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What to Expect During Car Trade-In

By Kathleen Burgess


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A responsible car owner knows what to do to his current car when he needs to buy a new one. It does not matter if he wants to keep it. If things such as a crowded garage and additional liability do not bother him, so be it. He can even give it to other family members or relatives. He can also sell it privately to a friend or acquaintance.

However, the most popular and effective option nowadays as a way to make use of the old car when a new one is coming is dealership trade-in. This method is perfect for car owners who find it hard to get a buyer for their old vehicle. Dealers themselves even promote it by making the process easier, faster and more reliable.

Benefits of Car Trade-In

To encourage you, even more, we are giving you some of the common advantages when you trade in your car:

  • Easy Transaction

    We cannot stress this enough – it is easy to trade in a car. Before the day ends, you can already have your old car trade-in for the new one. You just have to drive your current car to the dealership, sign some papers and go home with your new vehicle.

  • Down Payment

    Once an amount is finalized during the trade-in negotiation, you can use that to reduce the total down payment for the new car.

  • Tax Perks

    Almost every state uses the trade-in as the basis for the sales tax. You can enjoy the benefit of paying vehicle tax that is only based on the price difference between the new car and the trade-in amount. That is way cheaper than using the new car as the basis for tax.

How Does Trading in a Car Work

It is now time to learn what to expect during car trade-in. You should really have expectations before going to the car dealership so you will have focus and presence of mind the whole time.

  • Talk to a salesperson.

    Once you get to the dealership, tell the first salesperson you see that you want to trade in your current car. Aside from speeding things up, this step is essential to let the salesperson take note of your personal information.

  • Let your car be inspected.

    In this step, the salesperson is not necessarily the one who is going to inspect your car. Sometimes, the manager steps in to take a look. The first inspection will not be that serious. Your car will just be assessed through the eyes. Part of the inspection is to take the car’s identification number, so the dealership can check the database of your vehicle’s history or records.

  • Wait for more inspections.

    While one side gets busy about your car’s past, the service department checks out everything inside and outside the vehicle. The car’s fluids, brakes, tires and other mechanisms are going to be inspected. Sometimes, an employee can even drive your car for a while to evaluate how good it runs.

  • Listen to the offer.

    There are many factors to consider once the dealership starts to calculate the offer. The truth is, one of the biggest aspects is the average price similar cars receive at auction. Other crucial elements are the current overall condition of your car and the repairs needed for a sure sale in the future.

  • Make a decision.

    Another reason why you must have expectations before trade-in is to have a basis while you are making the final decision. One good basis is the price you want for your current car. You can confidently say no when the offer is way lower than the amount you expect. Before saying no, however, try to make a negotiation for a win-win result.

  • Go through paperwork.

    When a deal is made, paperwork starts. This process can take more than one day but if you bring the title to your car, everything will be done in a jiffy. But, if your current car is still on loan, chances are you have to go back the next day. The dealership must wait for the title that is still in your lender’s hands. If the title is finally received by the dealership, everything will go smoothly afterward.

    Talking further about financed cars, if the amount you owe on your old car is bigger than the offer, then you have to pay the difference to the dealership. Or, you can roll the money you owe into the loan for your new vehicle.

Tips for a Better Car Trade-In

Who does not want a fast transaction and a higher amount during a car trade-in? That’s why you have to keep in mind these tips so you can finish everything in just one day with a smile on your face:

  • Car Preparation

    Make sure that your car is ready to be inspected by a dealership. Specifically, you have to clean it thoroughly.

  • Research

    Aside from your car, prepare your mind as well. Research the value of your vehicle in today’s market. You can take note of the used-car value as well. Another smart move is to research about the auction prices for cars that are similar to your vehicle.

  • Documents

    Never go into the dealership with an empty hand. You should bring your documents with you. One of the most important ones is your title for the car. Accessories must be intact as well. Additional key fobs are valuable, so you have to bring them.

  • Negotiation

    Inspect your car at home to find possible repairs. List them all and put a total amount. You can use this knowledge if ever the dealership puts a more expensive cost for repairs, lowering the value of your vehicle.

    Another good way to win yourself the best deal is by separating the negotiations for trade-in and purchase. Sometimes, a dealership can manipulate a client by talking about two negotiations at the same time. That can instantly turn a bad news into a good one, making you believe that the good part is already the best there is.

  • Contract

    Read the sales contract carefully. Make sure you understand everything. If you are not sure about a certain line, do not hesitate to ask or comment.

  • Right Dealership

    For a higher price, you can go to a used-car dealership. As long as your car is clean, they can give you a decent price. It also does not matter too much if your car is old. The popularity of your car’s model is a big factor for a higher trade-in amount.


Even if the dealership is all about extra profit during a trade-in, you can also take advantage of this by putting your best foot forward even before trading in your car. So, start preparations at home. Aside from cleaning your car, you must also keep your mind clear from distractions to focus on the goal – a good deal.

For a deeper perspective on car business, find out how to sell a vehicle through dealership trade and private sale.

About Kathleen Burgess

Kathleen started her career in journalism writing about cars during her Journalism degree at CUNY and even though she didn't like it at first, she quickly became an ace, writing news, reviews and comparisons like one of the best car writers out there. Today she writes content focusing on the latest trends in the car industry, looking at sales, policies and green alternatives. Learn more about GCB's Editorial Process.

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