You are considering selling your car or you want to get a car appraised, perhaps for an estate or for some other legal purpose. An appraisal will help you determine its value, something you may not be able to accomplish personally. Getting your car appraised is not difficult, but obtaining an accurate estimate may be a challenge, especially if your car is rare. We will examine four methods of appraisal that you might consider.
Get Your Car Appraised Online
Most car sellers can get an accurate valuation for their car by using an online tool such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.
Both sites provide a free service where you will enter certain information about your vehicle, including the make, model, model year, trim level, amenities, mileage and its condition. The more details you supply that accurately reflect your vehicle, the more likely you will find a value you can live with. Keep in mind that this may not count as an official appraisal in certain circumstances.
What both sites will provide for you are three prices: the trade-in value, private party sale price and the dealer retail price. The trade-in is the lowest price, or what you can expect when you offer your car as a trade toward a different vehicle. The private party sale price is what your vehicle should fetch when you sell it directly, and it’s likely closest to your vehicle’s appraised value. The dealer price simply reflects the profit margin the dealer is working with when your car is resold to a third party — ignore this price as it has nothing to do with the appraised value.
Get Your Car Appraised at a Dealership
You can also take your car to a dealer and have it appraised, a process that usually takes up to 30 minutes to complete. It is doubtful that a dealer would offer a value unless you have some other business to conduct, but some dealers are looking to add to their used vehicle inventory and may be interested in your car.
Just as you would input certain information online, the dealer will consider those factors too. In addition, the dealer will also consider demand for your vehicle in the used car market, the vehicle’s CARFAX history report and the cost to recondition your vehicle. The vehicle type is another factor — if you are attempting to appraise a 4×4 in Florida, it might be valued less than what it would be worth in Montana or West Virginia.
When the dealer returns with a price, you may be happy with it. But you should know that it isn’t a fair appraisal as your car would most likely sell for more to a private party. The dealer is simply offering you a price and will add his profit later.
Get Your Car Appraised Professionally
The first two examples give you some idea on how to valuate your vehicle. However, neither method may count as an official appraisal. Furthermore, you may be required to get a written appraisal for legal reasons.
If you are selling a car that is part of an estate, a divorce settlement or to uphold an insurance claim, then an accurate written appraisal is required. Here, you will need to enlist the services of a licensed appraiser, especially an individual experienced in placing a value on cars. Some appraisers do excellent work with furniture, real estate and other property. You need a person who specializes in cars.
Finding a qualified appraiser may be possible through your attorney, a real estate agent or by means of some other community contact. Online search may turn up someone too. In any case, the appraiser must provide you with a written report that supplies a detailed description of the vehicle as well as the procedure used to determine your car’s value. That value will be based on what the car would sell for at retail today. Expect to pay a flat fee or an hourly charge for this service.
Contact an Auction House
You might also find a qualified appraiser through an auction house. Christie’s and Sotheby’s are two of the more well-known auctioneers, but there are local appraisal companies that may also be licensed, bonded and insured.
You will want to select the higher end service if the vehicle is particularly valuable such as a 1953 Nash-Healey Roadster or a 1934 Rolls-Royce 20/25. As for your late model Hyundai, Chevrolet or Toyota, save your money.
Lastly, an appraiser that says she follows the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) as authorized by Congress is worthy of your consideration. Here, you have an individual who follows the generally accepted methods for conducting an appraisal.
The Bottom Line
The more valuable the vehicle, the better it is for you to invest in a professional appraisal. On the other hand, if you donated a vehicle and want to determine its fair market value, then online sources may be sufficient. Just be realistic about what a private party might pay for it, otherwise the IRS may question that value.