How To Trade in a Car for One of Lesser Value

Trading in your car may be easier compared to selling it yourself but there are factors you need to consider before negotiating with dealers.

  1. Have your car thoroughly cleaned and conditioned. Dealers will have a detailed look of your car. The physical appearance of your car will have a lot of influence to the trade-in value. Prior to trading in your car, have it cleaned in and out whether it is old or nearly new. Have the interiors vacuumed and if you are a smoker, you better make sure you get the smell of smoke out of the car. A smoker's car usually has a lower resale value. Check the transmission, tires, fluid levels, paintwork, etc. Look for items that need to be fixed or replaced: lenses, headlights, windshields, and other parts that are highly visible. Remember that dealers will be thinking of the cost of repair before they can resell your vehicle. So for each scratch, dent, or damage the dealer sees is a deduction to the amount they will pay for your car. As for the tires, make sure it has some thread life left on them, as it will also influence the trade-in value of your unit.
  2. Determine the mileage of your vehicle. If possible, trade in your car before the odometer turns another ten thousand mile increment. Mileage is another critical factor that affects the trade-in value. Dealers can automatically check through CARFAX and see the history of your car.
  3. Determine the value of your car. You can do this by visiting a number of dealers and get an appraisal of your car. Dealers base the price according to the condition of your car, its age, and a lot of other factors. You can refer to local newspaper's classifieds to check the local market pricing. Another means is by using research tools available on the Internet where you will be required to fill in specific information about your car such as brand, model, and the like. Many dealers use the Kelly Blue Book as a starting point for looking at both trade-in and suggested retail values although their decisions hardly depend on this source. Get as much sources as you can to help you determine a fair and realistic asking price for your vehicle.
  4. Determine what to expect. When trading your car into a dealer, expect that you are like selling it wholesale. Your vehicle's wholesale value is just about the price you get at a dealer auction that could be thousands less than the retail price. The dealer may offer you so much less than your car is worth but understand that the dealer is thinking of spending dollars on fixing any problems your car might have in order to sell it at a profit. That is why it is important to keep your car in good condition. If it is well-maintained, you are likely to get a higher trade-in value. Nevertheless, you may expect that the value offered by dealers is in general lower than the amount you could get if you sell your car yourself. True - but you do save a lot of time, effort and post-sale hassles.

Allow the dealer to make his first move then be prepared to negotiate. If you think the value is too good to be true, be wary. Take note that dealers would hardly offer the best deal. Go for what is fair and do not make your decision until you are sure you are getting it.


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