5 Tips for Getting the Most Value Out of Your Trade

Have you ever taken your used vehicle to the dealership and wondered, Why is my trade-in value so low and What dealership trade-in tricks have I missed to get the best possible value for my car? Below, we’ll cover all you need to know about getting a good trade-in deal for your used vehicle.

First, let’s talk about trade-in values and why they’re important. The trade-in value you get for your previously owned vehicle can mean an instant discount toward the purchase of a new car or truck. 

When you get a good trade-in deal, you’ll pay less overall for your new-to-you vehicle. That also means you’ll have smaller monthly payments if you choose financing.

Getting the most value out of your trade-in means you can use that extra money to buy a model with more bells and whistles or just enjoy the lower car payments over time. Either way, trading in your vehicle is a nice option for getting rid of your old vehicle and affording a car or truck that will serve you better.

How to get the most from your trade-in

But how do you get the most for your car? Check out these five tips for how to negotiate trade-in value in order to get the best value for your vehicle:

1. Get a realistic idea of your used car’s worth — The first step is to get a good idea of your vehicle’s trade-in value, which fortunately you can do easily online. Try an online pricing guide such as Kelley’s Blue Book, NerdWallet’s used car value estimator, and Edmunds’ instant appraisal tool. These appraisal tools will want details about your car’s mileage, color, optional equipment, and condition, plus your ZIP code to get an idea of what dealers near you are paying. Once you have a few price quotes, you can get a reasonable idea of your trade-in value and the minimum price you should accept. If your car is in pristine condition (meaning undamaged with no repairs needed), you’ll likely get just under Kelley Blue Book Value for it.

2. Get your car in optimal condition to increase its appeal — You’ll get the best possible trade-in value when your vehicle looks its best, so clean and detail your car, truck, or SUV before attempting to trade it in. The goal is to make sure that not only has your vehicle been well-maintained, but also that it looks cared for. Also make sure that your vehicle is up-to-date on repairs — if you’ve fixed minor issues and cosmetic damage, your dealer appraisal could be higher by hundreds of dollars.

3. Plan your trade-in timing strategically — When is a good time to trade in your car? That’s a question that’ll likely affect your ultimate trade-in value. More people tend to buy cars during spring and summer, so dealers are often willing to pay more during those seasons to meet consumer demand. On the flip side, you’ll likely want to avoid trading in your vehicle over the winter holidays, when consumers are typically spending their money on other goods.

It’s good to allow yourself plenty of time to make a deal, so don’t wait until you urgently need to buy a new car before setting out to find trade-in offers. You want to avoid making the decision under pressure, which might influence you to accept a too-low offer.

You might also want to watch regional and national trends around used cars and wait for a time with low vehicle inventory on dealership lots. In spring and summer 2021, inventory plunged, and used car prices jumped nearly 20% compared with the previous year. If you’re sitting on a previously owned vehicle right now, it’s a prime time to fetch top dollar.

4. Solicit multiple quotes before choosing an offer — As your mama has probably told you, you’d better shop around. This applies to both romantic partners and used-vehicle trade-ins. Prepare to solicit quotes from multiple dealerships. Before you start, gather up your vehicle title, your auto loan payoff information, your vehicle license and registrations, and all copies of your car keys. You’ll need all of these for the ultimate trade-in.

Then, you can email dealerships’ internet departments to get quotes. Remember that these will just be estimates until the dealership can physically inspect your car. Also, make appointments with at least a couple of dealerships to get used-car appraisals.

5. Negotiate the trade-in price as its own deal — If you’re lumping together your used-car trade-in and your new-car purchase into a single deal, the car salesperson might try to inflate your new car’s price to make up for a higher trade-in value. Or the dealer might give you a better deal on the new vehicle but short you on your trade-in vehicle’s value. Negotiate them separately to make sure you get the best-possible trade-in value, or at least the price you’ve determined you need, plus the best price on your new-to-you vehicle.

Want to know where to get the most for your trade-in vehicle in Texas? Enter your vehicle information today to see how Chaparral Ford can help you get more money for your trade-in.