How to maximize car trade-in value
It’s becoming a cliché throughout this book: Do your homework! Even though you’ve been driving the same car for years, you may not be as familiar with it as you might think. You may not even know the actual value of your car when it comes time to trade it in. Begin checking into some helpful resources to find the current value of your car… and maximize your car trade-in value.
Kelly Blue Book has been the standard for providing consumers and car dealers with accurate, used-car values for decades. Embracing current technology, Kelly Blue Book has established a website with a comprehensive package of tools for consumers to get an accurate appraisal of their car’s worth.
Like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds provides a package of online tools for finding out what the current appraised value of your car is and has been a resource heavily relied upon by car dealers and car buyers for many years. Edmunds provides information regarding the value of your car based on condition, mileage, age, and location. And, like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds enjoys a solid reputation for providing accurate information.
But, finding the value of your car from any resource is only the beginning. You have a direct influence on the value of your car. What kind of shape is it in? Is it a mass of dents and scratches? Has it become a rolling waste basket? And, is the engine running on hope and prayers? A junk heap that’s on the edge of bursting into flames is worth nothing no matter what the year, make, and model are.
Get your car ready for trade-in. If you haven’t recently done so, start by thoroughly servicing your car with an oil and fluid change, fuel system cleaning to head off any possible serious engine or performance problems. A car that runs well has more value than one that sputters and backfires as you roll onto the car lot. But, mechanical maintenance is only part of the picture.
Everyone likes a great body. If you have some dents and scratches, a trip to body shop may be in order. For minor repairs like these, it can be fairly inexpensive to have those dents pulled and scratches buffed out. But, don’t go overboard. If you have major body repairs that aren’t covered by insurance, the expense of having the damage repaired will outweigh what you might recover in trade. You may have to resign yourself to getting whatever you can for a beat up car.
A clean car lets a car appraiser know that the vehicle has been cared for. If you have trash collecting on the floor and seats of your car, bag it all and toss it. Vacuum your carpets and wipe down your dash and door interiors. Wash and wax your car. If you can afford it, have your car detailed. These may seem like superficial things to do, but a sparkling car will appraise for more than a car that appears neglected.
When you bring you car to the dealership for the trade-in, a flesh-and-blood car appraiser is going to give your car a thorough once-over and his, or her, opinion may substantially differ from the Blue Book info you collected on your car. Since the dealership needs to make a profit to continue doing what it’s doing, it will try to give you as little as possible for your trade-in – it’s just the nature of the business. It’s up to you to make sure that your trade-in is in the best condition possible and don’t be afraid to haggle if you think you’re being low-balled.
When you trade in your car, you’re effectively selling your car. While many people will trade directly for a newer car, there’s no reason to turn it into one big transaction.