Used Auto Values
Every month, approximately 3,000,000 used vehicles are sold in the US. Whether you are looking to buy a used auto, sell your auto or trade-in your auto; you need to understand and collect as much information as you can on current auto values.
Used Auto Guidebook Values
There are a few companies that specialize in publishing auto values or auto prices related to used auto transactions (i.e. used auto dealer sale, used auto private party sale, or a used auto trade in). It's important to understand the pros and cons of these used auto guides as each has some unique characteristics. So here is the difference:
Kelley Blue Book: KBB has been around for more than 80 years, and is far and away the most widely known and recognized provider of used auto values. Their website, KBB.com is one of the most popular auto sites online, and their values are used and accepted widely by consumers, dealers, and related entities (finance, insurance, and government). KBB is owned by AutoTrader.com, and they do a lot of business with dealers, so be aware of the "KBB Used Retail Value" which is not intended to represent what autos are actually selling for at the dealer. This value is what you can expect a dealer to use as the asking price for a used auto for sale, which is why you often find dealers advertising autos "below KBB Retail". KBB publishes dealer, private party, and trade-in values.
ClearBook.com: launched in early 2011, ClearBook.com is the new kid in the used auto values category. They focus on aggregating and reporting out current marketplace auto inventory prices, and current auto sales transaction data, to develop a unique curve that shows the low end, average, and high end of the market on any given auto. Since ClearBook.com is relatively new in the space, their values are used primarily by consumers, but their goal is to show real-world market data. ClearBook publishes asking price data based on millions of vehicles currently for sale.
Edmunds.com: has been around for well over 15 years, and was one of the first auto pricing sites that pushed the envelope on trying to uncover different ways a dealer may try to take advantage of a consumer during the auto sales process. So, not surprisingly, most dealers do not like Edmunds.com, and some will not even consider their values. But, Edmunds has been publishing new and used auto pricing information for quite a while and you should review their information. They refer to their values as "True Market Value". Edmunds publishes values related to dealer retail, private party, and trade-in prices.
NADAGuides.com: is associated with the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA). Their information is used widely by dealer's and by related entities (finance, insurance, and government), as they too have been around for well over 50 years. NADAGuides only publishes values related to autos sold by dealers, so you will not find any private party values on their site. Because of their affiliation with the NADA it is widely believed they have access to a lot of accurate data used for the development of their used auto values. Similar to KBB, their values are not necessarily intended to represent actual market sales prices. NADAGuides publishes dealer, and trade-in values.
Black Book USA: you may also come across dealers that refer to the "Black Book" value on a dealer retail or dealer trade-in transaction. For more than 50 years Black Book has also been a widely used auto values provider and they are primary used by auto dealers and automotive allied industry companies (such as finance, insurance, and government entities. Black Book is considered one of the most accurate sources of analytics within the automotive industry, but as a consumer, you should access the values listed above since you can not easily obtain Black Book values. Black Book does not provide ther values openly to the public, and they publish dealer and trade-in values.
Used Auto Classified Listings
Reviewing currently available autos for sale is another great way to understand the current value of a auto. Keep in mind that most autos sell below their advertised price, but finding autos similar to the one you want to buy, or sell, can help your research.
Reviewing the inventory and asking price of vehicles on AutoBuying101.com Classifieds, eBayMotors.com, Cars.com, AutoTrader.com, and Craigslist.org can be very helpful in assessing the current asking price of similar autos actively for sale in the market. In addition, this will help you get a feel for the number of other autos for sale in your local area. There is less wiggle room on a negotiating down a used auto price if there are very few available in the market. If there are a lot of similar autos in the market, there is usually room to negotiate the asking price down.
Actual Auto Trade-In or Purchase Offers From Local Dealers
One unique way to get solid information on a used auto that you may want to trade-in or sell is to get in contact directly with dealers. Most dealers will want you to come down to the lot before they make a firm offer (which we do not recommend doing until you are 100% ready), but you can get in touch with local dealers and ask them for a ballpark estimate on how much they would give you for your auto. Simply reach out to some of the local auto dealers in your area, such as some of the one's in our Dealer Select Pricing Tool, and ask them how much they would buy your auto for, and compare that with the other sources outlined above. Some dealers, such as AutoNation or CarMax, will even buy your auto even if you do not buy your next vehicle from them.