How To Tell What Your Car Is Worth—And How To Sell It For Top Dollar

Illustrations by Michele Marconi

The used car market has become Bizarro World.

The combined effects of the pandemic, supply chain problems and inflation have upended the conventional wisdom that all vehicles depreciate virtually from the moment they’re driven off of a dealer’s lot. This, in turn, has sent many shoppers to the pre-owned market, with the added demand decimating dealer inventories and triggering stratospheric price increases for used cars.

The most recent numbers indicate that the average price of a pre-owned vehicle stands at $28,365, which is about 62% higher than it was in December 2019, when the average price was around $17,500.

While these factors have made shopping for an inexpensive ride a daunting challenge, they’ve also been a boon to those selling or trading in a pre-owned model. Fortunately or unfortunately—depending on whether one is a buyer or seller—reports suggest the proverbial ship may be in the process of righting itself. Used car prices dropped by 0.4% in April, following a 3.8% falloff in March, though they rebounded a bit in April.

That means pre-owned vehicles will likely never be worth more than they are now, and astute owners may want to consider cashing out or trading in before values take a dive.

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