A Quick Guide to the Edmunds Car Value Tool
The Edmunds calculator for used car values bases its pricing on data from a wide variety of sources, including dealer transactions, depreciation costs for unique automobiles, and consumer information. The appraised value is based on a number of factors, including year, make, model, trim, mileage, depreciation and features. All of these play a significant role in determining the value of your used vehicle.
The free valuation tool also has five used-vehicle condition levels: outstanding, clean, average, rough and damaged. Most people who use the tool will likely choose one of these three: clean, average or rough.
Once you’ve entered your details, you will be presented with three or four automobile values: trade-in, private party, dealer retail and certified used.
The trade-in price is what you can expect the dealer to give you if you trade in your used vehicle. This is always the lowest of the values. If you want to improve on that number, there are some alternatives to trading in that you should consider.
The private-party amount is what you can expect to get for the auto if you sell it on your own. This is always a higher amount than the trade-in value, but it takes more work because you’ll be dealing with offers from buyers.
“Dealer retail” is aimed at used-car buyers. This figure is an average of what you might expect to pay if you bought the pre-owned car at a dealership. If the used vehicle is new enough, you will also see a “certified used” number, which reflects the higher price you’d see when shopping for a certified pre-owned vehicle.
Other Pricing Guides
In addition to the Edmunds tool, you will see other pricing guides on the web. Here’s an overview.
Kelley Blue Book Price Guide
Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is an automotive shopping site. As a company, it has been around since 1962. It is one of many tools used by car dealers to determine car values for their inventory. It also provides used-car sales appraisals and new-car buying information to consumers.
Kelley Blue Book Value vs. Edmunds
In general, you’ll find that the KBB values are similar to those provided by Edmunds. We don’t have access to how KBB calculates its prices, but at a high level, Kelley also is paying attention to vehicle age, trim, trends in the market, features and mileage.
The “Blue Book value,” as it is sometimes called, will vary based on the shape your automobile is in. There are four levels: fair, good, very good and excellent. KBB says that of the cars it values, 3% are excellent, 18% are fair, 23% are very good and 54% are good.
If you want to compare those terms to Edmunds’, Kelley Blue Book’s “very good” would be our “outstanding,” “good” would be our “clean,” and “fair” is our “rough.” KBB does not have an equivalent for the “damaged” description.
NADA Used Car Guide
The NADA Guide started in 1933. It provides used-vehicle valuation products and services to the auto, finance, fleet, government and insurance industries. The pricing guide is an industry tool used by many dealerships and is not available to the average person. Instead, the company created a consumer-facing website called NADAguides that provides pricing valuation to consumers for new and used cars, classic cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs and manufactured homes.
NADA Used Car Guide vs. Edmunds
The NADAguides site has a similar appraisal interface to Edmunds, but it uses its own proprietary method of determining a vehicle’s value. If the numbers don’t match up with those from Edmunds, this is likely why. NADA has three vehicle states — rough, average, clean — that seem to mirror those on Edmunds.
Getting the Most Out of the Edmunds Free Car Appraisal Tool
Earlier, we gave you a quick overview of the tool. Here’s some more detail, which will help you see why adding specific options are worth the time you put into it.
The Importance of Style and Options
After you’ve put in the vehicle year and make, you’ll select the style, also called the trim level. The style can refer to the type of engine, standard features, or the number of doors it has. Here’s a refresher on trim levels.
Major features, such as the car’s transmission, engine type and all-wheel drive, can have a big impact on the value of the car. The same goes for options such as leather seats, navigation, a sunroof or automatic climate control. If you can remember your car’s options off the top of your head, great. If not, here are some suggestions on where to get the information you need.
The vehicle’s original window sticker is the best place to find what options are on your vehicle. Unfortunately, few people actually hang onto the sticker. Without it, your best bet is to sit in your car and make a note of its options. If you’re using a smartphone, tablet or laptop (assuming you’re within Wi-Fi range), you can complete the options check from the driver’s seat. Otherwise, print out the options page from the Edmunds website and check off the items as you sit in your car, and then enter the information online. It is crucial to get the style and options right. Without them, you may be under- or overvaluing your car.
Coming Clean on Condition Levels
As mentioned earlier, Edmunds’ free online tool for used car values has five condition levels: outstanding, clean, average, rough and damaged. Most people who use the tool will likely choose one of just three: clean, average or rough.
You might be tempted to choose “outstanding” to get more money for your used auto. After all, you’ve pampered your car the entire time you’ve owned it, right? But the truth is that few cars qualify for this rating.
“Outstanding” is reserved for older, low-mileage vehicles in cases where well-preserved examples are hard to find, says Richard Arca, senior manager of pricing for Edmunds.
Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) used car prices are all set at “clean” condition, Arca says. The price of a car in a less-than-clean state is adjusted downward from there, and it reflects what it would cost to get the vehicle up to a clean state.
If your vehicle was in an accident, it could still be considered “clean” if it was repaired with factory parts and according to the manufacturer’s specifications, Arca says.
“In reality, cars that have been in accidents tend to lose market value, but there is really no way to gauge how much,” Arca says. He adds that some of the factors that affect the value are the severity of the damage, the quality of the repair, and the demand for that particular model.
Be honest and objective about the state of your used vehicle. Try to see things from a potential buyer’s perspective.
It’s Easy to Be Real
Getting a realistic value for your car is key to what you do next, whether that’s selling the car, trading it in, or even keeping it for a while longer. By using the Edmunds car appraisal tool in any of its forms, you’ll have a clear-eyed assessment of your car’s real worth, not a number based on guesswork and high hopes.