How Much is My Car Worth?

Car Price Guides

Whether you’re considering trading your car through a dealership, selling it privately, refinancing it, or if you simply want to know what it’s worth, chances are you’ll be counting on a car price guide to assign a fair value to your vehicle. Car price guides can be accessed at the library, credit unions or banks, car dealerships, and online.

While that sounds easy enough, you might be surprised to discover the amount of information that is taken into consideration in determining the value of your automobile. Since a variety of car value guides are on the market, there may also be discrepancies that exist between one value guide and another. For this reason, it is up to the car’s owner to make sure that the car is valued at its maximum value.

Getting Started

While there are several car value guides available, the function of each is quite similar. Basically, you will begin by indicating why you are trying to place a value on your car. Used car values will vary based on whether the car is being traded, sold privately, or refinanced.

Identifying Your Car

Once you’ve identified the type of valuation needed, you will select the year, make, and model of your used car. Classic or antique cars are often classified separately. You will often be asked to select the vehicle’s trim package. Note that while an EX model might be a base model on one automobile, it might be the high-end model on another automobile. In selecting the trim package, many car owners make the mistake of guessing. This could result in assigning a less valuable trim to your car, thus reducing its overall value.

The next section of the car price guide will ask for specific information pertaining to your used car. The open-ended section of the requested information will include current mileage and your zip code. The zip code is required to determine the part of the country that you live in. Car prices and values vary from region to region.

Options and Upgrades

Following this section, you will likely find a checklist with all of the available options listed. You check off the features that your car has. This will include features such as power door locks, power windows, passenger side airbags, alloy wheels, leather, sunroof, and other components that are often considered options or upgrades. It is very important that features are not overlooked. It is a good idea to refer to the car’s original paperwork for this information. A car with a high number of extra features is referred to as loaded. A loaded car has a higher value than a base model car.

Indicating Your Car’s Condition

Finally, you will be asked to rank your car’s mechanical condition and appearance. Your choices will include:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • Fair
  • Poor

A car with an excellent rating must run like new, and have no mechanical, body, or interior damage. All features and components must be in excellent working order. Repair and maintenance records are required.

In order for a car to be considered in good condition, the car must have little or no damage. Minor scratches and dings are acceptable. This car must be fully operable, without the need of any type of repairs.

Fair conditioned vehicles might need minor repairs and may have some body or interior damage. The damage should not impede the car’s ability to be driven.

Cars that need extensive cosmetic or mechanical repairs should be considered to be in poor condition.

Obviously, the better condition your car is in, the more the car is worth. Unfortunately, opinions often differ in this subjective analysis of a car’s condition. As an owner, be prepared to justify your position on the ranking you assigned to the car’s condition. This area has the most room for debate and the dealership or private buyer may try to convince you to lessen the value of your car based on their opinion of the car’s condition.

Results

Once this final step is completed, you will be directed to a chart that will indicate the fair value of your car. If you’re using an online car price guide, the website will list the fair value, without requiring you to refer to a chart.

How to Use the Results

Even though the first step was to clarify whether you were selling your car to an individual or trading it in at a dealership, most car value guides will still provide results for each scenario. In fact, many online pricing guides will even reveal what your car is worth if considered in excellent, good, fair, or poor condition. This overall snapshot of values can be used to help you decide whether to haggle or lose a deal over the condition of your car. In other words, if the dealer is offering to accept your car as a trade in good condition and you feel strongly that the car is in excellent condition, the value results may indicate a difference of such an insignificant amount that it may not be worth haggling over.

Quick Tips for Making the Car as Valuable to the Buyer as It Is to the Seller

If trading your car in at a dealership, cosmetic touch ups, such as those listed below, will usually will not add value to your car. However, when dealing with an individual in a private sale, these tips can make a big difference. Keep in mind, though, that the price of the repair, or touch up, should not exceed the value it adds to your car.

  • Keep all repair and maintenance records up to date.
  • Always maintain the condition and basic upkeep of your car. This includes oil changes, exterior washes, carpet care, and leather cleaner on the interior.
  • Get rid of odors with an air freshener designed specifically for automobiles.
  • If the car is especially unkempt, consider having it professionally detailed.
  • Replace worn, missing, or damaged floor mats with new, inexpensive mats.
  • Consider repairing loose headliners.
  • Repair and broken glass or cracked windshields.
  • Remove any bumper stickers or specialty tags.

Important Reminders

Always know what your car is worth before discussing the sale or trade with other parties. The dealership will often value a car at a significantly lower rate than the car is actually worth. Obviously, this is an attempt to make as much money on the deal as possible. Work as hard to save money as the dealership works to make money.

For a private sale, have a Carfax report available. Strangers are often suspicious, particularly if the deal seems too good to be true. The potential purchaser might think that the car was previously wrecked or otherwise damaged, so presenting a Carfax report may be helpful in this situation.

