How to get the best trade-in value for your car |
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How to get the best car trade-in deal

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Everything you need to know to get the best possible price when trading in your car.

You’ve found the perfect new car and you’re ready to buy, but before you can get behind the wheel, you’ve got to negotiate the best trade-in price for your car. Unfortunately, car dealers will never offer you a premium price for a trade in, and they’ve got plenty of negotiating tricks up their sleeves to help sway the deal in their favor.

Our guide will help you learn how to navigate dealership tactics so you can get the most value out of your old car.

Should I trade my car in or sell it privately?

If you’re buying a new car and need to get rid of your old one you can either trade the car in at the dealership or sell it privately.

Trading it in is a quick and convenient option that can allow you to negotiate a better sale price on your new car. Instead of going through the hassle of finding a buyer, you can take care of selling one car and buying another in one transaction.

You’ll likely secure a better price if you sell your car privately, giving you more buying power when searching for your next set of wheels. Selling privately on the other hand can be a lot of hard work. Between taking care of maintenance issues to dealing with potential buyers, private sales can be time-consuming and stressful.

Choose the avenue that works best for your situation. If you want to make a quick sale and get on the road with your new car, then getting trade-in value 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.

Getting the best trade-in price

If you decide to trade in your vehicle, there’s plenty you can do to ensure you get the best possible price from your dealer. In fact, you can start taking steps to maximize your trade-in deal long before you need to switch to a new car.

How to get the best car trade-in deal: 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 issues. 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 the car inside and out so it will still be in the best possible shape when it comes time 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 in the trade in.

Preparing your car for the trade in

man washing his carSome new car buyers visit a dealership without giving any thought to how their current vehicle looks. So if it’s scratched and dinged, been parked under a tree hosting a flock of pigeons 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 often isn’t enough, so you should either give it a good scrub yourself or visit a professional car detailer.
  • Clean the interior. It’s also 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.

Negotiating with the dealer

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 dealer is a professional negotiator who will do whatever he can to get the best possible deal. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure that you get the best trade-in deal:

Do your research.

Knowing how much your car is worth will give you power at the negotiating table, so try to find out how much you can expect to receive when you trade in. Automotive data services like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds can provide you with your vehicle’s approximate value, including private, dealer and trade-in values. You can also look at private sale prices for your make and model, remembering that trade-in values are usually lower than private sales.

Know the tactics.

Dealers are experts when it comes to buying and selling cars, so familiarize yourself with some of the more common negotiating tactics they use. For example, don’t be surprised if the dealer claims your car won’t be easy to sell, or that they’re doing you a favor by taking it off your hands — these are tactics designed simply to maximize their profit.

Use your own negotiating skills.

Don’t bring your trade in to the table until the end. Negotiate the sale price of the new car separately to the trade-in car. Once you’ve reached a reasonable purchase price for the new vehicle, tell the dealer that you’d also like to trade in your current car and that the right price will seal the deal.

Shop around.

Don’t be afraid to shop around for a better trade-in deal. You might be surprised just how much more you can get from a different dealer, so look elsewhere if you’re not happy with the price you’re offered.

Focus on the changeover price.

Remember that the trade-in price for your vehicle doesn’t determine if you got a good deal. Look at the changeover price for your new car – that is, the purchase price of your new car minus the trade-in price of your old car. While one dealer may offer the best trade-in price, if their price for a new car is more expensive, then they may not offer the best deal overall.

Ready to trade-in but need financing? Here are some products you can compare

Rates last updated September 22nd, 2018

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Name Product Product Description Minimum Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements Car Loans
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Auto Credit Express Car Loans
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Typically 3 to 6 years
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.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Fair or poor credit
Minimum of 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
1–6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles. Car Loans
Get up to four offers in minutes through one simple application. Multiple financing types available including new cars, used cars and refinancing.
24 to 84 months
Must have a Social Security number; make $24,000+/year; have no open bankruptcies.
LendingTree Auto Loans
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
Typically 1 to 7 years
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.
Capital One Auto Financing
You could qualify for a car loan of up to 40000, but not all dealers accept this bank's financing.
Good to excellent credit
36 to 72 months
Valid street address; existing Capital One accounts in good standing. Car must be a 2006 model or newer with less than 120,000 miles.
Wells Fargo Auto Loans
Auto loans with high loan amounts to cover your car purchase or refinancing needs.
Good to excellent credit
1 to 6 years
Your income and assets must support your existing debt obligations and the desired loan amount.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Trading in your old vehicle can help you afford a new one. If it isn’t enough, consider finding other ways of financing your purchase.

Frequently asked questions

Image source: Shutterstock

Tim Falk

A freelance writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping people find the right products for them. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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