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How much your car is worth can impact your wallet and limit your options when you decide you no longer want the vehicle.
Your car’s current market value affects how much you could get for it if you trade it in or sell it. If you finance the car, its value also dictates whether you’re upside down on your auto loan, which could lead to a host of problems, like having negative equity on your car.
Let’s dig deeper into why it’s important to know how much your car is worth, what factors can affect your car’s value and some valuation tools you can use.
Why do I need to know how much my car is worth?
Knowledge is power, and knowing that “magic number” (i.e., your car’s fair market value) can help you make more informed decisions about what to do with your car.
If you plan to sell or trade in your car
If you’re planning to sell or trade in your car, getting an idea of your car’s fair market value can help set your expectations for offers from dealers or private buyers and negotiate based on your research.
If you’re upside down on your loan
Knowing your car’s value can also give you a sense of whether you’re upside down on your car loan — also known as having negative equity, it means owing more than your car is worth. This could happen if you have a long loan term or made a small down payment — or no down payment at all — on the car.
If you’re upside down and hoping to sell your car, you may not be able to sell it for enough to cover your loan balance, which can make it more difficult to pay off the loan and sell the car. And if you want to trade it in, you’ll either need to pay off the amount you owe on your loan out of your own pocket or roll your negative equity into your new car loan.
Rolling your loan balance over into your new loan may seem ideal if you don’t have the cash on hand to pay off your existing loan. But doing this makes it more likely you’ll become upside down on your new loan, and a bigger loan amount means you could pay more in total interest.How to get out of a car loan when you’re upside down
What factors affect how much my car is worth?
A range of factors, from the car’s condition to whether you plan to sell or trade it in, can affect a vehicle’s fair market value. Here are a few.
Year, make and model
Some car brands simply maintain their resale value much better than others. For example, Kelley Blue Book consistently gives Toyota top marks for retaining value because of the quality and reliability of its models.
Mileage plays a major role in a car’s depreciation. As miles on the odometer add up, your car’s value goes down.
Have you kept up with routine maintenance? Has your car been damaged in any way? Is there a lot of wear and tear? The amount of care (or lack thereof) you put into your car can affect how much you can expect to get for it.
Sell or trade-in
Do you plan to sell your vehicle privately or trade it in at a dealership? A car’s private-party value is often higher than its trade-in value. Car dealers aim to make a profit, and they base your trade-in value on how much they would pay if they bought it from the manufacturer — the wholesale value, rather than retail value.
When it comes to cars, it pays to be popular. If your car make and model is in demand, a dealer may be willing to give you more than the wholesale price for your trade-in.
How do I find out how much my car is worth?
Free online car-valuation tools, like Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and NADAguides, can help you estimate the fair market value of your car.
You’ll need to provide the following information about your car to get the estimate:
- Make, model and year
- Options and features
These pricing guides combine this and other information with additional data, like dealer transactions, consumer information, market trends and auction sales to estimate used-car values. Each valuation site uses a different combination of data, so your car’s estimated value may differ slightly across each of these sites. But using these valuation tools can help you can get a general sense of how much you could expect to get if you sell or trade in your car.
NADAguides will show you the lowest and highest prices people in your area have paid for the same make and model, as well as the invoice price and MSRP. The Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds tools will give you estimates of the trade-in value and private-party value ranges for your car.
Even if you’re not planning on selling or trading in your vehicle any time soon, knowing your car’s current market value can help you stay on top of your financial situation and take action if you discover you’re upside down.
If you do plan to sell or trade in your car for a new set of wheels, knowing how much your car is worth can help you set a reasonable asking price and negotiate effectively.