If you’re not familiar with the peculiarities of the automotive industry, you probably don’t know what car dealers use to value used cars. Even though some of that information is transparent, we still don’t know all the details. But the available information enables us to understand current tendencies and figure out what are used cars worth.

Whether you’re willing to sell the vehicle you’ve been dreading to drive or you simply want to have more information about prices, we have you covered. Let’s continue our discussion, dig a bit deeper and reveal all the details behind used-car pricing.  

Why is the value of a vehicle so important?

The reason why we talk so much about car values is that it’s a crucial part of any negotiations. No matter whom you’re selling to – you need to know what used cars are worth and set a price accordingly.

Why is the value of used cars so important and how can this information help? I have some answers for you:

Getting the best possible deal

Knowing the approximate value of your car will help you get the best possible deal. Your buyers won’t be able to deceive you into reducing the price too much. If you don’t know the real price of your vehicle, it will be easy for the potential customers to get what they want.

Moreover, realistic and fair prices will help you attract more buyers, as well. Your used car will be competitive and attractive, which will certainly translate into more offers and deals.

Avoiding unfair trade-in value

If you decide to exchange your current vehicle for the new one at the dealership, it’s particularly important to be prepared and know beforehand what to expect. The price they offer will still be lower compared to the retail value. However, if you’re confident about the car you’re trading in, the dealers will have a harder time lowballing it.

Being confident during negotiations

Knowing how to price used cars will give you more confidence during those negotiations. Be it a private party or a dealership – you’ll get a more profitable deal if you know what you’re talking about.

It’s not a good idea to start anything blindfolded, especially when it comes to car sales. Experienced buyers can be quite sly and you need to be ready for their tricks. If I were you, I would certainly do my best to figure out the real value of the vehicle.

What car dealers use to value used cars? Tools, tricks, and estimates

Car dealers are people who need the information to estimate your vehicle correctly. Whether they are buying from a private owner or the auction, they need to evaluate the car’s worth initially, calculate the costs of repairs and determine the retail price accordingly.

What car dealers use to value used cars? Let’s start with the tools:

Kelley Blue Book

Kelley Blue Book is one of the most famous websites that is used by dealers, private sellers, and buyers alike. It enables us to determine the real value of the vehicle by combining various data. You can easily trust their precise estimates.


J.D. Power is the owner of NADAguides. This means that it gives you access to comprehensive data. Their evaluations are quite precise as well.

Moreover, J.D. Power itself is an invaluable source that you can use to get all the necessary information about the reliability of a car.

The Black Book

The Black Book is more tailored to the needs of a dealership. It’s a tool that dealers use commonly to get the necessary data for pricing. They have information about wholesale values, retail prices, and trade-ins.

These three are the main tools that dealers utilize to come up with general pricing guidelines.

However, they need a real-life evaluation as well. If you decide to sell to them, they will inspect the mileage and condition of your vehicle and determine its worth accordingly.

Their staff is experienced in sales and they will use all their tricks to lowball your vehicle. Every dent, scratch, or damage will mean less money for you.

Keep in mind that dealerships aren’t the most generous buyers. They will offer payment quite quickly, but you’ll certainly get less for your vehicle than you would with a private customer.

How to figure out what are used cars worth?

You can conduct your own research and utilize specific tools to determine what are used cars worth. The easiest way to get the overall idea about pricing is to follow the routes that dealerships take: go online and get the approximate estimation for your vehicle.

You can use the following websites:


Autotrader works with Kelley Blue Book to provide you with an instant cash offer. Even though you’ll get a smaller offer here, it’s your chance to determine how much you’d get if you sold your car to them.

Kelley Blue Book

If you want to compare the dealer and private party quotes, you can use the Kelley Blue Book. With their website, you get the chance to see prices for similar vehicles or find the evaluation of your car.


Edmunds is another excellent tool as it’s quite convenient for any seller. You can estimate your car with personalized information. You can also search for a similar model and see its prices depending on its condition. The latter can be particularly useful when you’re determining the worth of your car.


Similar to Edmunds, Nadaguides provides you with trade-in and retail values depending on the mileage, year, and model of your vehicle.

These tools are free to use, but if you don’t want to utilize them for some reason, you can always get the retail price through extensive market research. These websites will save you a lot of time, though, so I would recommend utilizing them instead.

How to set a fair price once you know what used cars are worth?

You’ll have to go through several steps to set the fair price once you figure out what used cars are worth. Trade isn’t easy and entering it with a competitive price will turn things to your advantage.

People sometimes buy cars as easily as they would purchase groceries at Costco. If you go through all the necessary steps to determine the correct price, selling your vehicle won’t be any difficult either.

Do your research and figure out the value of your car

I won’t waste your time on this step because you already know which tools will help you evaluate your vehicle. Use them wisely to understand what’s your beloved buddy is worth.

Estimate its condition

Examine the condition of your car carefully. If you can’t do that yourself, take it to a professional who will scrutinize its parts, interior, and exterior. They will tell you what needs to be repaired and what are the major/minor glitches.

That information is crucial for setting a competitive price tag. For instance, the private-party prices for the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon start from around $23,000 (rough condition) and go up to $26,000 (excellent condition) according to Edmunds.

Therefore, it’s crucial to know whether your car is in excellent, good, average, bad, or horrific condition.

Set the price for your car  

Once you figure out the condition of your vehicle, here’s how to price used cars. If you see that the 2015 white BMW 2 Series costs around $13,000 as a trade-in, you should add around 28% and set your final price accordingly. You could also compare trade-in values from various websites, split the difference and add 28% to that.

No matter what you’re selling – a cheap car, expensive Audi, Tesla, or advanced jeeps – these steps will help you out.

Final Takeaway

Though it’s not easy to come up with the perfect value for your vehicle, it’s possible to learn how to price used cars. We’ve covered all the basics that will help you in the process.

You should remember that modern websites and tools provide you with precise data. You can skip complicated steps and let those determine a fair value for your vehicle. The process I described above will be useful for setting a price that will be profitable to you and attractive to your customers.