Researching Used Cars/
Researching Your Trade & Selling Your Old Car Yourself

Used Vehicle Classified Sites

If you enter "Used Car Classifieds" in your search engine, hundreds of Web sites will come up. These sites will include independent sites, commercial sites, dealership sites, local newspaper sites, and sites put up by consumers solely to sell one vehicle. Many of the sites have the same vehicle inventory listings. All these sites are free, and most of them will give you pictures and data on each specific vehicles. Keep in mind that few of these sites are written by monks-they're written by people who want to sell you something. So, don't believe everything you read on any site.

A WEB TIP: Try to find six or seven vehicles that interest you, and print off the page for each of these vehicles. If you actually plan to buy from an online source, choose vehicles in a location close enough to you for you to arrange a physical inspection. Never buy a used car without seeing it.

Some sites you may wish to surf:

AutoTrader claims to list over 600,000 vehicles, but they list only vehicles directly registered on their site. They don't, for instance, include listings from dealerships or other trading services. They normally don't provide pictures of individual vehicles.

AutoWeb normally has an actual picture of each individual vehicle, and also carries vehicle listings from other sources such as Yahoo and Car & Driver. is a site maintained by major newspaper chains in cooperation with dealers. Many, many of the individual ads here are for vehicles at participating dealers' lots. Expect normal dealership hoopla.

Your local newspaper's classifieds/Web site. Heavy dealer involvement.

Used Vehicle Pricing Guides Or Appraisal Sites

Used car pricing guides can't provide the wholesale value, loan value or retail value of a particular used vehicle in your local area and marketplace today. They can give you the average prices such cars are selling for at auction. Use them with that fact in mind. The only accurate way to appraise or determine the wholesale value of your present car is to shop it in your local market (Don't Get Taken tells you how). Appraisal sites can only give you the average wholesale price for cars like yours or the used car you are thinking of purchasing. Keep this in mind when you use these figures.

Web tip: Avoid any appraisal site that requires you to "certify" that them information you have given them on their on-screen questionnaire is "correct and complete." Making such a certification can make you libel if you turn out to sell your car to that service and the information you gave was inaccurate. Don't "certify" anything about your vehicle.

Individual Dealer Web Sites

General Usefulness in determining your old vehicle's true wholesale value online: Virtually none

True intentions of these sites: Sell you a vehicle right now.

How to find a local dealership site: Search: "Car dealership" plus your nearest metro area for broad search. For a narrow search, use "Car Dealership" plus your smallest city Some dealership sites simply send you to pricing sites, such as Kelly Blue Book. Many dealer sites will give you a "value" for your old car on-line. But that "value" probably won't be your vehicle's true wholesale value. In all likelihood, the value dealerships give you online will be higher than your old car's true wholesale value. Why would they do that? To "hook" you--to get you to come to the dealership. After you come in, the dealership finds a reason to tell you your old car isn't at all worth what the dealership has "suggested" online. Dealerships get away with such deception online by playing with words. For instance, a very typical dealer site will happily give you an "Internet Trade-in Pre-Evaluation." What is a "pre-evaluation?" Nothing! It's a weasel phrase. On another page of this Web site, the dealership insists that you grant the right to have your vehicle "evaluated" by "authorized dealership personnel." That means they don't have to stick to their "pre-evaluation" figure at all. Avoid these "appraisals."

Established Used-Vehicle Market Guides On-Line

Examples: Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, Black Book And NADA

General Usefulness In Determining Your specific Vehicle's Wholesale Value: Useful as a beginning guideline only.

The main problem with these sites: If you read it, you believe it.

To Receive a Free "Appraisal"

The Web sites for these services use simple, clear instructions and on-line forms. The forms ask for great detail about your present vehicle. Give it to them. This detail determines the relative accuracy of each site's appraisal. The sites are generally very accurate in providing average values of vehicles. They cannot provide you the specific wholesale value of your car, however.

While these services are legitimate, almost all of them unfortunately have become prospecting tools for sellers or partners of sellers. Some of these companies now have "custom" on-line versions tied to individual manufacturers and some have custom versions tied to buying services or Internet portals.

Other Automotive Sites That Will "Appraise" Your Vehicle

General Usefulness In Determining Your specific Vehicle's Wholesale Value: Useful as a beginning guideline only.

The main problem with these sites: Most are ultimately dealer-referral services

Finding the sites: Search "used car appraisals" using your browser. Literally hundreds of sites will pull up, including sites related to buying clubs, portals. Not all of these sites are free. Some of these sites are as impressive and informative as the established used-vehicle evaluation sites we mentioned above. But many of them have strong dealer relationships. Expect many of the dealer-related sites to attempt to push you into buying right now rather than simply having your car appraised. If that happens, ignore the pressure. Use the site only for appraisal purposes at this time. Also, if any sites ask for "certification" of any data you provide, refuse to give it.

Car Depreciation Calculators

General Usefulness in Determining the true Wholesale value of your Vehicle: Worthless, but interesting

This type of calculator was developed by the Department of Defense Military Assistance Program. It's too simple to be much when it comes to determining wholesale value. These calculators can't write checks, don't factor in vehicle condition, don't consider current market conditions, and don't consider vehicle make or model.

Auto Escrow Sites

When you sell a vehicle yourself, you are responsible for transferring title and doing other paperwork required by your state. If you have a payoff on your old car, you are responsible for paying that off and securing the title for your old car. Buyers want to give personal checks, and you don't want personal checks. Unless you're ready for a lot of odd paperwork, we recommend you use an on-line auto escrow service to handle these details. You may spend up to $200, but it's worth every penny. And you pay nothing if you don't sell your vehicle and actually use the service.

Most of these services will also certify that your old vehicle has never been totaled in an accident-another nice selling point. Although these services general don't go to the title office, they will prepare your paperwork and even give you the address of the title office you need to visit.