Your Car Trade In Value-Top 6 Ways To Get The Best Deal

If you’re looking for ways to reduce the cost of a new car, you can maximize the cash you get from your existing car trade in to help offset the price of your new purchase. A trade-in, for the uninitiated, is a car that you want to sell to a dealership and have them apply the proceeds to your new car purchase.

So, how do you get a high trade in value? Well, depending on many variables, you might get a great price or get very little money for your trade-in. Fortunately, there are many things you can do proactively to maximize your car’s value.

Do Dealerships Give Good Car Trade in Value?

Do dealerships give good car trade in value? Some can, and you’ll increase your chances of getting good money for your used car by following the six steps below. Some of these steps could cost some money upfront, but they can also reward you with thousands in return on your car trade in value.

Read on for the six best ways that you can increase the trade-in value of your existing vehicle when you’re ready to buy your next new car.

 Improve the Curb Appeal

Just like a home, you’ll get more money for your used car trade in if it has good curb appeal. Take steps to get your car looking clean and shiny because when your car looks well-maintained on the outside, dealers will assume that you have also maintained it well mechanically.

This means the dealer doesn’t need to spend additional time and money fixing the car up before they can sell it, so they’ll offer you a higher price.

Repair Dings and Chips

Fix any minor dings in the paint and repair any chips in the car’s window glass. You can also hire someone to pop out minor door dents for a reasonable cost. Replace the car’s front windshield if it has any cracks. Inspect the windows and doors and glue down or replace any weatherstripping that is missing or hangs loosely.

Detail Your Car Before Trade-in

Inside, use a toothbrush and vacuum to clean dust and debris from crevices in the dashboard, upholstery, and gear-shift areas. If you spot any tears in the seats or flooring, see if you can get them repaired or at least minimized.

It might be worth hiring a good auto detailer since they often have tricks of the trade to clean and repair minor interior and exterior blemishes.

Get That New Car Smell

What often sells new cars is that outstanding new car smell. Foul smells deter buyers, so deodorize by wiping down your car’s dash, seats, and flooring with a 50:50 vinegar and water solution, or sprinkle baking soda and let it sit for a few days, then vacuum up.

Research Online for Car Trade In Prices

Before starting your online research, make a note of your car’s mileage, condition, and all included options. It helps if you have the original window sticker that lists all the car’s options (if you bought the car new).

Visit online sites such as or Kelley Blue Book (KBB) to get an estimate of the current car trade in value for your model, based on its specific characteristics. These sites have all-inclusive lists of options to help you make sure you have included everything.

Get Online Quotes

Next, get online quotes from sites that buy cars for cash, such as Carvana or Carmax (through the Edmunds website). Also, check online selling sites, such as Auto Trader, to see the going market rate or the price dealers are asking for cars with your exact year, mileage, and options.

Keep in mind that you probably won’t get the amount shown by Edmunds and KBB. Car dealers need to make a profit on your car trade in, so consider the estimates from these sources as a guideline.

Get the Car in Sound Mechanical Condition

You don’t want to have any warning or check engine lights on your car’s dash because car dealers will assume that your vehicle needs several repairs and will make a low-ball offer. It’s worth getting minor engine issues fixed.

Ensure that all the car’s windows work, fluids are topped up, the engine runs smoothly, and the windshield’s wiper blade’s work. Test other systems you don’t use as often, such as cruise control and the automatic sunroof, and have them repaired if necessary.

If you can, make sure that you have addressed any current recalls, as dealers will discount their offer because of the time and effort they’ll have to put in to deal with the recalls.

Tires and Brakes

Check that the car has four matching tires with at least 50 percent tread left. If your tires are different, like a patchwork quilt, and some show significant wear and cupping, you may need to purchase new tires and have alignment issues fixed.

Test the car’s brakes for any squeaks, and have a mechanic assess the remaining wear on the brake pads and rotors. Again, you might spend hundreds fixing these items, but it could give you a few thousand more from the dealer.

Shop Your Car Around

Before you start visiting dealers, equip yourself with any maintenance records for your car and a vehicle history report from a credible vendor such as Carfax.

If you are not yet ready to buy a new car but still want an in-person appraisal, visit a CarMax store in person. They can assess your vehicle themselves and give you a quote without you having to buy a car from them.

Get More Than One Quote

Don’t get pushed into settling, although it might be tempting to stop at one quote that sounds good, especially if you’re excited about getting a new vehicle. It’s worth the time to visit three or four dealerships in person with your vehicle to get a car trade in quote from each of them in writing.

When you get quotes in writing, it gives you leverage when negotiating the price. Sometimes the dealer offering the highest car trade in value might not have the new car model you’re after, but you can take your trade-in quote to another dealer with your desired model in stock and use the higher written quote to negotiate.

Negotiate Car Trade In and New Car Prices Separately

Dealers negotiate with car buyers every day, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the details when you only go through the car-buying process once in a while. Dealers want to roll everything into one transaction, giving themselves a way to hide the details and increase their profit.

The four things you’ll want to pay attention to are the trade-in price, new car price, down payment, and the financing terms, or the interest rate you’ll pay on a loan or lease.

Negotiate Trade-in

It doesn’t matter which you do first, but negotiate your car trade in price separately from the new car price because one shouldn’t depend on the other. Lock in the price for one, and then move on to the next.

If you can qualify for a car loan through your bank or credit union, you can also remove the financing from the dealer’s hands and probably get a lower interest rate to boot. Once you’ve worked out a deal and you’re ready to sign the contract, double-check all the details and verify that the car trade in price you and the dealer agreed on is precisely the price that shows in the contract.

Sales Tax

By the way, in most states, you can pay less sales tax on your new vehicle if you have a car trade in since you only get taxed on the difference in the two values. Some states have a sales tax of up to 10%, so this can generate significant savings.

If you sell your car to a private party instead of trading it in, you’ll lose out on this benefit and pay sales tax on the full amount of your new car purchase.

 Time Your Purchase and Car Trade In

Some used cars have higher demand during certain times or seasons. For example, you might be able to sell your four-wheel-drive truck for more money during the winter.

Timing matters in finances as well. If you haven’t paid your car off, be wary of any dealers that tell you that they will pay off your car loan. The dealer might pay your old loan, but they are just adding that money into your new loan, so you’re going to pay more money and interest for your new car.

Be Careful Of Negative Equity

If your car loan is underwater, meaning that you owe more on the loan than your car trade in value, some car dealers will still promise to pay off your loan. However, this negative equity still shows up on your new car loan.

If you like to trade in cars before paying them off, you could be carrying the negative equity to your next vehicle and the next, costing more money in interest and payments.

If your car is worth less than your loan, it’s better to wait and pay your car loan down some, then trade it in. You can also consider selling it to a private party. If you do so, you’ll lose a bargaining chip for a new car purchase. But you could come out ahead financially because you can often get a higher price for your car when selling to a private party.