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Compare the best car trade-in deals

Get the most out of your car's value.

Editor's choice: Carvana

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Car dealerships may have plenty of tricks up their sleeves when it comes to swaying a sale in their favor. But knowing how to set your trade-in apart from the rest can help you save when you’re shopping for a new car. And comparing offers can help you get the best deal available to you.

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How to get the best trade-in price at a dealership

Before you visit a dealership to trade your car for a new one, start taking steps to ensure you maintain or enhance your car’s value.

1. Pay attention to the market

Market fluctuations influence how much a used car is worth at any given time. There are a few factors that influence this:

  • Time of year
  • Location
  • Popular models and brands
  • Gas prices

The type of car you’re looking to sell matters, too. A convertible won’t sell as well during the winter, and a truck won’t be worth as much when gas prices are high. Check used car comparison websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to get an idea of what your car sells for in your area — knowing the current market will help you get a good deal.

2. Take care of your car before you sell

The simplest way to keep your car’s resale value high is to take good care of it while you’re the owner.

  • Have it serviced regularly. Book your car in for regular servicing on the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. Make sure you record each service in the car’s logbook so you can provide it to the next buyer as proof the car has been well-maintained.
  • Stay on top of repair and maintenance. If there’s a strange noise in the engine, get it looked at by a licensed mechanic. If you’re involved in an accident, get the car repaired as soon as possible. Regularly clean inside and out so it will still be in the best possible shape when you’re ready to sell.
  • Drive it like you own it. If you take care of your car when you own it, you’ll increase your chances of getting a better trade-in price. If you’re hard on your car, don’t expect a premium price from the dealer. Treat it right, and you’ll reap the benefits.

3. Fix major and minor issues

If there are some small issues with your car that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to fix, bring it to the mechanic. Investing a little now could get you a better price down the road. Fixing glaring issues — or even just buffing out minor dings — can increase your trade-in’s value.

4. Clean it before bringing it to the dealer

man washing his carDon’t visit a dealership without thinking about how your current car looks. If it’s scratched, been parked under a tree and hasn’t been washed in months, it’s hardly going to look like an attractive trade-in prospect to the dealer.

With this in mind, get your car into the best possible shape before stepping up to the negotiating table.

  • Wash your car. First impressions count, so give your car a thorough wash to make sure it’s gleaming from every angle. A quick run through the automatic car wash isn’t enough, so you should either give it a good scrub yourself or visit a professional car detailer.
  • Clean the interior. It’s essential to give the inside of your vehicle a thorough clean. Wipe down every surface to remove stains and don’t forget to take your personal items from the car before making a trip to the dealer.

With that said, don’t bring it in too clean. Having too clean a car can make it look like you’re hiding something and might actually get you a worse deal.

5. Don’t be afraid to negotiate

This is the part where most people trip up. While you’re excited to get behind the wheel of your new car as soon as possible, the salesperson is a professional negotiator who will do whatever they can to get the best possible deal. Stand your ground and use the prices you researched as ammunition to increase the value of your trade-in and pay less on your next vehicle.

You may also want to shop around. Getting a quote from two or three dealerships can greatly increase your negotiating power, so be prepared to spend the day haggling. Once you settle on a dealership, you’ll be able to use the quotes from other dealers to get a good deal.

6 tips for negotiating with a dealership

Keep the following tips in mind to ensure that you get the best trade-in deal.

Is trading in my car worth it?

Trading in your car might be worth it if you don’t have the time to find a private buyer and are comfortable negotiating with a dealer. It cuts down on the time and effort it might otherwise take to sell your car and it keeps everything in one place. But you won’t necessarily get the best deal this way.

When should I trade in my car?

You may want to trade in your car if

  • You want a quick transaction at one dealership
  • The dealership offers to complete registration and paperwork
  • You don’t want to spend time advertising your car

Trading in may also be the easiest option if you’re upside down on your car loan. With a trade-in, you can often roll the balance of your old car loan into a new one if you still owe money. It’s easier than paying it off yourself, but you risk going upside down on your new loan, too.

When should I sell my car privately?

You may want to sell privately if

  • You want to get a better sale price for your car
  • You have time to list your car on multiple websites
  • You have an older car a dealership might not accept

If you want to get on the road without a headache, then a trade-in will be the better choice. If you have time to search for buyers and list your car, you can earn more by making a private sale. It’s all about choosing the avenue that works best for your situation.

How to determine a car’s trade-in value

When you’re looking to get the best value for your trade in, keep these three factors in mind:

  • Read multiple pricing guides. There may be a big difference between two pricing guides. During negotiation, refer to the pricing guide that offers you the best deal — you can negotiate down from there.
  • Understand your car’s condition. A car in “good” condition may be worth much less than a car in “excellent” condition. If you’re not sure where yours sits on the spectrum, have it professionally appraised before visiting a dealership.
  • Check private party sales. Even if you decide to use your car as a trade in, knowing what your car’s value is to private buyers can help you determine if going the easy route is worth the potential loss in profit.

How to trade in a used car in 3 steps

Follow these steps to swap your current car for a new (or used) vehicle at a dealership:

  1. Get a quotes from independent sources. Start with an online appraisal tool like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds. You also might want to consider taking your car to a for an appraisal at a place like CarMax — since they don’t have any skin in the game, you’ll likely get an accurate offer on your car.
  2. Compare offers. Knowing how much you can get for your car, stop by a few dealerships to compare what they’re willing to offer. Don’t agree to the first offer — there could be a better dealership out there. Use offers you get with other lenders as leverage to negotiate the price.
  3. Compare financing. One you’ve made a decision on a deal, look into all of your financing offers — what the dealership has might not be the best deal. You also might want to consider financing from your bank or credit union, which often offer rate discounts to current customers.

Ready to trade-in but need financing? Compare these car loans

Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
PenFed Auto Loans
Starting at 1.79%
3 to 7 years
Active membership with PenFed
Low APR car loans from a well-known credit union.
No minimum credit score
3.9% to 27.9%
18+ years old, annual income of $4,000+, no active bankruptcies
Get pre-qualified for used car financing and receive competitive, personalized rates. Car Loans
Varies by network lender
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
CarsDirect auto loans
No minimum credit score
Varies by network lender
Varies by network lender
Must provide proof of income, proof of residence, and proof of insurance.
Save time and effort with this lending service specializing in beginner-friendly or subprime car loan.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Monevo Auto Loans
3.99% to 35.99%
3 months to 12 years
Credit score of 500+, legal US resident and ages 18+.
Quickly compare multiple online lenders with competitive rates depending on your credit.
Good to excellent credit
Starting at 1.99%
Varies by lender
18+ years old, good to excellent credit, US citizen
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out. Car Loans
1.89% to 27%
550+ credit score, no open bankruptcies, $24,000+ annual income, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Trading in your old vehicle can help you afford a new one. But it can be a time-consuming process, and it certainly won’t be all you need to finance your next set of wheels. Read our guide to car loans to see what kind of rates you may be eligible for.

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