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Trade In a Car and Use It to Your Advantage

Last updated Apr 25, 2023

Trading in your car can help you to buy a new car without having to put a large amount of money down. However, you need to keep in mind that dealerships will want to sell you a new car for as much as they can, while paying you as little as possible on your trade-in.

Today, we’re going to cover how you can use your trade-in to your advantage. We’ll discuss the best ways to boost your car’s trade-in value and give you tips on how you should negotiate while you’re at the dealership.

How to Trade in a Car for Maximum Value

You’ve decided to trade in your car. What should you do next? Learning how to trade in a car is vital to getting the most bang for your buck. Here are your next steps.

Research Your Car’s Value

Understanding how much a dealership should be offering is essential to successfully negotiating your trade-in value. You can use Kelley Blue Book or our Market Price Report to gain an understanding of what similar cars are going for. You can bring printouts of both sources with you to the dealership to show that you’ve done your research.

Fix Cosmetic Issues

There’s no need to give the car a new paint job, but fixing any cosmetic issues will go far in getting the most for your trade-in. It’s also worth cleaning the interior and exterior before you take the car to a dealership. Break out the shampoo for the carpets, go through a car wash, and fix any dents. You might be surprised how big of a deal this can be.

Shop at Multiple Dealerships

There are plenty of reasons to shop around at different dealerships. Every dealership will offer you a different amount for your car, and some will be more open to negotiating than others. 

Make sure to obtain quotes from these dealerships for your trade-in and take them with you to the next dealership. These quotes — along with your Kelley Blue Book estimate — will help you when it’s time to negotiate.

Once you have a firm understanding of your car’s value, have fixed any issues, and you’re prepared to shop around at multiple dealerships, it’s time to negotiate.

How to Negotiate Your Car Trade-In Value

Avoid the temptation of negotiating your car trade-in value when you’re negotiating the price of a new car. You should negotiate both numbers separately. When you mix the negotiations, there’s too much potential for the salesperson to tweak the numbers so that it seems like you’re getting a better deal than you really are.

Your first order of business is to negotiate the price that you’ll pay for your new car. Once that is nailed down, then you can start talking about how much you’ll receive for your trade-in. 

Use quotes from other dealerships and the Kelley Blue Book estimate to illustrate that you know what a fair offer looks like. Since many car dealerships will directly resell your trade-in on their used car lot, there’s an incentive for them to be competitive.

Stay firm in what you’ll accept. If they won’t give you a good price, then it’s time to leave that dealership. It’s worth taking your time to trade in a car the right way.

How to Trade in a Car:  Keep Timing in Mind

Timing matters when it comes to trading in your car. Being patient can often pay off. Factors such as weather, the type of car that you have, and other socioeconomic factors can come into play with the trade-in value that you receive.

For example, trading in an SUV that is in great condition right before winter can often result in a better trade-in value, as winter weather tends to drum up extra business from people that are looking for something that can handle snowy conditions. Think about the time of the year as it relates to what you’re offering.

Other factors can impact the sales process, too. It’s always better to try to buy a car at the end of the month or at the end of the year. That’s when car dealerships are trying to boost their numbers at the end of their sale periods. You’re likely to get a great price on your new car and a high trade-in value at these times.

How to Trade in a Car:  Stay Informed and Stay Firm

Do your research to make sure that you know what your car is worth when you want to trade in a car. Stay firm on the amount that you’ll accept for your trade-in. Be aware that some dealerships may try to manipulate the numbers. Sometimes, what looks like a good deal on your trade-in is made up for with a bad deal in another area.

Remember, you can always say “no” and walk out of the dealership. It’s your car and you deserve to get a great deal.


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