What is the Value of Your Car?

Seemingly countless strategies for selling your car are available now. Prior to listing your vehicle for sale, however, it is necessary to obtain its fair market value. Methods to accomplish this are also plentiful and utilize both online technology and old-school offline techniques.

The Kelly Blue Book (KBB) is a trusted and reliable source for finding the fair market value of nearly any make and model automobile available. Private and dealership sales and dealership trade-ins are also effective. Continue reading to learn how to assess the fair market value of your car and maximize its selling price today.

What is Fair Market Value?

Essentially, the fair market value of your car is the minimum-through-maximum amount of money prospective buyers are willing to pay to purchase it on the open market. This applies to all types of salable assets as well. Fair market value is simpler to determine for certain types of assets than it is for others, however. For example, the fair market value of a stock in which you invested is listed throughout each day on the public stock exchange. Determining the fair market value of an automobile is slightly more complicated.

What Factors Help Determine the Fair Market Value of a Car?

Multiple actors impact the fair market value of a vehicle. The make, model and release year all influence the approximate range of money (from low to high) for which you might sell your vehicle. The condition of your car is also important. For example, a newer vehicle which was in an accident might be worth significantly less than an automobile several years older albeit in pristine condition. The service, maintenance and repair records for your vehicle are therefore important to retain.

Mileage also plays a role in determining the fair market value of your vehicle. Higher mileage typically reduces a car’s value, whereas lower mileage helps maintain it. Certain makes and models of vehicles retain their value better than others even with higher mileage, however. For this reason, you need to take advantage of reliable online resources to obtain the information you need prior to listing your car for sale.

Top Online Resources to Determine the Value of Your Vehicle Fast

The Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is one of the most trusted resources for determining the value of a vehicle industry-wide. The print version of the KBB has been in service for nearly one-hundred years (since 1926). The KBB website provides the same information and more online, however. One of the top attributes of KBB online services is a free, five-year cost to own calculator. Taking advantage of the features offered by this convenient calculator helps you determine how much your car is worth on the open market up-to five years after its original purchase date. Entering your car’s information is simple to do, although it is also helpful to understand what factors are used to approximate its current resale value.

Using the Kelly Blue Book Five-Year Cost to Own Calculator

The Five-Year Cost to Own assessment includes multiple factors about your vehicle. The cost to fill up your car with fuel based on a 15,000-mile annual average is included in the calculations. How much does it cost to keep your car in good, running condition? Expected maintenance expenses are also calculated. Repairs as applicable to a no-deductible extended warranty and remaining financing commitments (loan payments) are also tabulated.

Each U.S. state charges its own fees for tags, registration, and sales tax. Every car has also experienced some degree of value depreciation since it was purchased new off the lot. Depreciation and state-applicable fees are also included in the overall calculation of your car’s fair market value. 

National Appraisal Guides (NADAguides) by J.D. Power

J.D. Power is another top resource for determining the value of your car. The National Appraisal Guides (NADAguides) provided by J.D. Power include valuable attributes such as an AutoCheck Vehicle History Report, new/used car searches and overall buying/selling resources. The AutoCheck feature is powered by Experian and uses the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of each vehicle to check for prior damages and repairs.


Carvana might be the most popular method of selling a vehicle online today. Carvana likens its services to a vehicle vending machine. To receive an instant quote as a seller you simply need to enter the license plate number, VIN, and state where you live. If you agree with the offer made, Carvana staff comes to your home, pays you with a check and drives off with your vehicle in tow.


TrueCar is another popular source for selling vehicles online. This service asks for your license plate number, VIN, and state where you live. The TrueCar online offer service also requires your car’s make and model, however. Estimated offers are provided fast. TrueCar also allows sellers to enter additional information about their vehicles such as mileage, paint color and special features. Adding this information to your submission might yield you a higher offer. The proprietary True Cash feature provides sellers with quotes (and eventually a check) from a certified dealer. Private-party sales through TrueCar are also possible, although they might require more time and net you less money. 


Shift.com offers a wide selection of electric/hybrid, sedan, luxury, SUV, vans, trucks, convertibles and more. To sell your car on Shift.com you must provide your vehicle’s year, make and model. License plate information and VIN are also required. Shift.com estimates are free. They utilize a market data comparison method to determine the value of your vehicle compared to similar specifications and features on comparable automobiles around the country. Shift.com additionally requires an at-home evaluation to determine the final value of and resulting offer for your car.

Offline Methods for Selling Your Car

Selling your car offline is also possible to do. Hiring an independent custom appraisal company is one strategy used by sellers to have the value of their vehicle in writing before approaching potential buyers. This type of service might cost you between $100 and $500 on average. It also helps ensure you get fair market value when listing your car, which nets you more profit in the end.

Whether you sell your car via private sale or to a certified dealer, you want to be certain your car is in its absolute best possible condition prior to listing it for sale. This includes cleaning your vehicle and having it detailed if possible. Having minor repairs performed also helps increase your car’s value. Yes, having new brakes and tires installed will cost you some money up front. Doing so is highly likely to increase your car’s selling price by a significantly higher number, however. Finally, be certain to have all necessary paperwork on-hand for transactions and even basic communications pursuant to your vehicle. The faster you answer questions posed by prospective buyers, the more likely they are to make an offer.