How to Tell if a Used Car Is Priced Well

December 3rd, 2016 by
checking used car prices

Getting book values from a number of different resources is a good way to benchmark a price of a used car you are interested in. However, know that book values are not always representative of a market for a particular car, which is why some popular cars may be priced higher and unpopular – much lower.


You’ve decided it’s time to buy a used car, so you start doing some searching online because you have a good idea of what you’re interested in. You start finding some promising leads, but it suddenly hits you – are these prices you’re seeing really any good? How would you know?

What you should do before going any further with your used car shopping journey is a little bit of homework. Don’t worry, it’s pretty painless and actually quite interesting. Take a look at two different websites: Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds. Each of them can help you figure out what’s a reasonable value or price on a used car in your area. Each site’s methodology is proprietary and is different, which is why each one comes up with different prices for the same vehicle, but either one does serve as a good starting point for learning about prices in your area. You input the make, model, year, mileage (check out how many miles are too many for a used car), trim package/options, color, mileage, and condition grade and voila! The site will tell you ranges for what people are paying for that kind of car in your area if they’re buying it retail from a dealer or for sale by private owner.

It’s important to note, however, that the ranges these sites come up with are just guidelines. What actually goes into used car prices are lots of factors. If you want to know more about that, read our previous article, Demystifying Used Car Prices. If there is a lot of demand for a particularly popular used car, it’s not uncommon for the price to exceed book value. If, on the other hand, if you’re seeing a price that’s at or below book value, then that’s a good start towards what might be a great deal.

If you’re searching for cars online and it seems like there aren’t very many cars being sold in your area of the type that interest you, expand your search criteria to a larger region (say, 500 miles) so you can get a better idea of what the available inventory is selling for. That way you’ll at least get a rough idea if the prices in your area are in line with pricing that’s in your region.

You must also remember that your search for the used car that’s right for you is about more than just price. You want to know that the car was well maintained and serviced regularly, that it has a clean title, and so forth. Of course everyone wants their used car to have as few miles on it as possible, but that also jacks up the price since that’s what everyone wants. A used car with more than average miles on it that has been superbly maintained may be just perfect, and come with a lower price tag.

And remember – we’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating – if the price of a used car looks just too good to be true, then it probably is exactly that. In those cases, pay particular attention to the title to make sure it’s not a salvage vehicle.

If the vehicle you are interested in happens to be for sale by Auto City, rest assured that it is priced well and you are getting a great deal. We price our used cars very competitively to start with and we check our competition daily to make sure our prices are competitive.