Trading a Car In? Here’s What You Need to Know

Trading in a car that you no longer need or no longer want is a great way to reduce the price of buying a totally new vehicle. That said, many people avoid trading in their old car, simply because they do not know if their old car is worth any money or how exactly to go about broaching the subject with the dealership or dealerships they are considering buying from. If you are interested in trading in your current vehicle, here’s what you need to know about the process:

1. Bring the vehicle when you are test driving. As you visit different dealerships, trying to decide which one you are going to buy from, bring the vehicle that you are considering trading in. Not only will this allow you to make the transaction if you decide that you are ready to buy a new car (instead of putting off the deal because you have to go home and get the older vehicle), it will also give the dealerships you are working with some time to look the vehicle over and determine how much it is worth.

2. Get an estimate before you go. A good way to get an estimate of the value of your older vehicle is to look online. There are several tools, including one from Kelly Blue Book, that will allow you to put in the make and model of your vehicle and then account for any wear, tear, and damage, before providing you with an estimate for how much that vehicle is worth. This should not be taken as a hard and fast value for your car, as your vehicle might be in better or worse shape than you think it is or the dealership you are working with might be willing to offer you more (or less) than the vehicle is worth, depending on how close you seem to buying.

trading-car3. Clean the vehicle. Before you take that car anywhere, make sure that you have cleaned its interior thoroughly and that you have washed the exterior. Appearances do matter when it comes to valuing a car. A dirty car will appear older and less valuable than a new vehicle. A car that is littered with trash or that needs extensive cleaning inside will probably put a dealership off of buying it from you. If the interior upholstery is stained, remove those stains as best as you can before trying to trade it in to a dealership. Remember, the less work they have to put into this vehicle before they can sell it, the more they are going to be able to give you for it.

4. Have the vehicle checked out. Is it really worth your time to pay for one last tune up before your take that vehicle to be valued by a dealership? The truth is, it depends. If the vehicle is in relatively good condition, but it needs a new fan belt, for example, it might be worth your time to pay for that repair yourself, so when you take the car into the dealership, it is not squeaking and squealing, which could cause the dealership some concern. If the repairs are going to cost you more than a couple hundred dollars and the car itself is only worth a couple thousand, it is probably not worth paying for the repairs. If your car that is worth seven thousand dollars, however, requires a hundred dollar repair, it might be worth the money.

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5. Bring your records of maintenance. When trading in that vehicle to a dealership, bring along proof that you have taken care of that car. There is a huge difference between a car that only had an oil change every five years and one that had one every six months like clockworks. Vehicles that have been taken care of are going to be much more valuable than vehicle that have been driven into the ground. A vehicle that has been carefully looked after might have another fifteen years on the road, while one of the same make, model, and year might only have two or three more years if it was not cared for.

6. Don’t try to play games. Don’t first get a quote for the new car you want to buy and then mention that you have a vehicle to trade in, hoping that it will somehow give you some leverage. Trade ins will be one of the first questions that most salespeople will ask you, because of how the can affect the entire car buying process. If you are willing to trade in a car, you are offering the dealership something of real value, something that they want. Don’t hide the fact that you are thinking about trading your older car in. Tell them outright that you have a car that you want to have traded in and that you have done some research about the value of that car. Again, keep in mind that what you find online does not necessarily apply to your vehicle. Many 2002 Mazda Protégés will be worth $4000, but yours might only be worth $2000, depending on its condition.

7. Close the deal. Once you and the salesperson have agreed on a price for your trade in and a price for the new car that you are going to buy, it’s time to close the deal! You might negotiate the two prices separately or they might simply give you a certain amount of a discount in return for the vehicle. It all depends on how the dealership operates. Most dealerships are more than willing to take trade-ins, so if you have an old car that you essentially want to replace with this new car, trading it in is a great way to offset the price of that new car!

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