Where Can You Sell a Trade In Car? A Dealer’s Guide to Selling Trade-Ins

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Marc Skirvin

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While some people base when to buy a new car on time or a certain schedule, others use calculations based on income. Regardless, most people don’t wait until their car is dead to get a new one so many car owners seek to sell or trade-in a car they don’t need. When you’re wondering whether to trade-in, to sell, or where to do it all, a little bit of guidance goes a long way.

Here are four tips for selling your trade-in car.

1. Finding a Dealer

While you might want to sell your car privately and think you could earn more doing things that way, you’d be surprised to find out that that’s not always the case. For some car owners, selling a used car and handing over a portion of the profits to a dealer isn’t appealing. However, it takes time, energy and know-how to market a car for the best price.

While you might be able to get the dollar amount you’re looking for, it’s going to take some finagling to get there. A car dealer could take your trade-in and flip it for you without the hassle. They’ll get a higher price than you could but they can still give you the amount that you’re looking for.

Dealerships are going to try to profit from the trade. Wouldn’t you? However, that doesn’t mean you have to lose out.

When you trade a car in with the intention of getting a new car, think about sales tax. It costs you a lot in tax to pay for a new car but if you can knock that price down with your used car, that’s less you’ll have to pay in the end. Add up the amount you save in sales tax to the amount you deduct from the cost of your new vehicle to understand the true value.

Question your preconception when it comes to how much you could make on your used car selling it on your own. It’s not always worthwhile when you factor in the time as a real dollar amount.

2. Looks Matter

When you’re looking to sell anything, the way that it looks is going to impact how much people are willing to spend. The more time you spend in cleaning something up or making it look more attractive, the more you’ll end up fetching in the end.

When you bring your car to trade in at any dealer, you should make sure that you’ve cleaned the car inside and out. Bringing it to the dealer still dripping from a car wash doesn’t show that there’s care taken however, just that you have common sense.

Cleaning your car on a regular and routine basis is what really matters when it comes to getting the value you’re looking for. A car that is clean, has no unwelcome scent, and no unsightly stains or tears in the interior helps to inform a buyer about the car. That’s because the people who take the time to clean their car on a regular basis are usually the ones who take the time to service their car as needed.

Taking it to a detail shop and spending $150 or so to get the car professionally cleaned on the interior is going to be a big help. Some places offer a deal to give you a free exterior cleaning or waxing along with the detailing. It’s going to be money well spent.

3. Keep Good Records

If you open up a lot of peoples’ glovebox, you’ll find that it’s filled with receipts detailing service and repairs. While this isn’t a perfect way of keeping a record, it’s helpful in informing how well a car is maintained. Knowing how long ago an important engine part was replaced helps to tell people how well a vehicle is maintained and how much life is left.

The new owner of a used car is always happier knowing the history of a vehicle. A maintenance manual can include service records that are stamped and dated so nothing is left up to question.

Regular maintenance is expected when anyone buys a new vehicle. While lack of service won’t tell you everything you need to know about the condition of a vehicle, it gives some clues. Lack of service means that a car is more likely to age faster, which leads some dealers and buyers to value the car lower given there are repairs around the corner.

4. Have Problems Diagnosed

If you know your car has problems, don’t leave it all up to guesswork. Take your car into a shop to get a clue as to what needs to be replaced. You should have some vague idea of how much it’s going to cost to replace the parts in your car so you can quote that to potential buyers.

While you might think you can get away with selling a car quickly before anyone notices the problems your vehicle has, most dealers appraise every car. The dealer you’re selling to is likely to catch whatever problem your car has. They might even deduct that amount from the price they’re willing to pay before even telling you.

If your check engine light is on, you should have some clue as to why it’s lit. If you don’t then the dealer is within their rights to assume the worst and figure that your car could need serious repairs. They might go as far as to deduct around $1,000 from what they’re willing to give you.

If the problem is obvious and visible, then it’s not as big of a deal. You don’t have to fix every issue but if you can diagnose things honestly, you can help the buyer to provide you with the price you’re looking for.

Your Trade-In Car Could be Valuable

If you’re a conscientious car owner, you could get a fair amount of money for your used car. Car owners who are looking to sell their trade-in car will be more able help finance their new ride.

If your car is totaled or might be ready for the junkyard, check out our guide for getting the most out of it.

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About the Author

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Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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