How to use the Edmunds used car value tool

Smiling woman receiving keys to her new used carImage: Smiling woman receiving keys to her new used car

In a Nutshell

The Edmunds used car value tool uses data from multiple sources to help you determine your vehicle's current fair market value. Getting an accurate estimate of your car's worth before trading it in or selling it to a private buyer can help ensure you get a fair price.
Editorial Note: Intuit Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our third-party advertisers don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. Information about financial products not offered on Credit Karma is collected independently. Our content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted.

The Edmunds used car value tool gives you an estimate of the fair market value of your vehicle, whether you plan to sell it privately or trade it in at the dealer.

And now could be a great time to sell, with used car prices near record-high levels.

As pandemic-fueled supply-chain disruptions, computer chip shortages and assembly plant closures resulted in a decline in new car production, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to a sharp price increase for materials needed to build new vehicles.

The result? Skyrocketing used car prices. The Edmunds appraisal tool can help you assess what your car is worth in today’s market to get a fair price.

How used car value is estimated

To generate used car values, Edmunds compiles data from multiple sources, including car depreciation analytics, dealer transactions and consumer information. To determine how much your car’s worth, you need to enter the year, make, model, trim level, mileage, condition and features into the appraisal tool.

Providing an honest assessment of your car’s condition is critical to obtaining an accurate estimate of your vehicle’s value. If you say your car is in better shape than it is, the value that the tool generates may not be accurate.

When selecting the condition of your car, you can choose from five options, including …

  • Outstanding Only about 5% of cars qualify for this category, and they’re in like-new condition with no signs of wear and tear.
  • Clean — These vehicles have no serious cosmetic or mechanical issues and only minor wear and tear.
  • Average — Cars in this category may have some mechanical or cosmetic problems and show signs of typical wear and tear.
  • Rough If your car has multiple mechanical or cosmetic problems that need repairing, it would fall into this category.
  • Damaged Cars with major damage or mechanical issues that may be unsafe to drive are in this category. Edmunds doesn’t provide appraisals for damaged vehicles.

What you’ll need to get an accurate estimate

Getting an estimate of your car’s value is simple, but you’ll need to make sure the information you provide is pretty precise to get an accurate appraisal from Edmunds. Follow the steps below to find out how much your car is worth.

  1. Enter the year, make and model, VIN (vehicle identification number) or license plate number of your vehicle.
  2. Select your vehicle’s style or trim.
  3. Choose the exterior and interior colors of your car.
  4. Indicate whether you added options from the dealership, such as floor mats or wheel locks.
  5. Select your car’s overall condition (outstanding, clean, average, rough or damaged) and mileage.
  6. Answer questions about your vehicle, including whether it’s been in an accident or has water damage, the condition of the interior and exterior and details about the mechanical systems, tires, keys, aftermarket modifications and more.
  7. Enter your vehicle’s VIN or license plate number to generate your report.

Edmunds used vehicle appraisal report

When you finish entering the required details about your car, the site will generate a report with the following information:

  • Trade-in value Your car’s trade-in value is what you might get from the dealer if you trade in your current vehicle when you buy a new car. It will be the lowest price on the report.
  • Private party value The amount you might expect to receive if you sell your car to a private buyer instead of trading it in at the dealer. It is typically higher than the trade-in value.
  • Dealer retail value How much the car may cost if someone buys it used from a dealer.
  • Certified used The amount the car could sell for as “certified pre-owned” at the dealer. Not all reports have this value.

The prices you see on the report are only an estimate — they aren’t guaranteed. Offers you receive from a private buyer or dealer may be higher or lower.

When the system generates your report, you may get an offer from a third party in your area based on the information you entered. You can choose whether to accept or reject it.

Research comparable vehicles before selling

If you plan to sell your car, it’s good to research recent car sales or current used car listings (of the same make and model, with similar options) in your area before trading in or selling your vehicle. This will give you an idea of the going rate for cars like yours where you live.

If you trade in your car, the dealership may apply the trade-in value of your old vehicle to the down payment for your new one. Trade-ins are easy and convenient because you can “sell” your car and buy a new one in a single step. However, you probably won’t get as much for your car when you trade it in as you would if you sold it privately.

Selling a car privately typically brings in a higher sale price but requires more work because you need to find a buyer. Instead of listing your car locally, consider posting it to sites like AutoTrader and to reach millions of people (including those in your area) looking for their next vehicle. Just watch out for scammers and make sure the buyer is legit before finalizing the sale. No matter how you choose to offload your car, remember that other factors can influence the sale price, including when you sell, where you live and the weather. For example, if you’re buried under 6 feet of snow in December, you may have more luck selling an SUV with four-wheel drive than a two-seat sports car.

What’s next?

In the current market, used car values are near record-highs, making it an excellent time to sell. The Edmunds appraisal report is one tool you can use to estimate your car’s value, so you don’t get shortchanged if you decide to part with your vehicle.  

When combined with information from other car value estimators, such as KBB and NADA, you can have a solid picture of the estimated value of your vehicle. Because each site uses different data points and algorithms to calculate used car prices, the appraisal value won’t be the same across all sites.

However, comparing multiple values can give you an even better estimate of how much your car might be worth before you try to sell it.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Towson University. She’s committed… Read more.