If you’re the typical driver, you’ll keep your car for around six to eight years. Whether things are starting to break down, a new car has captured your attention, or you simply got bored with your vehicle, you’ll eventually want to get rid of it. You could sell it yourself or give it to a family member, but one of the most common ways to deal with a vehicle is to trade it in.
It makes sense. The dealership has the new or new-to-you vehicle you want. It’s a hassle to haggle with all the tire-kickers that respond to online ads. And if you’re in an area where a car must pass a safety inspection or smog check before it can transfer ownership, it can be too much to handle. Trading in a car is quick, simple, and when it goes well, it’s almost painless.
But if you’re worried that the dealer is going to lowball you on the price, you might have your hackles up before you ever get to the car lot. Rest easy, friend. Commanding top dollar for your trade takes a bit of work, but it’s well worth it. Just follow these steps to get your car in shape to trade it in. The dealer will have no choice but to bend to your will.
Get your paperwork in order
No matter who you are or where you live, selling your car or trading it in requires legal documentation. You can’t even scrap your car without it. You’ll need a car title in your name, which is proof that you actually own the car, as well as registration on the vehicle that often doubles as the transfer of ownership document. Some jurisdictions use the car title alone for both of these roles.
Along with the legal documents, it’s a good idea to have a few other bits of information ready. If you’ve been diligently keeping service records for maintenance and repairs, now’s the time to show them off. Stuff them in a folder or binder to bring for the trade-in valuation.
And if you’ve never had a major collision, it pays to print off a vehicle history report as well. The minor investment can pay dividends since dealers are willing to pony up more money for a car with a clean title.
Complete any quick fixes
Wear and tear is normal, but the idea is to eliminate issues that the dealer will take money off for. If the Check Engine light is on for a simple issue, there’s a suspension rattle that can be fixed for under $50 or so, or there’s an obvious dent that can be popped out, get it done now. These simple fixes eliminate the negative things the dealer can say during the appraisal, helping your car hold more value.
Get rid of the junk in the trunk
Clutter makes it look like you just don’t care about your car, whether it’s true or not. And if you don’t care enough to clean the junk out of your car, how did you treat your car while you owned it? That’s what the dealer’s going to think, anyway. Take your old CDs, glove box full of serviettes, and emergency hoodies out before you get to the car lot.
Detail the interior
While you’re at it, spend some time spiffing up the interior. Run the vacuum over the floors and the seats and wipe down the plastic with a damp microfiber cloth. Clean the windows too. Again, make it look like you’ve taken care of your car all along. If you have seat covers on, it’s time to reveal the OEM fabric you’ve protected underneath. Or if your seats aren’t in great shape, it might be time to put on a cheap set.
Hit the car wash
Give your car a thorough exterior clean. Ideally, spend an hour at a wand wash getting rid of as much dirt and grime as you can. Scrub the rims, power wash the undercarriage, and take some cleaner to the road grime that’s accumulated on the rockers. If you show up with a dirty car, the dealer’s going to assume there’s an issue with the paint underneath and dock you for it.
Touch up the exterior
You’re eliminating as many negatives as you can, and the exterior is the first thing the appraiser is going to see. If there are stone chips on the windshield and your insurance pays for them with no deductible, get it done now. If you have light scratches or dull paint, spend a few hours laying down a coat of car wax. For scratches that are too deep or prominent to wax or polish away, touch them up with ScratchesHappen touch up paint that perfectly matches your car’s original paint job.
Estimate its value
If you don’t have an idea what your car is worth, you’re taking a chance that the dealer is going to take advantage of you with a lowball offer. There are a few different ways of getting an idea of what you should expect for a value to trade in your car including Kelley Blue Book or Canadian Black Book, Edmunds, or by getting an average price for cars with similar features and mileage from online marketplaces. You’ll need to look for trade-in values, not used car pricing, since your car isn’t in condition to retail it and the dealership will need to spend money getting it that way.
Bring all the extra stuff with you
Nothing says you’re ready to make a deal if the offer is right more than having everything with you. Bring along your spare keys, your owner’s manual, the factory floor mats, remote start fobs, and the like. When you look serious about trading in, the dealer’s going to come back with a serious offer.
Don’t be afraid of negotiating. There may be room in the deal for a bit more money for your trade, and some dealers expect you to ask. You might be leaving money on the table if you take the first offer. You don’t know until you ask!
Need to eliminate some negatives on your car’s exterior? We’ve got you covered, literally. Grab touch up paint from ScratchesHappen and get the most for your trade.