The internet’s amazing, isn’t it? It delivers new shoes to your door, it tells you how long it will take to get downtown in today’s traffic, and it’s chock-full of hilarious cat videos. Yet, for some reason, it can’t quite figure out how to make a trade-in value calculator to tell you how much your car is worth.
Sure, the internet has done plenty to take the guesswork out of buying and selling cars - especially new ones. But when it comes to used cars and trade-in value… not so much.
If the trade-in value calculators we see online today are as good as it gets, then we’ve still got a long way to go. First, they make you choose whether your car is in fair, good, or very good condition. Come on - who knows the answer to that?
Next, you’re supposed to remember every detail about what options and upgrades you have - is your car the S, the SE, the LE, or the LES? Huh?
Pick a Number, Any Number
So you take your best guess at all these details, and then instead of getting the single, simple number you’re looking for, you get ranges. Not just one range, but many. $1,000 to $1,500 for wholesale; $1,250 to $1,750 for trade-in, $1,500 to $2,000 for private party… on and on.
So what you learned is that your car is worth somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000, approximately. You might as well use a magic 8-ball to figure out how much your car is worth.
An Algorithm Walks into a Bar…
The bar for car valuation algorithms has been set pretty low. Here at The Appraisal Lane, we think this is frankly one of the worst applications of technology we’ve seen.
A car is one of the most valuable assets most people own. Don’t people deserve to at least get an opinion about its value from a real person? Think about it - would you sell an heirloom diamond to an algorithm? Would you buy a house from a chatbot?
Of course not.
Whether you’re selling a house, a car, or a diamond - a professional appraiser is what you need. A real person who understands the intricacies of the marketplace and can give you a value that’s fair, competitive, and transparent.
5 Reasons to Get Your Trade-In Value from a Human
If we haven’t convinced you yet, here’s a list of 5 things that those online trade-in value calculators are not taking into consideration:
#5: Local Market Saturation
If you’re trading in a full-size pickup truck in West Texas during “Truck Month,” yours will likely be just one of many similar trucks in the market at the same time. We probably don’t need to tell you about the laws of supply and demand; suffice it to say your truck would be worth more at a different place and time.
#4: Seasonal Market Considerations
So your first child is on the way, and that candy apple red Corvette convertible needs to make way for a new compact SUV. If you try to trade that ‘Vette in November during the first flurries of winter, the convertible top is more of an annoyance than an asset. Trade the same car next May, and the same dealer might up his ante by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. No trade-in value calculator will tell you that.
#3: Different Dealers See Things Differently
This one might seem obvious, but let’s give it a little more thought. Remember the full-size pickup truck above? If a dealership specializes in selling subcompact hybrids to urban commuters, they’re not going to break the bank to park your massive truck on the front corner of their lot. But what about the dealer down the street who specializes in selling fleet trucks to work crews? He’s really going to appreciate all the maintenance you’ve put in over the years, and it’ll probably show in his trade-in offer.
#2: Uber Bloopers and Lyft Lessons
Thousands of people are making extra income by using their cars to work in the gig economy for companies like Uber and Lyft. There’s one very large problem with that side job when it comes time to trade you car in. To work for those companies, you have to register your car as a taxi. Doing so drops its value significantly, as taxis are expected to have additional wear and tear beyond normal private use. We have yet to see a trade-in value calculator that takes this factor into consideration.
#1: Vehicle History Report
You know all about your vehicle’s history - accidents, repairs, recalls, and cosmetic damage - since you bought it. But what do you know about your car’s history with previous owners? Bad marks on your vehicle history report can plunge your trade-in offer and put a major kink in your plans for buying a new car.
Any of these issues can sneak up on you when you rely on a trade-in value calculator. Do yourself a favor, and dodge that bullet. Get a professional appraisal from a real person to understand how much your car is worth.
Or better yet, get an appraisal from a whole team of real people. With The Appraisal Lane, it’s fast, easy, and completely free. Our intelligence is never artificial, and we think you’ll appreciate the difference.