Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to Get the Most Money for Your Trade-In

Many people dread the prospect of trading in their car when they go shopping for a newer model. They fret over whether or not they’ll be given a fair value for the car without really taking any steps to help the dealership give them as much money as possible. Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do during ownership and during the trade-in process that can help you get every penny that your car is worth.

What Dealerships Look For In A Trade-In:

It’s no mystery that a car dealership exists to make a profit, like any other business. They want to be able to buy cars and then sell them for more than they paid for them. They also want to treat their customers right, because they depend on repeat and referral customers to stay in business. They don’t want you to just be satisfied with the experience; they want you to have had a fantastic experience so you’ll tell all your friends and family how well they treated you. To that end, here’s how you can help a dealership give you more money for your trade-in.

#1 – Take care of your car – This should seem like common sense, but you may be amazed at how many people don’t change their oil on time, never rotate their tires, only wash their car by leaving it out in the rain, and in general, let their car slowly turn into a stinky, beat up mess. Starting from day one of ownership, take all the steps you need to keep your car looking and running smoothly. An advantage of buying from a dealership is that you can usually purchase maintenance plans at discounted rates to take care of your oil changes and regular maintenance. That can save you a lot of money over the course of ownership as well as make it very easy and convenient to make sure your car stays up to date on service, maintenance, and any recalls that need to be performed.

#2 – Keep accurate records – Only slightly less important than taking care of your car is keeping track of what you do. When an appraiser looks at a possible trade-in, he is figuring out what they would need to spend on a car to have it ready to sell. If you can show him that the maintenance is current that is one more thing he can check off his list of possible expenses. Again, an advantage of doing your maintenance at one spot, like a dealership service department, is that they will keep track of everything for you, and can give you a copy at your request.

#3 – Timing & Term – It is a cold hard fact that your car value drops as soon as you drive it off the lot, yet there still seems to be a group of people who think they can buy a car and try to trade it in two months later when they decide they need a car with the latest and greatest gadget. They are usually very disappointed in their trade evaluation, because only two months earlier they paid much more than they are being offered. Don’t let yourself fall into this trap! When you buy a car, buy one that you will enjoy driving and that will meet your needs, and then keep it for the next 3-4 years.

#4 – Know your car’s value – There are a lot of sources that will tell you what a car is supposed to be worth, and unfortunately, they very rarely agree with each other. Your bank or credit union will tell you one thing, blue books, black books, market reports, etc, all will put different figures on your car’s value. The best way to see exactly what your car is worth in your area is to see what similar models are selling for. Go to websites like or and search for cars like yours – come as close as you can in make, model, miles, package, and condition. See what they’re being sold for. That will give you an idea as to what retail value on your car may be.

Now that you’ve taken good care of your car, have your maintenance records, have an idea as to what similar cars are being sold for, and have found the new car you want, you have a few options. You can find a private buyer for your car – you will almost always get more money than you would in a trade, but there are downsides. You will have to negotiate with any interested party; they may want you to do some repairs or touch up work, or replace tires or other parts, and they may delay your next purchase if they have to line up financing. What you need to decide is how much your time is worth. Is your time, effort, and stress worth the difference between what you can sell the car for and what your trade-in value is?

If you decide that trading in your car is the way to go, there is one last step. Finding a dealership that you enjoy working with will not only save you headache and hassles, but they will also be more inclined to give you more money for your trade-in if they’ve gotten to know you as a repeat customer. Buying and trading a car can be a fun, easy, and win-win experience!

About the Author: Natalia Jenkins is a writer for Osseo Auto. She loves writing on cars, history and reading classic books. She also is secretly a car aficionado. Osseo Auto is a leading Wisconsin car dealership that sells new and used Ford and Chevy cars in Eau Claire and La Crosse.

More Guest Blog Posts from GRAutoBlog:
Tips for Driving in Unsafe Conditions
How to Get More MPG with Your Car
6 Steps to Carefully Buying a Used Car
6 Things to Consider When Selecting Tires
The Importance of Having Your Car Serviced 
Top 5 Gifts for Car Enthusiasts 


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