In previous articles, we explained using Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and NADA to estimate the value or pricing of the car you’re selling or purchasing.  In this post, we thought it would be helpful to briefly revisit each valuation site and provide a comparison of the three sites to give you an idea of the differences.

Estimating used car values is sometimes confusing to consumers. But help is just a click away with three major sites for used car valuation: Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds, and NADA Guides. If you’re contemplating buying or selling a used vehicle, it’s best to visit all three sites, print out your details, and go from there. But how does each work to provide estimates of the value of vehicles? Here’s a comparison.

Kelley Blue Book (KBB), with 100 years in the vehicle appraisal business, generally provides the highest, best-case scenario. In other words, their used car trade-in values are usually the highest. Their used vehicle valuation utilizes actual auction values or a combination of auction values and formulas. KBB bases its retail value on new car prices and takes market, depreciation, and cost to repair and dealer overhead into consideration. For private party sales, the method is the same as for retail but minus overhead, repairs and profit margin. Used car estimates are reported as trade-in, private party and suggested retail.

Edmunds uses what it calls the True Market Value or TMV, which is a combination of auction data and retail sales. Edmunds’ TMV uses formulas and calculates vehicle depreciation. According to Edmunds, it factors in current vehicle inventory levels, market sales conditions by locale, economic trends (such as rising or falling gas prices) and unpublished incentives. Values are reported as trade-in, private party and dealer retail. Edmunds’ TMV is often lower than the other two major sites.

NADA Guides utilizes a method similar to that of KBB, with results reported as rough trade-in, average trade-in, clean trade-in and clean retail. Clean retail price is based on a clean vehicle history report. NADA Guides’ used car valuation is generally in the middle of the three sites.

How it works

Let’s take a 2008 Cadillac CTS V-6 4-door sedan with direct injection and all-wheel drive (AWD) and use each of the three sites. On KBB, select Used Car Prices. Enter your zip code, and select year, make and model. You will then select trade-in value, private party or suggested retail. Select equipment (engine, drivetrain, transmission), enter mileage, and check optional equipment on the vehicle (standard equipment is already pre-selected). In this instance, premium 19” wheels, sunroof, Bose premium sound, navigation system, luxury package and rear sensors are added. Next, select vehicle condition (excellent, good, fair or poor), and click configure. Here are the results for KBB: Trade-in value: Excellent = $35,125, Good = $33,725, Fair = $31,125. Private party: Excellent = $39,940, Good = $35,340, Fair = $36,140. Suggested Retail: $43,240.

On Edmunds, go to used car prices, TMV pricing or appraise your car. You’ll need to enter make, year, model and style. For TMV pricing, select buy or sell vehicle, color and enter mileage in Step one. Add optional equipment in Step two. In Step three, list the vehicle’s condition (outstanding, clean, average, rough or damaged), and in Step four you get the vehicle’s pricing report. In this instance, Edmunds’ TMV for trade-in is $29,235, while private party pricing is $32,041 and dealer retail is $34,745.

For NADA Guides, go to used cars and then used car prices. Select body style, vehicle make, year, model and trim. Then enter mileage and options (noting that standard equipment is already selected for your). There are fewer options and equipment items listed here than KBB. Results for the 2009 Cadillac CTS as configured: Rough Trade-in = $29,125, Average Trade-in = $31,400, Clean Trade-in = $33,300 and Clean Retail = $37,725.

What to do with the information

Print out your used car estimates from the three sites, and use them as a starting point in a vehicle trade-in at the dealership or private party sale. Remember, geographic location, market conditions, the economy and other factors play a big part in the actual value of your used vehicle. Be in a position of strength with your gathered information, and go from there.

By Suzanne Kane

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