We had a caller this weekend asking about spending several thousand dollars on his vehicle just before trading it in. I have some tips for prepping your car for trade-in.
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.
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 doesn’t really matter, there’s 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 doesn’t 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 “feeling” 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.
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 it’s 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. DON’T Sweat Minor Damage
Don’t 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. DON’T 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.
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, clear out personal information, like your address, phone numbers, etc. Most have an easy way to wipe everything off the memory. Also, don’t forget your garage door opener, this happens a lot. Last, take both sets of keys and make sure the owner’s manual is in the glove box.
These things will help you get top dollar for your trade-in and make the process much easier.
Photo Credit: tommaso79/ ShutterstockTags: car buying tips and advice trade-in