Maximize Your Car's Trade-In Value

Maximize Your Car's Trade-In Value

Many things impact a car’s resale or trade-in value. Learning to maximize your car’s trade-in value gives you more buying power for the purchase of your next vehicle and allows you to enjoy a higher return on investment. These tips can help you get top dollar for your trade-in.

Preparing for the Trade-In

Before you make your trade-in decision, there are a few key details to consider as you prepare. The better handle you have on these types of events, the greater your end rewards tend to be. They include:

  • Time your trade-in for maximum efficiency. Think of all the things you have going on related to your car. You have periodic costs, such as registration, car tags, and parking passes associated with owning your vehicle. You want to trade your vehicle in just before these things are due rather than just after. Otherwise, you are paying for an entire year, or longer, that you will not be able to utilize.
  • Manage vehicle recalls. Believe it or not, recall issues that have not been tended to can cost you big when it comes to trading your vehicle in. Please pay attention to recalls and make sure your car is up-to-date before trading it in.
  • Research the value. Kelly Blue Book is an excellent tool for helping you understand the value of your vehicle based on condition, mileage, and many other factors. The better you understand the value of your car, the more negotiating power you have when it comes to the haggling process.
  • Check and repair all “lights” for your car. Check engine lights and others are red flags to dealerships taking in trades. Most of them want trade-ins that require minimal work and investments to have ready to show.

Little things like these can maximize the value you receive from your trade-in.

Increasing Your Car’s Appeal

There are some things you can do quickly, easily, and inexpensively that will wow those in charge of pricing out your trade. Consider these tasks for adding a little “curb appeal” to your car before trading it in.

  • Give it a nice long bath. Make sure your car is clean inside and out. Not only does this make it look like you have taken care of your vehicle (a good sign to potential dealerships); it also makes it more attractive in general.
  • Clean out the engine compartment. That also helps to make the car look like it has been properly cared for throughout your ownership and can have a huge impact on how much of an offer you receive.
  • Replace the floor mats. It is a small investment that can have a massive impact on the offer you receive. You do not have to go for the top of the line, but make sure they look clean and fresh.
  • Remove personal items. Make your car look like it is ready to go by removing all your items. That lets them know you are serious about trading your vehicle in and prepared to do so right away.
  • Eliminate unpleasant odors. No one wants to take on a problem or project, and bad smells in a vehicle make it seem like just that.

The more of these you take care of, the more likely you are to receive top dollar for your trade. When things are left undone, the dealership will lower its trade-in offer to cover their costs.

Negotiating the Best Deal

Approach the dealership from a position of power when discussing a trade-in. Let the dealer know you do not need to trade the car in but are interested in exploring your options. That gives you far more negotiating power than if you need that money to supplement or solidify your down payment in a newer vehicle.

Also, do not hesitate to let the dealer know you know the value of your vehicle and all the added features that make your specific car worth more.

Finally, do not negotiate the trade-in value until after you have agreed on a price for the newer vehicle. Often, sales staff will attempt to recover losses on a trade with the offer they make on your new car. If you agree on the price first, that cannot happen.


Taking the time and paying attention to detail before you begin to negotiate for the trade-in value of your existing vehicle can have a significant impact on the final offer you receive from the dealership. The steps above, combined with your powerful negotiating skills, can help you get a better offer for your trade-in vehicle.