What is car resale value?

The resale value of your car represents how much you could get for it if you were to sell it. The vehicle's age, condition, make and model, and consumer demand all contribute to its resale value. If you're considering buying a new car, it's essential to know your car's resale value to help you negotiate a fair trade-in offer or a private sale. Let's consider how you can determine your car's value and ways you can maintain or increase it.

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How to find the value of your car

There are several online tools you can consult to find the value of your car, including:

  • Kelley Blue Book: KBB will extend an offer to buy your car after you input your license plate or VIN and other details about your vehicle in their online form.
  • J.D. Power: You can discover the used car book value and trade-in value of your vehicle. You can also do a VIN search to research your vehicle and order a vehicle history report.
  • Edmunds: You can use Edmunds' online tool to learn how much your car would sell for after you add your VIN or license plate number.

You can also take your vehicle to a local car dealership to get an estimate of what they might offer if you were to trade in your car or sell it to them on the spot.

You can get a quote to sell your car from online car sales sites, including Progressive's car selling and trade-in service.

What information do you need to estimate your car's resale value?

You'll need the following information about your car to help determine its value, including:

  • Make, model, year, and trim level
  • Mileage
  • Engine size and type
  • Color
  • Special features and options
  • Condition

If you no longer have your vehicle's owner's manual, you can locate many of these details by typing your vehicle's VIN into an online search tool or VIN decoder. Some describe the VIN (vehicle identification number) as your vehicle's Social Security number. You can find it on a metal plate on your dashboard near the windshield or the inside doorjamb on the driver's side.

You can use the VIN to look up the vehicle's history report, which may include where it's been registered, if it's been in an accident, and if there are any related safety recalls. Check your car's VIN on the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) website.

Can you tell how much a car is worth by the VIN number?

You can start to tell how much a car is worth by typing the VIN into an online tool such as Edmunds.com, along with the year, make, model, and license plate number. You'll receive an estimate of what you could get for your vehicle. But your car's resale value will ultimately also be determined by its condition, demand for the vehicle, and more.

Looking to buy a new vehicle once you sell yours? Learn about how to trade in a car.

What makes a car's value go down?

The same factors that determine a vehicle's value also contribute to its loss of value. The following are the major factors that can affect a car's loss of value:

  • Depreciation: iSeeCars reports that new cars decline in value by more than 20% in their first year and as much as 50% by year five, after which it slows considerably. Determine how much depreciation has affected your car's value using Progressive's depreciation calculator.
  • Mileage: Cars.com reports that your vehicle's mileage is one of the most significant factors in its resale value. And a Federal Highway Administration study says that if your car's odometer reading is high in relation to its age, it will lose value. The type of miles a car has can matter, too. Highway miles are far more favorable than city driving miles.
  • Condition and accident history: The condition of the vehicle, such as dents, cracked glass, scratches, and rust, reduces a car's resale value. Prior accidents, deferred maintenance, worn tires or mechanical problems could also take away from its resale value. A messy, dirty interior that smells of cigarette smoke or anything else will also detract from the car's value.
  • Your location: It will be easier to sell a convertible if you live in a warmer climate, just as four-wheel drives and other vehicles that perform well in the snow may do better in wintry temperatures.

How to increase the value of a car

How you can maintain or even increase your car's resale value compared to the average is to take the best possible care of your car. Here are some tips to ensure your car is in the best shape so you can potentially increase your car's resale value when you're ready to sell it:

  • Keep it clean inside and out
  • Keep up with regular maintenance and keep the receipts from the mechanic
  • Go easy on the mileage
  • Maintain the tires and brakes, get routine oil changes, and maintain fluid levels according to the manufacturer's instructions in your owner's manual
  • Park your vehicle in a garage to protect it from the elements and preserve more of its value

Do some vehicles appreciate in value?

Yes, some cars will appreciate in value over time. Typically, those vehicles are either rare (like with classic car values), have some unique design element, or have amassed an enthusiastic fan base. Standard cars typically depreciate the longer you own them, but taking care of them appropriately can help them depreciate more slowly than the average vehicle.

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