To determine a vehicle's value, most buyers, dealers, and financial institutions use some sort of vehicle pricing guide. Many use the NADA Official Used Car Guide or similar publications like Edmonds, Kelly's Blue Book, Black Book, etc..
These buying guides normally contain the retail, wholesale, and loan values for used vehicles. These prices are based on the current sales in a specific region of the country. These publications also include monetary additions and deductions for equipment packages and for low and excessive mileage.
The major flaw of these publications is that the values in these books are based on the assumption that the vehicle is in average (or good) mechanical and structural condition. Although two identical vehicles may look and drive the same, these publications can not distinguish between a well-maintained vehicle, and a vehicle with existing mechanical and/or structural problems. The difference between these two cars can be hundreds to thousands of dollars in value.
Many of these publications instruct you to "Deduct for Reconditioning", but give no instructions how to calculate these deductions. A professional inspection from an ASE Master Technician should give you the dollar amount for any repairs or maintenance items. Buyers should take that amount and subtract it from the published book value. This will give the buyer the true value of the vehicle. The Technician should let you know if the vehicle was well maintained or abused. This also affects the price of the vehicle.
Don't decide by looks alone - every used car should be clean and good looking. However, a professional pre-purchase inspection will determine existing problems such as previous accident damage, odometer discrepancies, needed mechanical repairs and maintenance items, prior shoddy repairs, misuse and abuse, etc.. If you don't detect these problems before you purchase, these problems can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars to fix. Without a professional inspection, you could be buying a ticking financial time bomb, or buy a vehicle for more than its true value.
The #1 reason vehicles with existing problems are purchased is the buyers' inability to determine the current condition before purchase.
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