Cars and trucks depreciate in value over time. However, the rate of depreciation can vary, depending on a number of conditions including external blemishes, mileage, features, location, and in some cases, rarity. Getting a car appraised is fairly easy: You can either take it to a dealer to get an estimate, or you can check online for a ballpark figure.
A car depreciates most heavily during its first 3 to 4 years. If your car is 4 years old, and in good condition, you can expect the resale value to only be about 60-70 percent of what you paid for it.
Some dealers, such as CarMax, will offer cash upfront to buy the car off your hands right there and then. It's best to get more than one appraisal before making any decision like this though.
Some online resources offer free tools that will aid in car value evaluation. Of course, these don't take detailed conditions into account, such as specific mechanical problems or wider dents, however you can get a rough approximation of what you can expect to receive.
A car's resell value has three categories: Trade-in value, private party value, and suggested retail value.
Trade-in value is what you can expect to receive by trading your car in to a dealer. This will definitely be the lowest of the three resell values because dealers don't make money by paying consumers fair market value for a used car. Also keep in mind that whatever car you traded for is probably going to you for full manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP).
Private party value is what you could conceivably get if you were to sell the car yourself to another private consumer. This is a more realistic figure of what you can hope to put in your pocket, and likely two to three thousand more than what a dealer will offer you.
Suggested retail value is what a dealer would try to sell your car for, generally higher than market value. And remember that the dealerships probably bought the car at a far lower price in the first place. This will likely be two to three thousand dollars higher than private party value.
Of course, as the age old adage goes: It's worth as much as people are willing to pay for it. Still, with more people becoming computer savvy these days and online checks of VINs, scooping an outstanding deal isn't particularly realistic. But if you do proper research, neither will you get the raw end of the stick.