Driveo’s Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation: Finding Your Used Car Value

Finding Your Used Car Value

Before selling your vehicle, you must have a clear idea of what it is worth. Determining the used car value doesn’t need to be overwhelming, although it is crucial. Remember that pricing your vehicle too low will lead to a loss of money. Buyers will take advantage of your low price, not telling you that they would have paid more.

Pricing the vehicle too high, on the other hand, will make it nearly impossible to sell your car. At the very least, you will not be able to do so in a timely manner. When you correctly price your used car, neither of these will be a problem. Instead, you maximize profit without waiting months on end to complete a sale.

Driveo’s Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation ensures that you price your vehicle appropriately to sell your car quickly and for the highest price possible. This technique is simple to follow and will make you money when selling your car!

How the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation Benefits You

An online search will reveal numerous answers to the question, “How do I find the retail value of my car?” but not all are created equally. Most answers will only offer one or two tips. While they can help somewhat, they are not the complete solution. Only the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation delivers step-by-step instructions on pricing your vehicle.

By using this method, you have access to detailed directions that guide you through the car-pricing process. As such, there is absolutely no need to guess. You will be confident that you have valued your vehicle correctly. Simply follow the easy steps of the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation and you will have a clear idea of what price is realistic yet maximizes your profit, ensuring your satisfaction following the sale of your used car.

your car for sale

Step 1: Check the Used Car Value of Your Car on Reputable Websites

finding used car value

A quick online search will reveal dozens of websites offering a car value calculator, but not all rely on the same information. To ensure you get an accurate estimate of your vehicle’s worth, always opt for a reputable website that is trusted in the automotive industry. The best choices are Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book, although NADA and Black Book also provide reliable, updated information, those are not so common in California.

In California, the most commonly used of these websites is Kelley Blue Book, so you should follow suit. As a matter of fact, most banks use KBB a guideline to make loan decisions. This will put you on the same page with potential buyers in terms of your asking price. Additionally, using the same website as the other sellers in the area ensures you will be within range of their used car prices, meaning no potential buyers avoid you due to a higher cost.

How Do these Websites Determine Their Values?

To give you confidence in the price range displayed for your make and model on Kelley Blue Book and other similar websites, consider how they determine their values. Some people incorrectly assume that KBB sets the prices within the market, but it actually tracks them.

Kelley Blue Book pays close attention to the price a model is sold for across all types of transactions, including at independent dealers, wholesale auctions, in rental fleets, from franchised dealers, in private party transactions, and via financial institution leases. The website follows these transactions across the entire country. The team then calculates the range of values based on that pricing data, as well as other economic conditions.

Using Kelley Blue Book to Price Your Car

Kelley Blue Book makes it simple to determine your used car value. Simply visit the page called “What’s My Car Worth?” and fill out the fields. You will be asked for the year, make, model, and mileage. From there, the website will ask you to select the trim level of your vehicle, whether you bought upgrades, the color of your car, and your estimate of the condition. Finally, you will see a page showing the trade-in range and the value when selling to a private party.

Step 2: Understand Market Fluctuations That Can Affect Your Vehicle’s Value Range

used car market fluctuations

Since all reputable car value calculator websites give you a price range, you are responsible for determining where your model falls within these figures. Market fluctuations, including the quantity of models available, can have a significant impact on the amount you will get for your car. Remember that while the value range you just determined affects your price, the biggest influence is the market value. This market value may even be significantly different from the KBB price.
Whenever additional units of your model are available in San Diego, the price you can get for your car will drop. This comes down to the simple law of supply and demand. Because of this, those trying to sell a common vehicle might not be able to ask as much money for it.

In some cases, supply and demand will help you sell your vehicle. Rare vehicles can be worth more, but they must not be too specific. For example, while an unusual trim level of a certain sedan can command a higher asking price, you will find it nearly impossible to sell a heavily modified sedan, despite it being rare. Do not expect the asking price to go up for a vehicle appealing to niche buyers; in fact, you may need to lower the cost to make the sale.

your car for sale

A Note about Rental Fleets

When examining how supply affects your used car value, be sure to pay attention to rental fleet vehicles. Every rental company will occasionally sell older models and replace them. This inevitably leads to the San Diego market flooding with used cars that used to be part of a rental fleet. For those unlucky enough to be selling a car commonly found in rental fleets when this happens, you will notice a dramatic drop in what you can get for your vehicle.

You may be able to wait a few months for the price to go back up, but be careful. At any moment, at least one San Diego car rental company has likely recently updated its fleet, meaning the market will be filled with your model.

To help you determine whether you will face this issue when using the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation, check whether your model is a common fleet vehicle. The most popular are the following:

Chevrolet Cruze

Chrysler 200

Nissan Altima

Toyota Camry

Toyota Corolla

Chevrolet Impala

Hyundai Accent

Ford Mustang Convertible

If you own any of the above models, pay close attention to the market when selling your vehicle and be prepared to put in additional effort to complete the sale.

