Appraisal Case Studies

A look at appraising a few real world vehicles

Case study Carbly screenshot

Case Study #1

A Simple Example

Let's take a look at the data generated by Carbly for a 2016 Honda Civic.

Our appraisal summary shows that we should expect to pay around $12,110 at wholesale, and could reasonably anticipate a retail selling price of $14,800. This is a fair profit margin, and so far, all signs point to this being a good vehicle to purchase at the right price.

We also see the vehicle highlights section which points out both positives and negatives to be aware of. This car has a clean CARFAX, a great possible profit number and a low market days supply (days on lot).

Case study Carbly screenshot

It's time to look at some of the details supporting these numbers, and we start with Black Book®. The prices show that a vehicle in average condition maps closely to what we've seen thus far.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Let's move on to Manheim Market Report. Again, the numbers tell a similar story, and indicate an even higher possible retail selling price. So far, we have very good data consistency between 2 of the valuation books.

The bottom section shows price history and projections for the wholesale and retail car markets. The projected price drop for both is pretty low, which gives us confidence that even if we don't sell the Civic in a short amount of time, it's going to hold its value well.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Our third book, Real Retail (data from J.D. Power), shows us some incredibly powerful data by listing actual retail sale prices. These are not asking prices, but final sale numbers as reported by dealerships.

The retail sale prices are slightly lower than the guide books but are consistent and encouraging.

Note the distribution graph for median days on lot. Carbly shows you the median number, not the average. An average days on lot would be heavily biased by that outlier of 1,243 days which might lead to seeing a misleading number.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Next is a look at actual recent retail sale comps from Real Retail. While there are some losses shown (bad wholesale or inflated trade for the new car deal perhaps), vehicles with a similar mileage of 33,000 miles, are reporting fair profit margins for this Honda.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Now it's time to compare that data to the live local retail listings. The current market is line with everything that we have seen so far. For non-CPO, average mileage is 32,595 and average asking price is $15,469, so these numbers reflect what we have seen so far.

Price distribution is also promising showing that the bulk of listings are coming in around the mid $15K mark. This suggests that demand is good enough that dealers are not forced to give them away.

The trim table shows us that there are 230 other LXs available within 200 miles though so we mustn't be too bullish with our price or too firm with negotiations as a buyer will have alternatives.

Switching over to CPO only cars, we see that average mileage drops to 27,576 and average price increases a little to $15,987. Price distribution is also a little more erratic for CPO but there are fewer competitors in the market with only 152 LXs.

While having fewer competitors is always preferred, this car is probably best left uncertified. CPO examples are only bringing ~$500 more than non-CPO and you'll probably spend at least that much in certification costs, eliminating any extra profit. Our car also has higher than average miles when compared to the CPO competitors, making it slightly less appealing.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Now let's crosscheck our values with what J.D. Power reports in Carbly to see if we're in the ballpark on our estimates. We see a retail estimate of $15,475 for a car with similar mileage and trade-in numbers that are in line with the other books, so that is reassuring.

Importantly, we see a loan value of $11,625. Typically the max price allowed for finance is 120% of this number, in our case $13,950. This is great, since it would not require too high of a down payment from the retail purchaser to reach this figure. If this delta is too large, our pool of prospective buyers shrinks significantly.

The CARFAX report shows clean, with 2 previous owners. The full CARFAX report is available if we're interested in seeing ownership history and service reports.


Based on the above analysis, we can realistically expect to acquire this vehicle for around $12,000 and sell it for approximately $3,000 more than we paid. Taking into account reconditioning costs, this looks like a great candidate to buy at the right price.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Case Study #2

A More Ambiguous Example

Now let's consider a more complicated appraisal, a 2013 Porsche Boxster.

At first glance, seeing the spread between the wholesale and retail price might have some dealers licking their chops. But let's look a little closer at the data, and we'll see where the true power of Carbly comes into play.

While the CARFAX report shows clean, and a large possible spread is flagged, we need to be aware of a couple of things:

  • This car has significantly lower mileage than other examples.
  • With a median turn of 27 days, this Porsche likely won't sell immediately, so we need to expect to have it on the lot for a little while. This means we need to be certain that we buy it right because depreciation might become a factor as it ages on the lot.

Case study Carbly screenshot

One of the first steps we take when we're suspicious about a valuation is to compare the data providers. We can see immediately that something is amiss. Black Book® has a wholesale price of $28,000 and a retail price of $32,000. Manheim Market Report shows $32,000 for wholesale and $38,500 for retail.

There is no overlap between the 2 valuation books! You can see here where relying on a single provider for data can be dangerous. Without more data, how are you to know which book is accurate?

With the exception of a little summer blip, the wholesale and retail price trends graph shows quite a steady downward trend too, confirming that our concerns about depreciation are well founded.

So far the data demands that we proceed cautiously.

Case study Carbly screenshot

Let's delve deeper by seeing what Real Retail and Live Local Market data tell us about the vehicle.

Real Retail shows us a much lower average profit than the spread might have indicated earlier and shows us a retail sale price that supports the Manheim Market Report numbers.

Case study Carbly screenshot

With a wealth of historical transaction comps, many of which are very recent indeed, things are starting to look a little clearer for this vehicle. This car only has half of the average miles but the mileage adjusted retail sale price number of $38,841 quickly shows you what to expect for our specific mileage. The individual comps back this up too.

Note the $2,880 loss. This could very well be the result of someone relying on a single data source for their initial appraisal, resulting in far too high of a ceiling value at purchase time.

We can also see that there seems to be a trend. For similar mileage cars, some are getting approximately $36,000 while others are fetching roughly $40,000. We can use the Live Local Market data to better understand this.

Case study Carbly screenshot

These are a little rarer than your average car so there are only 8 competing examples within 200 miles and the average mileage is 29,822; two good things for our specific car. The average asking price of $36,530 is in line with what we saw from the Real Retail data too.

Switching over to CPO retail comps shows us that there are currently only 3 competitors nationally. Their average mileage is 22,600 and their average price is $40,972. This tells us that the dealers we saw getting $40,000 in Real Retail were probably selling CPO cars. If you are not an OEM dealer, you cannot CPO cars so it's critical to be able to make this distinction. Buying based on a $40,000 retail ceiling is a recipe for disaster if you are an independent dealer.

Case study Carbly screenshot

J.D. Power supports that data we have examined so far. With healthy loan and trade-in values we can also expect not to have any issues getting financing approved for the vehicle.

Case study Carbly screenshot

This CARFAX report also shows clean, with 2 previous owners. For a Porsche it would have been ideal if it had only been one but two won't prevent it selling with so few miles. The full CARFAX report is available if we're interested in seeing ownership history and service reports.


Things were not immediately clear for this vehicle but Carbly's multi-source data helped us put precise numbers on the Boxster. A seasoned buyer wouldn't want to put more than $31,000 into this car so that they retain a nice margin after recon. An OEM dealer could also confidently commit to certifying it. There are far fewer CPO examples to compete with and we know that they are getting top dollar.

If you were appraising this vehicle with a single book it just wouldn't be possible to get the same insight. Keep in mind that Black Book® showed $28,000 for wholesale. If you were putting a deal together and relied on that number for your trade appraisal, you'd almost certainly walk the customer because they'd be unhappy about the trade-in value.

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Other solutions do your business a disservice by nickel and diming you when selecting multiple data providers. To make the most accurate vehicle value assessment and save yourself from bad buys and under-market sales, you need to look at a full range of data sources. We've hand selected those that give you the best market analysis.

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