How to Value Used Cars

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How to Value Used Cars

Unfortunately, there is no simple formula to calculate the value of a used car. The book value provides a starting point, but people who want to price used cars must carry out additional research and consider factors that increase and decrease value. Knowing the fair market value of specific makes and models allows buyers to make informed purchasing decisions. Use book value as a guide, research the value of similar vehicles, and consider factors, such as market forces, vehicle condition, and sale types when valuing used cars.


Dealer Price Guide Used Car Values

Dealer price guides contain generic pricing information about particular vehicle makes and models. Anyone willing to pay a subscription fee can access this information, but its value is of limited use due to the additional factors that determine car values. The "book value" of a car is simply an estimate of the value of a type of vehicle that has travelled a given number of kilometres and is in a certain condition. However, a person can use this number as a guide or starting point to determine used car values.


Researching Used Car Values

A person can use the value of similar car makes and models for sale to determine a vehicle's approximate value. Listings on online auction websites, advertisements in newspapers and online classifieds, motoring magazine articles, and guides by motoring clubs are excellent sources of information. This information provides guideline values only. Those who require vehicle valuations for legal or insurance purposes should contact qualified vehicle valuers and have professionals inspect their cars for accurate valuations.


Factors that Affect the Value of Used Cars

Availability and demand, the popularity of the vehicle make and model, and the type of sale affect the value of used vehicles. Additionally, the condition of the vehicle, its trim levels, the presence of modifications and aftermarket parts, and the availability of dealer support and spare parts largely influence value.

Availability and Demand

The availability of a specific make and model and the demand for the vehicle in a specific area affect used car values. These market forces are often difficult to gauge for those who are not professional used car traders. If demand is low but supply is high, prices tend to drop. Conversely, high demand and low availability cause prices to rise. If the demand is high and the vehicles are readily available, prices may remain high.

Sale Types

Buying a used car from a dealer is typically more expensive than buying a used car from a private seller. Dealers add to vehicle prices to cover the costs of storage, advertising, and other overheads. Private sellers do not necessarily have these costs. Trade-in values make unreliable guideline prices because dealers tend to adjust new vehicle costs to reflect trade-in prices, so the value becomes a discount rather than a buying or selling price.

Vehicle Condition

Numerous factors affect vehicle condition. In most cases, newer cars in better condition have higher values than older cars in poorer condition do. The table below lists and describes several factors that determine vehicle condition.


Determining Factor



More wear on interior, exterior, and mechanical parts

Older vehicles tend to be less fuel efficient

Newer cars carry higher values

Distance travelled

Higher distances mean greater wear and lower values

Exterior condition

Missing trim and poor paintwork conditions decrease value

Rust and corrosion decrease value

Interior condition

Dirt, wear, damage, and unpleasant odours decrease value

Mechanical condition

Full service records increase value

Condition of engine, tyres, and battery affect value


The more repairs a potential buyer must carry out to ensure that the vehicle is in good running condition and roadworthy, the lower the vehicle's value. Some buyers overlook age and distance travelled provided the car's interior, exterior, and mechanical conditions are satisfactory, especially if they are looking for cheap cars or project cars.

Additional Factors that Affect Used Car Values

Advanced trim levels include optional extras and additional features lacking in basic vehicle models. Imported cars generally demand lower prices than those sold locally due to a real or perceived lack of dealer support and difficulties obtaining spare parts. However, some enthusiast cars and collector's cars demand higher prices. Modifications can also add to or lower value depending on the buyer's perceptions.


How to Buy a Used Car on eBay

Sellers on eBay offer a wide selection of used cars at competitive prices. When buying a used car, search for the specific vehicle make and model you prefer to view relevant results. Narrow your search by choosing the most suitable categories and vehicle features and specifications. Look for used cars from local sellers to facilitate test-driving and inspections. Furthermore, buying from local sellers reduces collection or delivery costs. Determining the value of a used car can be tricky, but focusing on the factors that affect prices provides a clear indication of a vehicle's fair market value.

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