Step 3: Assess Your Vehicle’s Condition

used car condition

The most important part of the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation is assessing the condition of your vehicle. There will be a significant price difference between a vehicle that is in excellent condition and one in fair condition. Unsurprisingly, cars in the best condition will command the highest price while those in the worst shape will sit closer to the bottom of the price range.

Most in the auto industry use four distinctions for a car’s condition: Fair, Good, Very Good, or Excellent. The majority of cars will be in Good condition, with Very Good being the next most popular, followed by Fair, and then Excellent. If you are unsure about your vehicle’s condition, you will want to consider the following points. When using the Kelley Blue Book valuation tool, you can also take a condition quiz to help you determine into which category your car falls.

Be Honest about the Condition

To get the best possible price for your car, you must be honest with yourself and the potential buyers about its condition. If you are too harsh during your judgment, you will undervalue the vehicle, losing money.

On the other hand, if you ignore flaws in the vehicle, you may overvalue it. When you price the car too high, you will struggle to find a buyer. In this case, you will have to either lower the asking price or wait months and months to make the sale.

Major Factors Affecting Vehicle Condition

Your vehicle’s age and mileage will have the largest impacts on its condition, and both of these can be assessed without an inspection. The service and accident histories will also have an impact. Vehicles that have been regularly maintained and have not been in any accidents are in better condition. An often-overlooked factor affecting condition is the type of driving. Driving in the city will cause wear and tear more quickly than highway driving. Additionally, regularly driving by the ocean (due to salt in the air), in dusty areas, or on mountains will worsen the condition of the vehicle.

Assessing Interior Condition

With the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation, you should assess your car’s condition by category, as this makes it easier. The interior condition will include such factors as if:

The lights work

Materials are ripped

The gauges work

The stereo and infotainment system work

The heating and air conditioning work

All doors (and the trunk) open, close, and lock

All seats have seat belts

No warning lights are showing on the dashboard

Assessing Exterior Condition

Important exterior features that can affect how you classify the condition of your vehicle include:

Crack-free windshield

All body panels match in color

All seams are properly aligned

No body dents or scratches

Windshield blades and wipers are functional

Exterior lights work

Assessing Condition of Mechanical Components

To assess your car’s mechanical condition accurately, you will need to drive it as well as inspect it. Things to look out for include:

The color of the exhaust pipe emissions

No odors with engine running

No corrosion on battery terminals

No oil or fluid leaks

Oil is not dark or black

Ideally, you will have a mechanic determine your vehicle’s condition. You should pay for an inspection prior to selling your car at any rate. This will allow you to provide the buyers peace of mind and ensure that they do not return to you with complaints about the car.

Other Factors that Affect Your Used Car Price

In addition to the condition, where your used car falls within the KBB price range will depend on the type of transmission you have, the number of previous owners, and the features your vehicle has.

Using the Condition to Calculate the Value

If you are still unsure about your ride’s condition, see our guide on how to correctly evaluate your car’s condition for a definitive guide. With a clear idea of your vehicle’s condition, you can find a more accurate price estimate for your vehicle. Go back to Kelley Blue Book and check the value for your specific make, model, and year with the condition included. Ideally, you will find a private party value of the same condition. Make a note of this model’s price.

Step 4: Research Your Local Market

used car prices and local market

To determine where within KBB’s range of values your used car falls, you must also consider the local market. A car’s value can be very different in San Diego from in another city. A convertible, for example, will likely be worth much more in San Diego, where the climate is warm year round, than in Minnesota, where you couldn’t drive with the top down for half the year.

The internet is your secret weapon for researching your local San Diego market. Check out a range of automotive classified websites, such as KBB, CarGurus,, and AutoTrader, to see what identical vehicles are selling for. Use these pages to search the vehicles currently for sale, entering your specific make, model, and year.

Ideally, you want to limit your search to 50 miles of San Diego, as this keeps the information you find local. However, you should find at least five vehicles for sale that are comparable to yours. If this is not possible within a 50-mile range of San Diego, expand your search radius.

Once you have about five similar vehicles to your car, it is time to compare their prices. Put them in order by price and aim to list your car somewhere in the middle. Your used car price should not be the cheapest of the bunch or the most expensive. If it is the cheapest, you will lose money, but if it is the most expensive, buyers will simply choose a more affordable alternative. Write down this figure next to your KBB value, clearly labeling which value is based on the market price and which is from Kelley Blue Book.

Step 5: What to Do if the Market Value Is Different from Kelley Blue Book

market value and retail value of my car

Following the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation, you should now have two potential asking prices for your car. The first was based on the Kelley Blue Book range and your vehicle’s condition, while the second came from your local market. If you are lucky, these figures will be similar and you are ready to set your price and list your car. Most of the time, this is not the case.

