What Does the Fair Market Value of a Car Mean?

by Sandra Parker

Fair market value of a vehicle refers to the amount of money it would sell for on the open market. This value is useful in determining what an individual should sell a vehicle for or what the insurance replacement value of a vehicle is. Many criteria are considered when determining the fair market value of a vehicle.


A vehicle's age is a big factor in calculating its fair market value. The older a car is, the less it's worth based on the principles of depreciation. This is because as the vehicle ages, its mechanical parts will wear down and over time require repair.


A vehicle that is driven less will wear out slower than a vehicle that is driven more. The number of miles a vehicle is driven in a year's time has been averaged nationally to be between 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Anything over that average will lessen your vehicle's value.


If a vehicle is dented, rusted, chipped, faded or torn, inside or out, it is worth less than one that doesn't have these issues. An owner who can demonstrate proper vehicle maintenance, such as regular oil changes and tune-ups, will generally get more for their vehicle.

Optional Equipment

Vehicles equipped with non-standard equipment will be more valuable than those that aren't.

Value Estimator

An individual can get a good estimate of a vehicle's worth by visiting Kelley Blue Book, NADA or The Black Book. These sites will require the owner to complete a questionnaire based on the criteria listed in Sections 1-4 and then estimate a vehicle's worth based on whether it is being sold by a private party, a dealership or being traded in toward the purchase of a new vehicle.

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