Your car may not sell at the price you think it’s worth. If the car does not sell after being listed for reasonable amount of time, decide whether you should take it off the market or reduce your price. Just because the car is valued at a price does not mean it will sell for that price. Factors such as the economy, similar cars listed in the area, and dealership promotions and rebates will have an impact on how easily your car sells.

The Science of Car Cleaning Products

In most cases you can clean and protect your vehicle with just a few basic car cleaning products. In this article you will learn some of the science behind auto detailing supplies so you can clean your car the right way.

Soil can be organic, non-organic or petroleum. That’s important to know. If you can identify the soil you’re dealing with you can use the right cleaner. When you use the correct cleaner most stains come out with ease.

Take organic soil as an example. Organic basically means that it contains carbon. Stains in this group include proteins, animal fat, body oil, mold, yeast, insects, bacteria and excrement. The classic example is the batch of hot French fries your three year old spilled on the back seat. That’s an organic soil stain.

Non-organic soil does not have carbon molecules. Most often we find these stains on the exterior the vehicle. A good example that frustrates most of us from time-to-time are water spots from minerals. Acid rain spots fall into this category, as well.

Finally we get to petroleum. These soils come from substances that do not contain or cannot be mixed with water. Motor oil, grease and road tar are the most common petroleum soils. Note that chewing gum is also a petroleum soil.

Now that you are aware of the three types of stains we can begin to discuss cleaners. Let me tell you, there are a lot of them. Unfortunately, no one has invented a true all-purpose automotive cleaner. Due to the many different surfaces and soils, automotive cleaners are complex mixtures of chemicals blended for a particular type of surface or soil. The most common chemicals used include surfactants, solvents, wetting agents, saponifiers and chelators.

Soaps and detergents are made using a surfactant. It’s an agent that has two compounds. One molecule is attracted to the soil itself, while the other loves water. The compound that’s attracted to water is a hydrophile. Its job is to surround the soil. The soil attracting agent is a hydrophobe. Its purpose is to break up the soil so the hydrophile can get to it and make it float away.

All cleaners needs a solvent of one sort or another to dissolve dirt and carry it away. Some solvents, including mineral spirits, work on petroleum soils and may be necessary on surfaces damaged by water. Did you know that the most common solvent used in cleaners is water?

Speaking of water, any solution that has a water base or mixes with water has a pH level. The term pH is merely a measurement of the relationship between hydrogen ions and hydroxyl ions. When you have more hydrogen ions than hydroxyl ions, that’s an acid. Likewise, if you have more hydroxyl ions than hydrogen ions it’s an alkali. Knowing this is important because any cleaner that falls at either end of the pH scale can cause serious damage.

The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. The lower half of the scale represents acids and the upper half represents alkalis. As you might have guessed, water is neutral and has a pH of 7.0.

If you know the pH of a cleaner you will know where you can use it. A carpet shampoo should have a pH around 8 or 9, whereas an all-purpose wheel cleaner should be between 12 and 14. Try using a cleaner made for wheels on your car’s fabric and carpet will make a pretty big mess.

Now that you know the basics you can better understand why there are so many car cleaning products and auto detailing supplies. Your vehicle has many different surfaces and they have different cleaning requirements. You can avoid using harsh cleaners by using basic protection. Wax the exterior several times each year and protect the interior with appropriate products. For the ultimate in protection, use an outdoor car cover or a waterproof car cover when you park outside.

Hand Car Wash

“Hand Car Wash” is a specialty of the Full-Service and Detail car wash systems. The highly automated car wash gets a personal cleaning touch when employees take a professional hand to shine your car. This personal touch ensures that no part of your car goes unnoticed by the machines and that no tiny particle of dust or slime sticks on to your car. Your car will come out sleek and shiny. Hand washing is a highly specialized and exclusive service that caters to a customer’s personal preferences for a car wash.

Hanna’s Hand Wash system, for example, has employees lined up in the conveyor inside the wash tunnel. When the automobile enters the conveyor, employees use hand-held high pressure wands to prepare the car for the wash and then clean the top and sides of the car. Only the bottom of the car is cleaned by their automated Undercarriage Applicator.

The Ace Hand Car Wash of Huntington Park, California, provides a range of detailing services for specific vehicles and to suit the requirements of individual owners. Their specialized services are highly client oriented and include washing, waxing, buffering, tinting windows, removing stains, and vacuuming carpets.

Services of the Bubbles Car Wash includes their Carpet Shampoo, which airs out carpets and cleans them with special chemicals; Tar and Paint Over Spray Removal, which is a special service that cleans even minute foreign particles on the surface of your vehicles; and half a dozen other specialized services.

