By Ali Koomen, who spent over a dozen years in the car dealership busines, provides her expert insights

Nothing is more mysterious than the actual true market value of any vehicle. Many points, both tangible (automatic or manual, 2 door or 4 door, etc) and intangible (mileage, color, demographics and other ) play a part in determining a value. It truly is an inexact science, but Edmunds.com has put together a very comprehensive data base that attempts to factor in all points, in order to help a buyer or seller determine a vehicle’s true worth.

In order to arrive at these numbers, Edmunds compiles data from many different sources, including info from dealerships, past history data, depreciation rates, demographical preferences and more. This unlikely stew of components gets computed and calibrated so that when a visitor to the website enters information on a vehicle, Edmunds neatly spits out a prediction of the true market value.

However, as anyone who has ever attempted to buy or sell a car knows, the price posted on a vehicle or given online is a suggested price. Edmunds does not claim that if it lists a loaded 2008 Chevy Silverado extended cab truck for $22,950 that people will gladly and willingly plunk down that amount for the vehicle, no questions asked. What it does say is that, based on past data, the amount is a good and fair price.

However, a buyer might have to pay more. It could be that suddenly, everyone in the area is looking for that exact pickup. It could be that the vehicle in question is lichen green, which happens to be the exact color a buyer is looking for. It might be that the truck is in such immaculate shape that it commands extra.

Then again, it could be worth less than Edmund’s prediction. Perhaps the Ford F150 is a more popular pickup in that region than Chevy. There could be a sudden glut of that truck available for sale. It could be any one of a hundred little things that make a person either want to buy a car or to avoid it altogether, and it is for that reason any predicted value of any vehicle must be taken as just that: a prediction.

The true market value information obtained on Edmunds.com can be a great help when attempting to negotiate the price of a new or used vehicle. Simply go to the website, spec out the make and model desired. A nicely equipped 2009 Toyota Camry SE has an MSRP of $30,590. The dealer invoice price on the car is $27,159. Edmunds then suggests that the true market value—what others in my region have paid—is $27,714. These numbers are tools. A buyer could offer $26,500, which is, of course, less than what the dealer paid for it. However, it gets the negotiation ball rolling, and hopefully the dealer will come down, the buyer moves up and again until a price fairly close to $28,000 is agreed upon.

In the end, any vehicle is worth exactly what a buyer is willing pay for it. Fortunately, for both buyers and sellers, this number is not obtained out of thin air, but mutually agreed upon with the assistance of websites such as Edmunds.com

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