In some cases, there is a discrepancy. When in doubt, always follow the market value, as this indicates what you can actually get for your vehicle in San Diego. This is particularly true in cases when the market value is higher than the KBB one. In that situation, pricing at the Kelley Blue Book value would mean making less money than you could. On the bright side, you would sell your car more quickly.

Pricing becomes more complicated in situations when the KBB value is higher than the market costs. If you want to sell your car quickly, stick to the market price from the start. If you are willing to wait a few weeks, consider listing your vehicle at the value from KBB at first. You may get lucky and find a buyer willing to pay that price. However, you should not leave your car at this price for more than 10 days. If you have not found a buyer within that time, you will not get your asking price due to more affordable choices on the market. After 10 days, lower your asking price to match the market value. This should lead to a sale.

Step 6: Using the Common Sense Method for Car Valuation When Doing a Trade-In

vehicle valuation for a trade in

The Common Sense Method for Car Valuation is nearly identical whether you are selling your car or trading it in, but with a few key differences. With a trade-in at a dealership, you will make several minor adjustments based on the dealership’s attempt to make a profit.

Remember that a dealership will almost never give you the asking price for a trade-in. Because of this, you should always ask for a figure at the top of the price range based on research done on Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. When trading in your car, you can ignore the market value and focus on these figures instead. Keep in mind that these websites have both trade-in values and private party values. Use the trade-in values if you plan to sell to a dealership and the private party values otherwise.

Check Values at the Dealership

In some ways, pricing your vehicle for sale at a dealership can actually be easier than doing so for private sale. Check the dealership’s online inventory to determine if it has your make, model, and year for sale. If so, simply subtract $4,000 from the listing price and ask for that value. During negotiations, you can argue that this allows the dealership to make a hefty $4,000 profit and is based on its own comparable model.

If the figure you got by subtracting $4,000 is less than the Kelley Blue Book value, ask for the price from KBB instead. Bring a printed copy of the Kelley Blue Book value to the dealership when selling your car to support your pricing.

Check Values at Other Dealerships

The dealership will not always have the same make and model you want to trade in. In this case, check a minimum of three other dealerships and car buying services in the area. Select one that offers a free written appraisal to take advantage of this service. Compare the appraisals with the figure from Kelley Blue Book and ask the dealership for the highest of the four.

Additional Considerations for Trade-Ins

Selling your used car for a profit to a dealership is about more than valuing it correctly. You must also use savvy negotiation techniques. Do not let the dealership know about the trade-in when looking at new cars and vice versa. When a dealership is aware of a trade-in, it will typically leverage the trade-in as a way to make you feel as if you are paying less for your new car. You will either end up paying more for your new car than you would without a trade-in or receive less money for your trade-in than you would have if you had simply sold it to the dealership.

Finally, if you are planning to trade your car in, use Driveo as a way to gauge used car value. Any Driveo quote has 3 numbers – private party value, Driveo offer and trade in value. We base our numbers on current market data in your area. So by getting a Driveo quote you also get a written estimate of your car’s value that you can use as negotiating power at a dealership. You may also choose to skip the dealership and sell your car for more than dealer trade in to Driveo!

Bonus Tips: How to Increase Your Car’s Value

As you go through the steps of the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation, you will notice that your car’s condition plays a key role in its value. Because of this, you can actually improve its price by making minor repairs and other adjustments. In fact, the simple act of thoroughly cleaning and detailing your car can increase its value by at least a few hundred dollars.

Consider making minor repairs to your car or changing the tires. Either of these factors can improve the auto’s condition, bringing it from Good to Very Good and leading to a significant increase in your asking price. Minor repairs to consider include fixing scratches and dents and replacing a burnt-out headlight. Both actions are quick and affordable, but they improve the auto’s condition and your asking price.

Keeping track of documents will also increase your car’s value. With the maintenance records on hand, you can prove that your vehicle has been well cared for and should not require major repairs in the near future. This improves buyer confidence and, therefore, the value.

Finally, don’t hesitate to remove aftermarket parts when necessary. As mentioned earlier, customized vehicles can be challenging to sell, and that includes those with dramatic aftermarket accessories. Take the spoiler off your family sedan and paint over those unnecessary racing stripes to see an increase in your car’s value.


With the help of Driveo’s Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation, you should be on your way to correctly determining your used car value. Begin by researching your vehicle’s price on Kelley Blue Book to get an idea of its value range, then contemplate fluctuations in the market, such as rental fleets for sale, that can impact this price. From there, assess your car’s condition to get a more specific value, check the market values, and use the Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation to determine the ideal price for your used car. When done correctly, you will be able to sell your car quickly for a better profit.

If this sounds like a lot of work, simply submit your car to Driveo. We will do market research and analysis for you and will quote you 3 numbers – your ride’s private party value, trade in value and a Driveo quote for instant sale. We follow this exact method when determining used car values and back our valuations with a quote that is valid for 30 days. Get started here.