What Is the Book Value of a Car?

Quick Answer

The book value of a car is its current value based on a variety of factors, including its year, make and model, condition, mileage and more. In many cases, it's the same as the market value of the car, but not always.

A woman reading a paper about the book value of her car, standing next to her car.

The book value of your car is essentially how much it would be worth if you were to sell it. There are several methods of estimating the book value of a vehicle, which you can use to determine your listing price if you plan to sell your car.

What Is Car Book Value?

A car's book value is what the vehicle would be worth if you were to sell it today. Book values are typically used only with used cars, and they can vary depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Make and model
  • Year
  • Vehicle trim
  • Optional equipment
  • Condition
  • Mileage
  • Economic conditions
  • Local market conditions

The book value can also vary depending on the vehicle's buyer. For example, you can typically get a higher price if you sell your car to a private individual than if you were to sell it to a dealership via a trade-in.

When you check your car's book value, you'll typically get a range, which can help you determine your listing price when you're ready to sell. As a car buyer, the range can potentially help you in your negotiations.

Book Value vs. Market Value of a Car

In many cases, the book value of a car and its market value are the same. But the market value of a vehicle applies to both new and used cars, as well as vehicles sold by individuals and dealerships.

For example, when you check your car's book value, you'll also be able to see a retail value. This is the price that you would expect to pay if you were to buy a car from a dealership, and it's generally higher than the private-party and trade-in book value.

Dealerships can command these higher market values because they'll typically ensure that the car is in good working condition. In some cases, they may even do some reconditioning or refurbishing.

Also, note that both the book value and the market value of a vehicle are different from its actual cash value, which is what car insurance companies use to determine your car's value in the event of an accident claim. The actual cash value also may or may not be the same as the car's book value.

How Do I Find the Book Value of My Car?

There are several different ways you can get the book value of your vehicle, including:

The process with each service can vary slightly. But in general, you'll need to provide information about your vehicle, including its year, make and model, trim, mileage, condition and optional equipment.

Be sure to provide accurate information to get a more precise estimate for your car. You can also provide the vehicle identification number (VIN) to help with this.

Prepare Your Credit for Your Next Vehicle Purchase

If you're planning to sell your car, chances are you're also planning to replace it with another one, either new or used. If that's the case, making sure your credit is in good shape can help you qualify for a lower interest rate and monthly payment.

Before you start the process of selling your vehicle, check your credit score and review your credit report to evaluate your credit health. You'll typically need a score in the 700s to qualify for a low interest rate on a loan. If your score isn't quite there yet, consider addressing potential issues in your credit report, such as high credit card balances or past-due payments.

Building your credit can take some time, but unless you need a new vehicle urgently, it can be worth the time and effort.