Fair price for a car?

I’m purchasing an elderly relative’s car. (She has dementia and cannot drive anymore.) I need to make sure the transaction reflects the fair market value of the vehicle, but I’m getting very different results from multiple online sources.

It’s a 2008 Mercury Milan; 4-door; V6; ABS; standard trim package (AC; CD player; cruise control). Roughly 94,000 miles. It needs a RF tie rod and rear brakes. The outside is in bad shape due to multiple bumps and scrapes from her diminished driving skills. The front bumper, two door panels, and two fenders are dented and scratched. The rear bumper is scratched.

For private party resale, KBB says $2200 to $5500. Edmunds says $2494. Cars dot com says $1175 to $4500. Consumer Reports says $3325 to $4475. I’m using the fair or rough condition, depending on how it’s phrased on the website. I’m located in NJ, about 55 miles south of NYC.

Any idea what’s a fair price to pay for this vehicle? Which of the online sites is the most accurate/reliable for auto values?

I appreciate any input.

I can’t see why you even want this thing. I would not pay more than 500.00 because if you have to have the work done you will have more in it then it is worth . I don’t know if it has a timing belt but if it doea I doubt it has ever been changed.

Believe it or not, the car would be a step up from what I currently drive. And, I should have added that I know the maintenance history. My relative was the type to do every possible thing a mechanic recommended. I’m not planning on repairing the body damage, more looking for something reasonably reliable to get from point A to B.

Ask your relative what they think is a price given needed maintenance and body damage. I would think $1500 would be accepted if you get along.

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1500.00 minus repair costs.

I guess I’d be in the $1500 range depending. I think you need to take the private party value minus the repair costs but really when you get that old, the price guides aren’t going to be very helpful. When we sold a 72 El Cameno from an estate to my nephew, we established the lower value of $2000 for it, but after some years, I think it should have been in the $1500 range. Relative sales are always an issue though since some in the family are going to think its worth more and think you are taking advantage of the situation. I guess if you took the cost of the body work and the mechanical repairs, the car would essentially be junk value. It might be worth just stopping in at a dealer and asking the used car sales staff what they would value the car at. They’d probably say $500 and it would go to the junk yard. Catch them on a slow day though.

Car values are always based on a willing seller and a willing buyer. Anything you get online is just an average estimate or starting point. Price can go up or down depending on a lot of factors.

Put me in this position, here’s what I’d do- I’d decide what I felt it was worth to ME. Then, I’d float that price out to the other family members. If they accept, great. If not, let them sell it to someone else.


I’m with TwinTurbo on this. @Lemba11 is a buyer without the hassles of advertising and negotiating with arms length buyers. The easiest way to sell this car otherwise is to sell to a dealer at trade-in value. Buying at a low end private sale price less the cost of the few repairs you say it needs. I’d negotiate a price, get the repairs, then pay the balance to whomever represents the current owner. After all, it’s all in the family, and that should count for some level of trust.

The 2008 Mercury Milan and 2008 Ford Fusion are basically the same cars.The Milan is no longer produced since 2011.

Give the condition, the needed repairs, AND what I’m sure will be more needed repairs with a thorough checkover the car would not be worth over 500 bucks to me; assuming it’s fairly rust free.

One issue that often crops up when it comes to selling a car is that the seller often considers the car to be excellent or very good condition. Those terms apply to very, very few cars. Most are good or fair at best.

Have you tried looking at local ads or listings (Craigslist, paper ads, etc) in your area?

For example, one online source has the following two in roughly the area of NJ (and possibly Philadelphia) you described. Maybe you can use those and work backwards to a valuation for the car you are looking at

OP here. Thanks for all the replies. Here’s how things turned out. I ended up at $1800 less the repair cost for the tie rod. From the range of opinions I’ve gotten, that either makes me a decent negotiator or a guy you can sell sand to in the desert. In any case, I consider it fair as it’s at the low end of private party resale, I know the maintenance history, and the body damage isn’t something I’m concerned about. And, straying just a bit from car stuff here, if and when my relative ends up in a nursing home (as most with dementia do), it’s a high enough price that I highly doubt the sale will be questioned as a “gift” or some inappropriate disposal of assets when they start digging into her finances.

OK to stray. Check with your attorney but in Minnesota, once the person is in nursing care, every month you can transfer the average cost (determined by the gov) of nursing care out of their account and not have it account in the final Medicaid calculations, if that is the goal. So if the average cost is determined to be $5000 a month for example, the person with power of attorney, can pull $5000 a month out of their account into a separate account in the POA’s name to salvage it. This is not part of the “look back” issue. It just helps preserve a portion of the estate. I never got to that point but followed the instructions of the elder care lawyer.