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Do I Need a Vehicle Appraisal to Refinance My Car?

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You may need a car appraisal whenever you plan to sell, trade, give away or refinance your vehicle. In all cases, it’s a good idea to know what the car is worth so you know you’re getting a good deal. And if you’re looking for a loan, the appraisal matters because your car’s value is a major factor in determining the rate of your new auto loan — and whether you receive one at all.

How to get a car appraisal: 3 options



If you want some quick knowledge, go online. You can get a simple appraisal for almost any car you’d like using the free, online industry guides that lenders and dealers use like Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds or the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).


At a dealership

If you want some competing offers, ask dealerships. You can ask a new car dealership or a used car dealer like CarMax, Carvana or Vroom to make an offer on your car. Dealers routinely appraise trade-in cars and even offer to straight-up buy used cars.


From an appraiser

If there is a problem and you think your vehicle is worth more or less than what a lender or an insurance agent says, consider getting a car appraisal from an independent professional. The American Society of Appraisers and the Appraiser’s Association could help you find a car appraiser near you. Make sure the refinance company or entity you are dealing with will accept an appraisal from the person or company you choose.

How much does it cost to get your car appraised?

It’s free to use the online industry guides listed above and most dealers don’t charge you to give you an offer on your car. CarMax advertises that it will give a free, written offer in minutes after you fill out an online form and upload some photos.

An independent car appraisal done by a professional usually costs between $100 and $300, but can go up to $500 when the appraiser has to travel to the car in question.

Types of car appraisals

There are several types of appraisal values you can use to determine your car’s worth. The two most common are book value and actual cash value.

Book value is what a vehicle is worth “by the book.” It’s a vehicle’s value based on KBB, Edmunds or NADA. The “book” part refers to the fact these industry guides used to be real, published books of car values.

Actual cash value (ACV) is what your car is worth in cash, right now. It’s also called the fair market value. A dealership car appraisal will tell you the ACV or fair market value of your car.

Do I need a car appraisal to refinance?

The short answer: no. You most likely do not need to go out of your way to get a car appraisal if you’re looking to refinance your vehicle. The refinance lender you apply to will look up the vehicle’s value themselves, based on the age, mileage, make, model, trim, title condition and accident history.

The long answer is that you may want one for your own knowledge and you may need one if you have a special car, especially if you’re looking for classic car financing. Your classic car’s value may be heavily dependent on its condition: wear and tear, paint job and more, which is best valued in-person.

Why is a car appraisal important for financing?

What you owe on the car versus what the car is worth is called the loan-to-value ratio (LTV). If you owe less than what the car is worth, you could potentially get a better car loan APR. If you owe more, there are several things you can do to deal with negative equity.

What can I do to increase my car’s appraisal value?

There are some common-sense things you could do to increase your car’s apparent value, such as making sure the car looks and smells good. A deep-clean on the inside, a good wash and wax on the outside could make your car shine. Replacing or refurbishing some parts, such as the windshield wipers, the brake pads and any foggy headlight covers can show that you were tuned into the car’s maintenance. Bigger-ticket items to increase value include repairing or replacing the upholstery in the vehicle.

What if my car’s appraisal value is less than expected?

If you’re getting an appraisal from a person, you could ask the appraiser what you could do to increase the value. The answer may come in the form of a repair list. If so, make sure to determine that the car’s value increase will be more than the repair costs. And, of course, feel free to get a second or third opinion on your car’s value.

Is a car appraisal worth it?

Yes — whether you’re buying, selling or refinancing a car, getting a free, online car appraisal is smart and easy. It’ll help you know more about the APR you deserve. Getting a car appraisal from a dealer can be useful, especially if you’re looking to sell your car and want multiple offers. Hiring a professional car appraiser is only worth it if you’ve got a special case on your hands.

If you’re looking to refinance, you also want to get multiple offers. You could use this auto loan refinance calculator to see how much you could save and check out the best auto loan refinance companies and rates.


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