Selling a used car can be almost as nerve-racking as buying a used car. There are many variables when it comes to a specific year, make and model, such as mileage, condition, maintenance, history and customization. Setting the value of your used car can be a challenge.
If you set the price of your used car based on how much you’ve put into it, such as that sweet aftermarket stereo system or add-on turbocharger, you’ll likely be disappointed when potential buyers underbid you. And, if you set the price too high, potential buyers might skip over your ad without looking into it. Haggling over the price of a used car is inevitable, but if you set the price too low, you leave yourself no room for negotiation. And you’ll sacrifice profit.
So, it’s imperative to set the right price for your used car. It’ll help you attract attention, give you room to negotiate and retrieve the best possible value. Here’s how.
Research Car Pricing Guides
First, check pricing guides for your vehicle. CARFAX History-Based Value is the most accurate, based on real-world condition and records. These are great resources that attempt to set the value of vehicles, depending on age, condition, scarcity and other factors.
CARFAX covers most of the automotive spectrum, but if you have a special vehicle, take a look at specialized vehicle guides. Classic car values, for example, can be found in Hagerty Insurance, Hemmings, or Collector Car Market Review, to name a few. You even might consider having your vehicle professionally appraised.
The more time you put into research, the better you will be able to accurately set the value of your used car. Remember, though, the prices listed in these guides are exactly that — a guide. It’s up to you to arrive at the right number for you.
Evaluate Your Used Car’s Condition
Start with values listed in the pricing guide, and take an average of those, preferably toward the high side. Then, you’ll need to adjust your asking price based on your vehicle’s mileage, condition and equipment.
On average, cars accumulate 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. A 5-year-old car with 50,000 miles would be considered average, but the same car with 30,000 miles might be valued higher than if it had 100,000 miles. This is a bit more psychological than any real condition, though, and a used car with 100,000 miles might indeed be in better condition than one with 30,000 miles.
Vehicle condition is a little more subjective than mileage, but it’s perhaps even more important. During your research, you’ve probably seen conditions listed as “excellent,” “very good,” “good,” “fair” and “poor.” Logically, vehicles in “excellent” condition, looking new and in perfect running order, sell for the highest prices. If your used car is in “good” condition, perhaps with some scratches or dents or in need of some minor repairs, you’ll have to reduce the price accordingly.
Needing maintenance, such as timing belt, tires, brakes or shocks, also can detract from the value of your used car. Many used car buyers will want to be able to inspect and register the car right away, but repair items might turn them off, not only for the expense, but also for the inconvenience. Adjust your asking price accordingly, or consider making the repairs.
When it comes to customization and modification, take care to accurately represent their value. An aftermarket turbocharger, stereo system or custom wheels may have cost a pretty penny, but they don’t add much value to the vehicle, especially if they’re poorly done or of poor quality. For example, an aftermarket turbocharger with a check engine light (CEL) could be worth less than a stock engine with no CEL.
What is the Current Used Car Market Saying?
Another way to help you zero in on your final asking price is to compare your vehicle with those listed in classified ads in your area. Search several online used car listing sites, such as Craigslist, CARFAX or your local guide. Be sure to include a few years and a few thousand miles ahead or behind your own. Knowing these prices, you can set a competitive price for yours, something that will pique the interest of viewers.
Other things that can affect the value of any specific vehicle on the used car market may be the season, the price of gas or the time of year.
Spring is the perfect time to sell a convertible, while fall is the perfect time to sell anything all-wheel drive. You’re likely to get better prices this way.
When gasoline prices are low, it’s easier to sell big vehicles, such as pickups and SUVs, while hybrids and economy cars are quicker to unload when gasoline prices are higher.
Also, because dealerships are looking to make deals on last year’s models and their own used car fleets, it might be beneficial to decrease your asking price to make your used car more desirable.
Increase the Value of Your Used Car
There are several things you can do to increase the value of your used car.
If your vehicle is due for a large maintenance service, such as a timing belt or new tires, consider doing these and including the cost in the sale. Be sure to retain all records. A customer will be more likely to pay extra for a 100,000-mile car if it’s had its timing belt done.
There’s nothing wrong with customization, but most buyers won’t consider customized vehicles. Consider returning your vehicle to stock for best resale value, and take the removed parts and sell those separately. You’ll probably make more.
Presentation is everything, and if your car is dirty, people are likely to either overlook it or reduce their offering price. Having your vehicle detailed, inside and out, and getting the engine bay cleaned, can significantly increase your vehicle’s desirability. Fixing scratches and dents also would increase value in the eyes of potential buyers.
A Final Word
The best way to get the best value for your used car is to take care of it from the beginning. Keep up with scheduled maintenance, repair problems as soon as possible and keep all maintenance and repair records. Wash and wax the exterior of your car at least twice a year to maintain the body, and don’t forget the underbody and engine bay. Similarly, detail the interior of your vehicle at least twice a year to maintain its appearance.
Then, when it comes time to sell, you can demand the best price for your used car. No matter what vehicle you’re selling, back up your asking price with complete maintenance records and a CARFAX Vehicle History Report.