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Money Advice: MSRP Versus Market Value When Buying a Car

Researching, finding, and buying a new car is a thrilling journey, yet it often comes with a labyrinth of terminologies and pricing intricacies. Two terms that can leave even the savviest of buyers perplexed are MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) and Market Value. To make an informed decision that doesn’t dent your wallet, it’s crucial to understand these concepts. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve deep into the world of MSRP and Market Value, empowering you with insights that will help you steer confidently through the car-buying process.

Defining MSRP and Market Value

MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price). Imagine walking onto a dealership lot and seeing your dream car shining in all its glory. The MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, is the automaker’s recommended price tag for that particular vehicle. It covers the production cost, the manufacturer’s profit margin, destination fees, and the standard features bundled with the car. However, the MSRP is just a suggestion that ignores inflation, availability, and general market conditions – it’s not the final word on what you’ll ultimately pay.

Market Value. Contrastingly, Market Value reflects the current market price for a specific vehicle. This value is the product of a multitude of factors, including demand and supply dynamics, geographical location, the vehicle’s condition, mileage, optional add-ons, and overarching market trends. Unlike the MSRP, which is somewhat fixed, the Market Value provides an ever-changing snapshot of the car’s worth in the present market.

Comparing MSRP and Market Value

Pricing Transparency. The MSRP acts as a common reference point for suggested pricing. It’s the same across dealerships, allowing you to easily compare pricing across brands and make informed decisions. On the other hand, the Market Value is more fluid, fluctuating based on regional preferences, supply shortages, and sudden market shifts. While it might lack the uniformity of the MSRP, it provides an authentic glimpse into the dynamic nature of the auto market.

Pro Tip: Start your vehicle search by comparing features across brands. For example, if you’re looking for a mid-size two-row SUV, compare available models from different brands and search for the best overall value. Then, visit the largest dealership of your chosen brand for the greatest pricing flexibility, top financing options, and the best overall deal.

Shameless Plug: If you live in Middle Tennessee and are in the market for a vehicle, reach out to me at any time. I work at the largest Kia dealership in the area with access to hundreds of new, used, and Certified Pre-Owned vehicles with financing options for every buyer.

Resale Value and Long-Term Considerations. When purchasing a car, it’s wise to think beyond the present moment. Here, the Market Value takes center stage. Resale value, a critical aspect of any vehicle’s lifecycle, relies heavily on the Market Value. Cars with strong Market Values – such as Kia, Toyota, and Honda – generally depreciate more slowly, making them financially wiser choices in the long run.

The Market Value serves as a barometer for a car’s resale potential. A robust Market Value suggests sustained demand and a positive reputation, both of which bode well for future resale value. Your choice in this regard can impact your financial well-being when you decide to part ways with your vehicle.

Remember, a car’s resale value is influenced by various factors beyond its initial price, including brand reputation, reliability, and evolving market trends. By researching a car’s historical resale performance and its current and forecasted Market Values, you empower yourself to make a decision that protects your investment.

Depreciation Awareness. A car’s value isn’t a static entity; it changes over time due to depreciation. The Market Value is key to understanding a car’s depreciation rate. While the MSRP guides your initial purchase, the Market Value becomes essential when you’re contemplating selling or trading in your vehicle.

By connecting the Market Value with depreciation, you gain insights into the potential rate of value loss. Armed with this knowledge, you can better anticipate your car’s future value, guiding your decision-making and financial planning.

Impact of Optional Features. Optional features and upgrades can significantly alter a vehicle’s price. These additions often factor into the MSRP, but their influence on Market Value can differ. Desirable features and rare combinations can raise the Market Value, making your car more attractive to potential buyers in the resale market.

As you consider optional features, it’s wise to research their impact on both the MSRP and the potential Market Value. This research empowers you to make choices that enhance your driving experience while potentially boosting your car’s resale value.

Research and Due Diligence. The road to a well-informed decision is paved with research. Utilize online resources, automotive websites, and valuation tools to gather information about both the MSRP and Market Value of your desired car. Then, seek out an experienced automotive professional with a great reputation to help with the transaction. Armed with this knowledge, you approach negotiations confidently and secure a deal that aligns with your budget and expectations.


As you embark on your car-buying journey, the interplay between MSRP and Market Value becomes your navigational guide. While the MSRP is suggested by the manufacturer before the vehicle enters production, the Market Value provides real-time context. Balancing these two elements empowers you to make an informed decision – whether you’re driving away in a brand-new vehicle or contemplating future resale.

In the next post, we cover rebates and incentives, important savings tools that can help savvy car-buyers time their purchases and choose the right car. Click Next to continue.