Get the Most from Your Trade-In

August 24th, 2018 by

Get the Most from Your Trade-In

Most people thinking about buying a new car are already car owners. And the value of that old car could go toward the new car. When you take your old car to the dealership to help pay for a new car, that’s a trade-in. Naturally, you want to get the most from your trade-in. This guide answers your questions, points out some common pitfalls, and gives advice on getting more from your trade-in.

An Ounce of Prevention

The best way to get the most out of a future trade in is to take care of your car today. So, get regular inspections, rotate those tires, get your oil changes on time, and clean up spills inside the cabin on the day they happen. Not only will you lengthen the life of your car, but when it’s finally time to part ways, your car will have retained its value.

Also, get in the habit of documenting everything. When you replace the tires or get any engine work done, save the receipts. The glove box isn’t just for gloves. Your paper trail of repairs and improvements will help you state your case to the dealership where you are going to trade in your car. If you can obtain a vehicle history report, that is also a helpful document.

Personalization Is a Liability

You might think the flames on the sides of your car are cool or lifted trucks are awesome, but the more personalized the car is, the harder it is to sell. Unless you plan on driving your car until the absolute end, you might want to hold off on putting permanent personal touches on it. No matter how strange it may sound, the gray, white, and black cars with no modifications move off the lot fastest. Keeping your vehicle’s original appearance might increase its trade-in value down the road.

Selling versus Trading

This might surprise you, but you can almost always get more money selling the car yourself than trading it in. Dealerships have to turn a profit on your car. That means they have to have it cleaned, detailed, and repaired before they put it on their used car lot–or they need to sell it at auction which involves its own set of costs. So they give you a trade-in price that’s relatively low relative to the true market value.

Why should anyone trade in their car then? Two reasons immediately spring to mind: convenience and taxes. Selling a car to a dealership as a trade-in is fast, usually doable in a single day. On the other hand, selling it yourself can take time. You have to advertise, field calls, and hammer out a deal. Depending on your location and model, a private party sale like this can take days, weeks, or sometimes even months. If you want your new car now, there’s the quick and easy convenience of trade-ins to finance your purchase.

There’s also taxes to consider. Unless you live in one of a handful of states with no taxes on automotive sales, you’re looking at two different transactions with their accompanying taxes. A trade-in streamlines it into one, since the old car is simply part of the transaction to buy the new.

Clean But Not Too Clean

Before trade in day, clean your car. Wash it, empty it of wrappers and personal items, and vacuum it out. But hold off on detailing or repairing dents. A common mistake is believing that every dollar you put into cleaning the car is a dollar or more out of the trade in. But the dealership expects to do all that work themselves before they flip it. The truth is that they expect a used car to look used. If it’s too clean, it communicates that you’re trying to hide something or that you’ll take any offer because have no intention of driving your old car back home if unsatisfied with your quote. So, by all means, make your car presentable, but don’t go overboard.

And don’t do costly repairs either. Superficial repairs do not necessarily increase the value of your car. For that reason, it’s money that might be a net loss. If you’ve done routine maintenance and repairs over the lifetime of the car, bring it to the dealership as is. They won’t be surprised to hear that it has a few quirks.

Shop Around

A common mistake is to accept the first offer you get. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our car buying hisotry. But if you’re willing to shop around, you may find different dealerships estimate the worth of your car differently. Arm yourself with an estimate first. Look for the Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds car value online and print out the numbers. Those sites ask you for the year, make, model, and condition of your car. Don’t overestimate the condition. Next to no used cars are in excellent condition. A used car in good condition is usually just that: “good” or “clean,” depending on the website’s terminology.

Once you have your car’s estimated value, plan to go early in the day. Each dealership does a thorough inspection and you’ll wait less the earlier you go, so block out a morning or an entire Saturday. If you can’t do it all in one day, never fear. Most dealerships guarantee their quote for up to a week.

Once you get an estimate, visit at least one or two other dealerships. It may be that you get the same price quote every place you go. You may find one or more places offer a cheaper price. Either way, you have a good idea what to expect. If you’re happy to haggle, you can take a low quote from one dealership and show it to another, asking if they can beat it. Don’t feel pressured into anything. Take all the time you want or can spare.

One trick is to take a used car from one brand to another brand’s dealership. Kias are more rare at a Hyundai dealership, just as Hondas are relatively rare at a Toyota dealership, so they might give you a better deal. From the dealership perspective, a wider variety of used cars on the lot brings in more customers.

What Is the Best Time to Sell?

This varies from dealership to dealership, but generally the end of the month is the right time to trade in your car. Dealerships are looking to meet quotas and will sometimes give you a better deal. If you’re in no rush, you can watch the dealerships in your area and wait for special promotions on trade ins. You may even buy a new car and wait to sell the old one, using it as a daily commuter to keep the new car in better condition longer. Then you can strike whenever the iron is hot. With any luck, you’ll have a great new car for less because of your trade in.