How to Prepare Your Car for Trade-In

Chap Ford How To Prepare Your Car For Trade In 1

It’s no secret that used-car prices are on the rise, but not all car owners devote the time and effort necessary to get the most value for their trade-in car. But the preparation process is fairly straightforward and doesn’t always take as long as you might think. It’s all about knowing where to start and how to actually make the trade.

How Do Trade-Ins Work?

As the term suggests, a trade-in involves giving your old car to a dealer to offset the purchase of a different car. Typically, someone from the dealership will check the overall condition of your car and take it out for a quick test drive. An offer will then be made for the trade-in car, and this amount is applied toward whichever vehicle you intend to purchase.

Naturally, this may lead you to question whether there is a “best” place to trade in a car to get the most value. The answer? Not really. Any car dealership will typically be a good place for this transaction. Trade-in car values rarely if ever reach the top of Kelley Blue Book values. You’ll often get close to this amount when buying inventory directly from the dealership and making a trade-in offer for your vehicle. In fact, you’ll likely get more than if you were to sell your car to the dealer without purchasing a new vehicle.

That said, some dealerships might have better inventory or offer you better deals. Don’t stop at searching “trade-in car dealerships near me.” You might find it helpful to shop around for quotes, and then review the dealerships’ inventory of available vehicles before bringing in your car for trade. It’s a balance of getting the best deal and finding what you can drive off the lot.

Understand, however, that if you still owe money on your car, the dealership will reduce the amount applied toward the new purchase by whatever is remaining on your loan. If the money owed on your vehicle is more than its trade-in car value, then you’re on the line for making up the difference. No money will be applied to the new car purchase.

Tips for Preparing to Trade in a Car

To ensure that you get the most value out of your car, remember that it’s all in the details. The following will be important as you prepare to trade your vehicle:

1. Estimate your car’s value.

It makes good sense to come to the table informed. That way, you don’t miss an opportunity to have gotten more for your trade-in. Check Kelley Blue Book, use trade-in car appraisal tools, and do a little online research around how much the make, model, year, and condition of your car is currently selling for in the area.

2. Pull together the necessary documents.

Most of the documents are likely being stored in your car already. Check the glove compartment. But some items you might not think a necessity will be important to make for a smoother trade-in transaction. Bring with you:

• Title

• Registration

• Service records

• Car note, if still applicable

• Proof of insurance

• Driver’s license

3. Use a little elbow grease.

No matter the condition of a car, it’ll show better when clean. Wash and wax the exterior. Vacuum out the inside. Wipe down all the surfaces. And get rid of all personal items — with the exception of the owner’s manual, of course. If your budget allows, take it in for a professional cleaning.

4. Fix what’s “broken” — within reason.

Check the car lights, fluid levels, current recalls, etc. If lights need replacing, replace them. The same can be said for topping off fluids and getting recalled parts replaced. If the check engine light is flashing, take the car in for a quick diagnostic. Small fixes are totally doable. Otherwise, leave larger “fixes” for the dealer. It may reduce the trade-in car value but will cost the dealership much less for repairs than it will for you.

5. Don’t forget extraneous items.

Obviously, you’ll want to bring the extra set of keys for the trade. But that navigation system might’ve come with a DVD or SD card, and the car itself may have other accessories, like a trunk organizer, rear shelf, cargo net, and so on. If it came with the car, bring it with you.

Anytime you trade in a car, it’s all about making a good impression with what you’re bringing to the transaction. Clean it up, come informed, and bring everything you need for the sale. Oftentimes, your due diligence will lead to a higher trade-in car value.

To learn more about trading your vehicle at Chaparral Ford, get in touch today.


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