Important Factors That Affect Used Car Quotes

March 18, 2013
woman looking at a used car

Used car quotes can vary widely within a local market; even between cars of the same make and model. An official used car quote is usually given in writing by an auto dealer. The following list captures some of the most important factors that affect used car quotes:

Year of Production

For each particular car make, a model produced in a more recent year is generally worth more than a model produced earlier. For example, a 2003 Audi A8 will generally command a higher price than a 1999 Audi A8 with the same level of equipment. Compared to the 1999 model, the 2003 model will typically include the annual product improvements and upgrades, and it will usually have fewer miles on it than the older car.


When comparing two used cars of the exact same model, year and equipment level, the car with the lower total mileage on the odometer will usually command a higher price quote than the other. Used car appraisers tend to assume that more repairs (or reconditioning work) will more quickly become necessary on a higher-mileage car than a low-mileage one.

Vehicle Condition

For most used car appraisers, the condition of the vehicle exterior is very important; first impressions can matter a great deal. If a vehicle has shiny paint, an absence of rust or body damage, as well as a clean interior, then the used car quote will generally be higher than otherwise. However, most used car sales managers will also drive the vehicle onto a hoist to inspect for leaks and signs of damage/abuse on the undercarriage, before giving a used car quote in writing. Any noted trouble spots will reduce the used car/trade-in quote.

Residual Value

Most of the automotive industry relies on the same information to determine/predict how well a car will retain its value through the first several years of its life. Generally speaking, the residual value is a prediction of what a car will be worth at the end of a lease term. Although the used car quote is often different than the residual value, they tend to move up or down together, based on the overall reliability and desirability of each particular car make and model.

Special Desirability

A used car may be especially desirable, based on local supply/demand, or based on special features or equipment it contains. For example, a used car equipped with optional all-wheel drive might command a higher quote in a snow-belt state than the exact same car would in a southern state. Furthermore, special performance options (such as the high-output engine) may place the car in higher demand regardless of market location.

It’s important to understand that an official used car quote comes from an auto dealer; each dealer subjectively takes all of the above factors into account. However, for estimates of the trade-in value (or of the retail value) of used cars in your local market, sites such as Kelly Blue Book or can be a good place to start.

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