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Tips On Getting The Most Money For Your Trade-In

No question: When selling your car, you want to get the most money possible.

You can maximize profits by doing a private sale, but you’ll have to place an ad, let strangers drive your vehicle, haggle over the price and deal with the hassle of transferring money once the deal is made.

If just reading that last paragraph exhausts you, consider a dealer trade-in. It could save you time, plus, all that money you make from it can be applied to your next car purchase. (Two birds, one stone.) Another upside: The dealer typically handles transferring the title and the registration paperwork, as well as the payoff of any existing loan on your car.

Used vehicles are welcome at most dealers, so don’t limit yourself to those that sell your car’s make. In 2018, there were more than 40.8 million used-car sales in the U.S., according to Edmunds.

Here’s how to rev up your vehicle’s appeal and get the most cash for your car.

Review your policy.

Know Your Car’s Value

Be a prepared shopper and take advantage of online resources to see what others paid and compare market averages on used-car listings.

To score the best deal on your trade-in, calculate your car’s market value and use that to determine your asking price. Online resources will give you estimates based on the make, year, mileage and condition of your car. Also, factor in the dealer’s gross profit margin (around 12 percent). Take it to a few dealers and compare offers.

Give it a Shine

Presenting a clean car is a simple way to boost offers on your trade-in. Get it detailed, including the engine. Having service records also helps. “A clean car and good maintenance records indicate that you’ve taken care of your car,” says Cari Crane, senior industry analyst for TrueCar.

Be Up Front About Repairs

What if your trade-in vehicle isn’t in the best shape? First, pay for small repairs yourself—e.g., worn brake pads or small blemishes. If you can’t fix what’s wrong, get repair estimates from a mechanic that you can use when you negotiate with the dealer. For example, if a dealer wants to deduct $2,500 from your asking price to replace the brakes and fix the windshield, but you have an estimate of $750 for both, you’re in a better position to negotiate. If the dealer doesn’t budge on the price, consider paying for the repairs yourself to get the maximum amount for your car.

Separate Your Transactions

Negotiate the new or pre-owned vehicle first, then your trade-in. “You’re more likely to get a better deal on the new vehicle by keeping that transaction separate,” says Laurence E. Dixon III, director of market intelligence for the NADA Used Car Guide, a division of J.D. Power.

By Anita Slomski

Illustration by Doug Chayka

Read More: How to buy a used car online

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    Leave a comment

  1. Bryan Yu says,

    I have a 2017 Toyota Camry SE in Silver. It’s got all the features minus heated seats and leather. It’s got less than 18k miles on it. I used to work really close to home. I wanted to trade it in for something that’s in the line of a sedan but also wanted a awd car. I am looking at the 2019 Subaru WRX. Any suggestions on a type of sedan that’s awd and sporty? My Camry has push button start, sunroof, nav, sat radio, Qi enabled charging, and USB port. It’s also mostly in perfect condition. I don’t want my insurance to go up so if I get a wrx will my insurance go up? Thanks in advance!

  2. Jerome Mendoza says,

    I have A 2013 Hyundai Genesis sedan 3.8 engine
    Miles 180000 miles on it no mechanical problems well maintained in all services I still owe $10000 on the car I’m thinking trading it for 2019 monthly payment is $306 a month.. what is trade in value?

    I’m hoping to under $400 a month on newer car”


    Dealers will typically manipulate the figures for a new or used car once you tell them you have a trade in. The best thing to do is to make the deal on the new car FIRST, then notify the dealer you are trading your car in.

  4. Sadiri castaneto says,

    Plan to trade in my 2004 sequoia SR 53,000 on mileage to Audi Q3 How much you estimate the value well maintained

  5. Fernando Barroso says,

    I do take to other dealers in Ny and also NJ and I do take it dirty to dealers then I get it washed, and take to other dealers and the trade-in is slightly higher, but I did not know about the other things good point Thanks

  6. Raymond Kuuchi says,

    Great tips to learn! At least, now I know what needs to be done on my vehicle when I’m ready to trade-in for a new vehicle. Thank you for educating me and letting me know. Anyway, I’m thinking of trading-in my 2007 GMC Yukon Denali for something smaller.

    • Antoine Caldwell says,

      Buy the house first. If you get a car first,it will mess up your debt to income ratio. You do not want that car on your credit report.

      • Potrack McCandless says,

        Sell the house first. Then use the money to hire someone to trade in the car for you. Easy peasy.