Car Appraisal: Its Meaning and What to Expect

Car Appraisal: Its Meaning and What to Expect

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Whether buying, selling, or trading in a vehicle, there are several resources you can utilize to determine its value. Among those is getting a car appraisal, of which there are several types. 

Being well-informed on a used car's worth can keep more money in your pocket, whether that means negotiating down a price while buying or getting more money when selling. And if you're trading in, having a car appraisal at your disposal arms you with the information to get the most cash for your used vehicle. 

But what is a car appraisal, and what are the different types? What factors go into determining the worth of a vehicle when you get a car appraised? Let's explore how you can appraise a vehicle and which type of appraisal is the best for you.

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What is a car appraisal?

In the automotive world, car appraisals determine the market value not of new cars but rather of used cars. Many types of appraisals are available, and their accuracy depends on which one you use. 

A car appraisal considers the vehicle's year, make, model, options, mileage, and scarcity. An appraisal also considers the current market and whether a particular car is rising or falling in value.

Different values can be distinguished by an appraisal, whether a vehicle is sold at retail or traded on a new one. 

While newer cars may be relatively simple to assign a value to, classic vehicles – those older than 20 years – may benefit from a professional appraiser. A professional appraiser may have specialized knowledge of a particular make or model, and their valuation may increase or decrease accordingly. 

Even if you're eager to get behind the wheel of a new vehicle, you probably need to sell your used one first. But that'll take valuable time that you could be spending searching for your next vehicle. Let Shift take care of the work for you. Just visit Shift's website, input your license plate number, and you'll receive a quote for the value of your car within two minutes. Whether you're selling a sports car with a manual transmission or a full-size truck, Shift will give you a fair offer. 

Car appraisal resources

If you want to appraise your car by performing research on your own, there are several excellent sources of information. 

Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and the National Auto Dealers Association – or NADA – have websites that guide you through the process of finding what a used car is worth.

After entering the year, make, and model, you'll be asked what options it has along with its mileage and overall condition. 

Once you provide this information, you'll receive a range of prices, depending on the transaction type. For instance, on Kelley Blue Book's website, you'll see values for an instant cash offer, trade-in, private party sale, or donation. And within each of those options is another set of prices that correspond to a vehicle's specific condition.

On Edmunds' website, their free appraisal tool also takes into account your vehicle's VIN, along with recent transactions, depreciation, and consumer information. Also included are familiar elements or make, model, year, mileage, and options.

Having your lender perform an appraisal is another good option when you know you want to purchase a specific vehicle and plan to finance. An advantage of a lender appraisal is they may do it for free if you finance with them.

While a car appraisal can help you find out the actual value of your vehicle, wouldn't it be easier to deal with someone you can trust? And if you're selling a used hybrid vehicle, how do you know you're getting top dollar? Shift takes the worry out of selling your used car. If you live in one of Shift's many service areas, their concierges will travel to you, perform an inspection, and if things look good, make an offer on the spot. 

Professional car appraisals

In some cases, it pays to seek the assistance of a professional to take on the appraisal process. If you're buying or selling a desirable classic car, having a specialist look it over in detail can uncover both positives and negatives, ensuring the vehicle appraisal value is just right.

What if you've located the perfect 1965 Ford Mustang you've wanted to buy for years? Maybe the price seems high, but you're willing to pay it if the car measures up to expectations. In a situation like this, seeking the know-how of a professional appraiser will ensure you're paying what the vehicle is truly worth. 

A specialized professional appraiser will know specific classic vehicles' quirks, problem areas, and current market conditions. Since professional appraisers are impartial parties, you can be comfortable that their report is fair and valid.

A professional appraiser is also helpful when a vehicle's determined to be a legal asset in bankruptcy, divorce, or estate. Knowing the vehicle's exact value will limit any ambiguity and ensure fairness to all parties involved.

Professional car appraisals vary in cost from $100 to $750. For more information on professional auto appraisals, a good source is the Bureau of Certified Auto Appraisers.

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Other factors affecting a car appraisal

Besides typical considerations like make, model, options, and mileage, others can come into play.

The intentions of the buyer can affect a car appraisal as well. 

Selling a car to a private party will fetch the highest price because they're usually looking to keep the vehicle a while and not sell it right away. 

But when a professional reseller wants to buy, the value can drop considerably. A buyer who plans to flip the car at an auto auction quickly will offer the lowest price. Someone who can turn a decent profit on a lot will pay slightly more. 

The scarcity of a particular classic vehicle can drive up the appraisal if the market is trending upward. 

With rarities like 1960s muscle cars in excellent condition, demand may exceed supply, which pushes prices higher. 

If getting a car appraisal sounds too inconvenient, let Shift take care of the work for you. You can visit Shift's easy-to-use website, enter the year, make, model and mileage, and instantly receive a purchase offer good for seven days. 

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Car appraisals in summary

Knowing the correct value of a used car is helpful in many situations. A car appraisal equips you with valuable information to protect your financial interests, whether buying, selling, or trading in.

No matter the transaction type, you can cite a car appraisal if someone tries to negotiate up or down and remain firm on your price.

Whether buying or selling, Shift takes the hassle out of the process. Shift’s pricing is driven by powerful machine learning algorithms and tons of data, so you know you’re receiving a great deal. And when you deal with Shift, there’s no haggling or negotiating, relieving you from the usual stress of going to a dealership. These are just some reasons Shift is the way to go when buying or selling a used vehicle. 

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Shift Editorial Team