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How to Trade in a Car

If you have a car that you’ve been driving for a while and you’re ready to trade it in, you might be wondering how to get the best deal. When you’re trading in a car, it’s a good idea to forearm yourself by doing research into your car’s value. Read on for the rest of our tips on how to trade in a car. 

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Know What Your Vehicle Is Worth

So you want to trade in a car? You’ll have an easier time of it if you know what the car is worth before you head to the dealership. That way, you can negotiate from a position of strength. The classic resource for evaluating a car’s worth is the Kelley Blue Book but there are plenty of other options online, too. You can also search other vehicles of the same make and model that are for sale or have sold recently and assume that your car is worth roughly the same amount.

When you’re in the research phase, remember to take the condition of the car into account. If your car has dings, scratches or stains, you can safely assume that it will sell for less than the same year, make and model of car in better condition. And it’s always a good idea to clean the interior and exterior of your vehicle before taking it to a dealership to trade in.

Related Article: How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

Negotiate

How to Trade in a Car

Once you’ve done your research you should have an idea of how much your vehicle is worth. That’s the number you can fall back on in negotiations with the appraiser at the dealership. When you’re at the dealership, don’t be afraid to mention – or show proof of – the research you did. As when you’re buying a car, you’ll probably engage in some back-and-forth negotiation with the folks at the dealership.

The dealership will probably offer you less than what you saw in the Kelley Blue Book or the numbers you got from the National Automobile Dealers Association or Autotrader. You can counter with a higher offer, but remember that, unlike when you’re buying a car, the dealership has more leverage over you. They know you want to unload your car, get your cash and get out of there. The appraiser also takes factors into account that you might not be aware of and can’t control. For example, if the dealership already has a lot of mid-size sedans, it might not want to buy yours or might not offer as much for it.

You can get appraisals from different dealerships or companies, or offer your car at an auction or an online auction like eBay. You don’t have to go with the first offer you get for the car. If you have the time, feel free to shop around for a better offer. You can also look for dealerships that are offering special promotions, such as a discount on a new car when you trade in an old car.

Related Article: All About Car Loan Amortization

Have a Plan for Your Earnings

How to Trade in a Car

It’s a good idea to have a plan for what you’ll do once you’ve traded the car in and you’ve gotten the money from the dealership. Do you need to buy a new (or used) car or can you do without? Will you use the money you make to pay down student loan debt or credit card debt? Will you bulk up your emergency fund or save for retirement? If you don’t make a plan for what to do with the money you earn by trading in your car, you risk spending it on an impulse purchase or on little treats over time. That’s fine if you can afford it, but if you have debt or savings goals to meet, it’s a good idea to commit to putting your car trade-in dollars toward those goals.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/LorenzoPatoia, ©iStock.com/sturti, ©iStock.com/tzahiV

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia's work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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