Lake Car Wash has four types of hand car wash services, each of which comes with specialized features. Their Deluxe Hand Car Wash, for example, offers vacuuming the interior and dressing tires in addition to hand washing and waxing of the surface and the windows, while their Turbo Hand Wash comes with two coats of waxing, air fresheners, and undercarriage cleaning.

The Westbury Personal Touch hand car wash also has different combinations of car wash services to suit unique customer requirements. Their services include undercarriage washing, hand washing, body glossing and leather conditioning. They charge an average of $15 to $50 per car wash.

Auto Detailing – Save Your Knees and Find a Knee Pad Solution

A couple of years ago, I talked to a gentleman at Starbucks who was on disability. He had worked for a carpet installation company and had blown out his knees, both of them and could hardly walk, and one could not be repaired, although they tried by putting in some titanium. He admitted it did help for a while, but his knee was simply to tore up inside. You see, those that install carpets often use their knees to help pound the nails in the baseboard during installations as he explained it to me. Interestingly enough, I understand how important it is to save your knees because previously I was a tack star and later had raced street motorcycles, and also had done quite a bit of auto detailing. Okay so let’s talk shall we?

If you are in the auto detailing business you will be on your knees quite a bit cleaning wheels, under carriages, and putting on wax of vehicles which are very low to the ground, like most exotic sports cars. This means you have to get down and dirty, but in doing so you will be working in a parking lot if you are doing mobile detailing with gravel around, or you will be working on a cement floor inside of an auto detailing shop, those are very hard surfaces, and they can be quite challenging if you are in that position on your knees for long periods of time.

There are several auto detailing catalogs which have very small cushioned mats which are between six and 8 inches wide and 2 feet long with a handle on them, on one end. These work perfectly, and they are an ideal solution for an auto detailer. Best of all you can clip them to a work cart using a carabiner that rock climbers use. Another strategy is to get ahold of the type of knee pads that soccer players use from a sports store. Although they are not as good, they will save your knees. If you are an auto detailer you may put one on only one knee, and kneel down on that each time. Every few days you might wear it on the other knee, so you are not favoring one leg over the other. Always buy the fabric washable kind.

It’s amazing how simple things and proper ergonomic procedures can help you in your auto detailing this. If you are detailing aircraft, especially light aircraft, or small business jets, it is often very hard to clean the underbelly, or the bottom of the wings with one knee on the ground, either on the flight line or in a hangar on the hangar floor. Protect your knees so you don’t have to become a disabled auto detailer. Please consider all this and think on it.

5-Point Checklist for Test Driving a Vehicle

Don’t worry, because a five point turn is not on the checklist of things to do when test-driving a vehicle. Buying a new or used vehicle can be stressful for people because everyone wants the best possible car of their choice, in the best possible condition, and all within their seemingly-unrealistic budget. This, unfortunately, narrows the list a bit, however, there are smart ways to test out a vehicle in order to ensure you are at least buying a quality asset that is safe and suits your driving needs.

Continue reading to learn five things to look for when you are test driving a car or truck, so that you may better negotiate a deal and make better purchasing decisions.

1. Exterior Appearance

The first place you want to inspect is the exterior of the car or truck. How’s the condition of the paint? Is it shipped, scraped, or faded? What about the condition of the body? Are there dents and scratches on the bumper, fender, or doors? Are there cracks in the windshield? All of these aspects can be used against a seller in the negotiations to get a fairer price.

2. Interior Appearance and Amenities

Next, open the doors and take a look inside. Are the doors squeaky or difficult to open? Do they feel heavy or loose? What about the interior fabric? Is it in good condition? Are there stains, burn holes, ripped carpet, or other similar damages? Is the roof fabric loose and droopy? Are the dashboards in good condition? Is there a spare tire and jack?

3. Under the Hood

Always look is under the hood of the vehicle. Check to see that the engine bay is clean and damage-free. Next, look at the condition of the battery, see that all the proper caps are in place, and inquire whether or not it takes premium or unleaded fuel. Overall, use your common sense to inspect everything under the hood with a glance, and decide if it looks legitimate. If you have concerns about what you see, then you might want to have the vehicle inspected by a licensed mechanic before making any negotiations with the seller.

4. Drivability

Now it’s time to actually see how the car drives. See how the steering wheel turns. Does it pull to the left or right? Take note of how the car feels in drive mode. Is it a smooth ride? Does it feel bumpy? Are the brakes squeaky? Does it take a long time to come to a complete stop? Does the car feel heavy or out of line? All of this can be identifiers of common vehicular maintenance and repair issues. Again, these faults can be used as a negotiations tactic when deciding on a final price.

5. Interior Features

Before getting out of the vehicle and ending your test drive, be sure to check all the amenities and features inside and see that they all work properly. Check the automatic windows, radio, navigation, air vents, sun roof, mirrors, lights, and more. Also take note of the number of cup holders, storage, seating, and more to match these features with the ones on your wish-list.