6 Things to Do Before You Trade in Your Car

by AutoInsuranceQuotes.org Staff Writer on September 7, 2012

If you have no payments remaining on your current car, bringing it to a dealership as a trade-in will lower the overall purchase price of your replacement car. The discount could be more than what you would make if you tried selling the car on your own. But before you pull into a dealership parking lot with smoke pouring out of the hood, grime on the windshields, and last week’s groceries in the trunk, take a look at these six things you need to do before you trade in your car.

  1. Determine the value:

    Find out the value of your car, including its trade-in value (how much a dealer will give you for your car as a trade) and retail value (how much a dealer can expect to sell your car for). Use the autotrader and Kelley Blue Book websites to determine the trade-in value of your car. Retail value can be determined from a variety of resources.

  2. Look at the classifieds:

    To determine the upper range of market price of your car, see if your vehicle appears for sale in your local newspaper’s classified section and other specialty publications dedicated to car buying. If you have the time, consider bringing the car to a few different dealers, tell them you want to sell the car outright, and see what they’re willing to offer. Between websites like Kelley Blue Book, classifieds, and some real-world car dealers, you should be able to determine the highest and lowest amount you can reasonably expect for your trade-in.

  3. Gather documentation of maintenance:

    If you’ve regularly scheduled your car for maintenance, any documentation you have to support this provides you with another bargaining chip for negotiations with a car dealer. The value of your vehicle is based in part on how well it runs, and the dealer knows he will get a better price for your trade-in if you’ve been diligent with its maintenance.

  4. Clean and detail:

    The trade-in or resale value of your car will increase if it looks clean and well-maintained. Consider spending a little money, maybe $100, to have your car professionally cleaned and detailed. If you have the time and want to save some money, there are guides online for doing the detail work yourself. Poor paintwork can devalue a car, especially a bad paint job on an expensive car. If you think your car could look better, check in with a reliable body shop to see what can be done to improve your car’s paint job.

  5. Remove bumper stickers, fuzzy dice, and other personal items:

    This is one of those obvious things many people somehow forget to do. Before you bring your car to a dealer as a trade-in, be sure to scrape off the “My Kid Is An A+ Student!” and “This IS My Other Car” bumper stickers. Remove anything hanging from your rear view mirror, including fuzzy dice, rosaries, and rubber skeletons. And make sure your trunk is empty and thoroughly vacuumed.

  6. Don’t worry about repairs:

    Since dealers are able to make mechanical and cosmetic repairs to a vehicle more cheaply than consumers, you are unlikely to recoup the cost of any last minute minor or even major repairs to your vehicle. So be honest with the dealer about what is in need of repair, and let them decide what actually needs to be done before the trade-in can be sold.

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