If you’ve decided to sell your car privately, one of the first things you’re probably wondering is how much your car is worth. Pricing your car properly is important because if you list it too high, you won’t get any interest. Listing it too low can potentially take money from your pocket.
How do I find out how much my car is worth?
The best place to start is by looking at online listings for cars just like yours. Make sure the year, model, mileage, condition, and location are similar to yours. You can also take it to a dealership to have them give you a trade-in offer, then add 20-30% to it for a rough retail price.
Think like a potential buyer
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that can be true when it comes to selling your car. You likely have many great memories from your time of ownership but you’re going to need to put all of that aside when figuring out what your car is worth.
You need to look at the situation from the perspective of a potential buyer of your car, not as the owner. Put yourself in their shoes. You might have decided that an issue or quirk that it has isn’t important to you, but it might be for the new owner.
Try to be objective about it. Of course, we all want to get the most money for our used cars. But be honest with yourself – when you look at other similar models for sale, is yours really the nicest one? Would you pay more for yours if you were shopping for this type of car?
Being realistic here might be difficult but it will help you in the end. Failing to manage your expectations can cause you to price your car too high – and you’ll end up wondering why you aren’t getting any calls or emails from potential buyers.
Look at comparable listings
The best way to figure out what your car is worth is to look at other cars that are just like yours that are for sale. Despite having systems and tools to evaluate cars, even dealerships will resort to this method often too!
This is only helpful if you compare cars that are as similar to yours as possible though. Aim for the same model year and if that doesn’t produce enough results, at least stick to the same generation as your car. For example, a 2003 and 2005 Mazda 3 might be the same and could be considered close enough.
Mileage is another really important variable when comparing cars. Obviously, the lower the mileage, the better. People don’t get excited about how much a car has already been used. People tend to view higher mileage cars as having less life left in them. So one with 60,000 kms is likely worth more than an identical car with 240,000 kms.
Condition plays a big role too. If you’ve neglected or mistreated your car during your ownership, it isn’t going to be worth as much as one that’s been well cared for. Potential buyers will be able to tell the difference so you’ll need to adjust your price accordingly.
The final factor when comparing your car to others is the location. City to city won’t make much of a difference but stretching things out across the country can.
For example, a Toyota 4runner like mine will sell for less here in Ontario than it will out West in British Columbia. The reason being that they salt our roads in the winter which causes a lot more rust and corrosion. BC has more of a rainy winter season and their vehicles tend to stay in better shape for longer.
Take it to a dealership
Just because you’re selling your car privately doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile to find out what the dealer is willing to offer you for it. Get a trade-in valuation from them to get a low end baseline to start from.
I mentioned in this article that a dealership’s trade-in value is often 70% or less of what your car will sell for to the next owner so keep that in mind. Taking their offer and adding 20-30% to it will get you close to a realistic retail price. This is a bit of a guess on its own but when combined with other methods, can help you to narrow down a good asking price.
Try an online estimator
There are lots of car value calculators available online that can be found with a simple search. Are these perfectly accurate? Probably not. But again, it doesn’t hurt to combine them with other methods of figuring out what your car is worth.
Try a few of them to test out their accuracy. These estimators often fail to take things like location and desirability into account and if anything, they tend to lean towards a lower price.
Ask the car community
One of the best free resources you have available to you is the online car community. No matter what model of car you have, there’s a good chance it has a following of enthusiasts that eat, sleep, and breathe information on it. You might think your car is boring and no one would be interested in it, but take a look and you might be surprised.
Where can you find these car communities? Search for online forums, Facebook groups, and Reddit. Give them all of the important details of your car and ask them what they think it might be worth. It’s likely that someone with knowledge of your car will be willing to help you out.
Get a vehicle appraisal
If your car is a classic or unique in any way, it might be worthwhile to have a 3rd party appraisal done. This is typically used for insurance purposes and isn’t meant to be a retail price for the car. The appraisal value tends to be on the high side in order to give you enough money to replace your car should the worst happen (write-off or theft).
An appraisal takes into account specific information like the history and details of the car, rarity, modifications, and how sought after that model is. An appraiser will take a deep dive into auction prices and past vehicle listings to generate a replacement value (which again tends to be higher than what it would actually sell for).
Having an appraisal done might not be worth the money for a regular car but if you’re having trouble finding others to compare yours to, it might be an option worth pursuing.
Put it all together
Now it’s time to consider all of the above factors and figure out where your car lands on the pricing spectrum. The online calculators and trade-in offer from the dealership are likely all on the low end. Comparing your car to other listings online might be closer to the high end. You should have enough data at this point to come to your own conclusion.
Take a look at your car objectively and decide where it fits in. If your car is in really nice condition with comparable cars priced at $10,000, a dealer’s offer of $4,000 can be considered far too low. In that case, it’s best to aim for the higher amount that other cars appear to be selling for.
Remember that your car is only worth what the new owner is willing to pay for it. You can ask for all the money in the world (and truly believe your car is worth it) but it doesn’t mean that’s what someone is willing to pay for it. The more realistic your asking price is, the faster you’ll sell your car.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: