Online Car Pricing Guides that can help you figure out how much your car is worth

If your car is running and driving and is free of any major issues the online pricing guides can be a great resource to help you figure out how much it is worth. However, if your car has major issues or is older with high miles, the online pricing guides will really struggle to produce  market value of how much your car is actually worth. There are 5 main online pricing guides that can help you determine how much your car is worth if it is free from any major damage or major mechanical issues.

Kelley Blue Book

KBB is one of the most well known resources for estimating how much your car is worth, however, it is not always the most accurate. Kelly Blue Book tends to be too high on trade in values, and too low on private party and dealer retail selling market values. KBB uses a number of factors in order to determine this value including mileage, condition, options, and market trends. Kelley Blue Book is free to use but you can also pay for their premium service which offers more information about your car’s estimated worth.


JD Power provides a similar estimate on how much your car is worth based on its make and model as well as its age and mileage. JD power is also free to use, but they do not offer a premium service like Kelley Blue Book does. Most banking institutions use the NADA retail selling price as the standard for valuing a vehicle for an auto loan. Because of that, The value the NADA guide provides of how much your car is worth tends to be a little more accurate to actual market values.


Carfax like Car Gurus also has a market place it uses to pull real time data of how much dealers and private sellers are currently selling their car for. However, unlike the other four guidebooks, Carfax doesn’t just use the general year, make, and model factors to determine how much a car is worth. Carfax also incorporates the vehicles specific VIN based accident history, and service records to help paint a more complete picture of how much a car is worth. There is a fee to pull your vehicles Carfax (typically around $49). If you are planning on selling your car  yourself on the private seller market, purchasing a carfax is often a wise investment, and is becoming an expected norm from prospective buyers.


Edmunds uses similar factors as NADA Guides but has a slightly lengthier questionnaire to try and provide a slightly more accurate estimate for your vehicle.


CarGurus is probably the most accurate of the major pricing guides in determining actual market value. CarGurus uses real-time data imported from actual dealers and private sellers selling the same or similar cars on their marketplace. CarGurus factors in how long the car has been for sale and based on the other vehicles on their marketplace that are currently for sale, how competitive the price is. CarGurus estimator tool is free to  use, but it doesn’t factor vehicle accident history into pricing.

Which pricing guide should you use?

You may be wondering what the best pricing guide to use to help you to determine how much your car is worth is? The answer is… all of them. The best way to figure out an accurate estimate of how much your car is worth is to look for consensus and agreement between the pricing guides, and eliminate the outliers that are significantly higher or lower. If, for example, three of the pricing guides say your car is worth $10,000, one says $13,000, and one says $7,500. Eliminating the pricing guides that say $7,500 and the one that says $13,000 and will most of the time leave you with the most accurate estimate of how much your car is worth.

The one exception to this rule is if the pricing guide that is lower than all of the others is Carfax. Remember, Carfax is the only pricing guide that also factors in the vehicle’s VIN specific accident history. Carfax also in general, typically returns estimates of how much a car is worth 10%-15% higher than the other pricing guides. So if Carfax is the pricing guide that returns a value significantly less than the others, you will want to base the price of how much your car is worth solely on the Carfax estimate.

Trade-in, Private Party, Dealer Retail Price

We are getting close to figuring out how much your car is worth, but you may have noticed that most of the online pricing guides have three different options for figuring out how much your car is worth:

(1) Trade-in value, (2) Private party selling value, 3) dealer retail pricing. Which one should you use to determine how much your car is worth? Let’s dive into each of those three options and also explore Why is the trade-in value less than the private party value? Why is the private party value less than the dealer retail price?

Trade-in value

The Trade-in value is based on how much, on average, similar vehicles have recently sold for at auto auctions in your area. There are two main reasons why the trade in value is significantly less than the Private Party and Dealer Retail price: Time and mechanical condition.

(1) When you trade a car in there is an easy button discount. Selling a car at private party and dealer retail prices usually requires a significant amount of time, energy and improvement costs that you get to skip when you trade your car in. Essentially, when you push the easy button and trade your car in you are passing on that time, energy, and improvement costs to someone else to deal with. To make dealing with that time, energy, and effort worth it, there is an easy button discount built in to trade in pricing. 

(2) The second reason trade-in value is less than the private party and dealer retail pricing is that it is assumed the car has needed repairs and maintenance. This is more of a psychological reason. It has become assumed that cars being traded in or sold at a dealer only auction have repairs or maintenance needed (because, honestly most of them do). To account for those assumed needed repairs and maintenance there is also a discount built into the trade in value to budget for what the car is going to need to be turnkey ready for a private buyer, or for a dealer to put up for sale.

If you are looking to sell your car quickly or sell your car as-is without investing time money into improvement costs, trade-in value should be the price your reference in determining how much your car is worth.

Private Party Value

Private Party value is how much a regular car owner should expect to be able to sell to another regular individual (no dealers or businesses involved). There are pros and cons buying and selling private party. 

Pros: Many prospective buyers will only buy from private sellers. Unfortunately, there are many sleazy dealers that have cut corners and severely overcharged for cars and associated upsells. Many people have developed a complete distrust of all dealers because of that and will only purchase a car from a private seller. In states like Utah a dealer also has to collect sales tax at the time of purchase which isn’t a fit for people who like to “fudge” the numbers when they report how much they paid for the car in order to lower the amount of taxes they pay. (note: this is considered tax evasion, and can result fines and penalties that are much more expensive than the amount of money you were attempting to avoid paying in sales tax)

Cons: On the seller side of the coin; the main drawback to selling your car private party is the time and energy needed to deal with it. Sometimes you will list your car for sale and sell it the same day. Most of the time, however, selling a car private party requires weeks or months of responding to dozens of inquiries, avoiding scammers and low ballers, no show test drive appointments, and making sure the paperwork and payment are all handled correctly.

If you are okay investing money into the improvement costs your car needs to make sure it is up-to-date on all of if it’s maintenance, has all of the cosmetics up to prospective buyer’s standards, and runs and drives awesome Private Party selling price will be a great reference point to help you figure out how much your car is worth.

Dealer Retail Price

Dealer Retail pricing is the most expensive of the three pricing categories the online pricing guides offer. Like private party sellers there is a significant time investment that has to be taken into consideration for dealers selling vehicles. There are two other main factors that contribute to why dealer retail values are usually higher than private party selling values:

(1) Not only do dealers have to spend the time and energy needed to sell the car at a higher than trade-in value price; they have a much greater responsibility to make sure the car is solid. Private sellers get a lot more leniency if there are a few dings and dents or if the car isn’t fully up to date on all of it’s maintenance

Auto dealers have a lot more responsibility to make sure the cars they sell are completely up-to-date on maintenance. That responsibility leads to additional costs in mechanics, inspections, and cosmetics compared to the standards private sellers are held to.

An auto dealer also has a lot more at stake than a private seller in making sure the cars they sell are safe and mechanically sound. If you buy a car from a private seller and two days later it blows up on you, the private seller doesn’t have online reviews or reputation to worry about and may leave you hanging out to dry. On the other hand– a worthwhile dealer has a lot at stake, and will often either provide a warranty to help protect the new owner if the car does happen to have issues after they buy it, or the dealer may cover the repair costs out of their own pockets, because ultimately it’s not just about the car they are selling you but about all of the cars they will sell months and years afterwards.

(2) The Second reason dealer pricing is typically higher than private party pricing is that it is a business. There are employees, rent, licenses, advertising, etc. that also have to be paid in order for the dealership to continue to operate.

Dealer pricing isn’t a very helpful measure in determining how much your car is worth if you are looking to sell your car yourself. However, it can be helpful to make sure you are getting an honest deal when it comes time to replace the car you are selling.

How much my car is worth if I need to sell it quickly

If you decide to try and get top dollar for your car I hope the information in this article has been helpful in helping you to determine how much it is worth. If you can (1) find consensus with the five major online pricing guides, (2) are willing to invest the time to fix your car, and the money in improvement costs to make sure people don’t have any reasons why not to buy you car, and (3) have the time it is going to take to list and sell your car after all of the repairs and maintenance and detailing are done; the private party pricing values will be a great tool to help you determine what price you should list your car for.

If, however, your car has some issues or you really don’t want to invest the time and money necessary to sell your car for what the online pricing guides suggest, we can help. We utilize the trade-in values to see what similar vehicles have recently been selling for at auction as well as the salvage values and parts+ pricing for cars that have more serious issues. We can help you figure out a fair price of how much your car is worth if you need to sell it quickly. One of our friendly car buying experts will come to your house, mechanic’s shop or the side of the road to evaluate your car and make you a no pressure cash offer. If your car needs to be towed we will tow it for free, and if you can’t find the title we have resources to help ensure a smooth and easy transfer of ownership even if you can’t find the title.  Over 1,000 families trust us each year to help get rid of their car. Our goal is to make sure each and every one of our customers feel taken care of, our process makes selling your car super quick and painless.

If you need to sell your car fast and would like to press the easy button, give us a call. We would love to help you figure out how much your car is worth, and get you taken care of today.

Running or not, here we come!®

If you need to sell your car fast and would like to press the easy button, give us a call. We would love to help you figure out how much your car is worth, and get you taken care of today.