Getting Your Car Ready To Trade In At The Dealership

How To Get The Most From Your Trade In

Car detailing
Photo Credit: tommaso79/ Shutterstock
Like most things in life, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. The same is true when you get your car ready to use as a trade-in. I will tell you some things you need to do, and also things not to do, which in this case, is equally important.

Also, pay close attention to my final tips. We had a California caller last Saturday worried about privacy, which is a legit concern. If you donít clear the pertinent information out of your car, the next person to drive it has access to much of your personal info.

Remember the first time you saw your spouse or significant other? He or she caught your eye, and it is no different at a dealership. First impressions of your car are critically important unless you have a real junker, then it doesnít really matter, thereís nothing you can do. For everyone else, read on.

As I told you in my†True Stories From a Former Car Dealer, I was the used car manager at a dealership for many years. Your job, besides providing inventory and managing a sales staff, is to properly put a value on every car that someone wants to trade in. If you appraise it too high, you get stuck with it. If you appraise it too low, the customer doesnít trade it and you miss selling a new car. Accuracy is critical in this position, which is one of the most important in a dealership.

1. DO Bring It In Spotless

I remember I always got a ďfeelingĒ for a car as I walked up to it. In most cases, I knew immediately if I wanted this car for resale, or if I was shipping it off to auction. When I saw a clean car, no matter what age or miles, I knew I wanted to trade for it. So, when you go to trade your car, make sure it is clean inside and out, and invest in some tire dressing. That tells the dealer you care about your car and can go a long way in influencing the amount he will pay. However, donít spray any kind of dressing inside the car, like on the dash. You can overdo it and make the car look phony. 

2. DO Replace Cracked Glass

If your car has a cracked windshield and you have insurance, get it replaced. Usually, the deductibles for this are low and it makes a better impression, plus itís one less thing to do for the dealership to get the car ready for sale.

3. DO Display Maintenance Records

Gather up every receipt you can find, organize them in a folder, and leave them in a conspicuous place for the used car manager to find, like the front seat or dash. Label your folder boldly MAINTENANCE. That will give the person making an offer on your car stand up and take notice.

4. DONíT Sweat Minor Damage

Donít worry about fixing minor damage, or door dings, the dealer can do that a lot cheaper than you can. The same is true of your check engine light, or tires that are showing wear. Dealers deduct their cost of repairs, which is much less than you can do it for, sometimes as much as 50%. Major damage should be repaired and covered by your insurance.

5. DONíT Fill Up Your Tank

Lastly, never take your car in to trade it with a full tank of gas. I know, this sounds odd, but besides wasting money, it is a clear sign to the dealer that you are just shopping, and not ready to buy. Nobody fills up their car, knowing they are about to trade it.

Final Tips

Remember to take your personal belongings out before you go into a dealership. Clutter will devalue your car and slow down the process of you getting your new vehicle and driving away.

If your old car has a navigation system or if you had your cell phone downloaded into your car, clear out personal information, like your address, phone numbers, etc. Most have an easy way to wipe everything off the memory.

Also, donít forget your garage door opener, this happens a lot. If you have your garage door programmed to your car, erase that.

Last, take both sets of keys and make sure the ownerís manual is in the glove box.

These things will help you get top dollar for your trade-in and make the process much easier.

Related Reading:

Determining How Much Your Trade-In Vehicle Is Worth
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[Editorís note: This article has been updated since its original post in August 2015.]

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