair market value?

Fair market value is an estimate of what a potential pool of buyers might pay, while the market value is what they are actually willing to pay.

Photo credit: iStock/DjordjeDjurdjevic

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