Negotiating the Best Deal For Your Trade-In Car
By: Brian O'Connell

Slick auto salespeople will tell you that there isn’t much they can do to change the trade-in price of your old car. They say there’s a formula involved that just cannot be tampered with. Not so. You can negotiate a higher price for your trade – but only if you follow these key tips.

How auto dealers value your car. Do what the auto dealers do and visit one of the companies they use to peg the value of your car. Do so online, at the National Automobile Dealers Association, or “NADA”, Black Book, and Kelley Blue Book. Review each site thoroughly and get a good idea of the value of your car.

Don’t confuse dealer vale and retail value. These two “values” are different. By and large dealer value is $2,500-$4,000 less than retail value (the price you could theoretically get in the open market for your car). Dealer value places an emphasis on the cost of reconditioning your vehicle, its resale potential (can the dealer sell the car quickly or will it be stored on the lot for months?), and any advertising costs attached to the sale of your car. The starting point for your negotiations will likely be the dealer price – not the retail price.

Check the calendar. If you’re selling an off-road, four-wheel vehicle, do so in January, when the weather is colder. If you’re trading in a convertible, do so at the first sign of spring, when people start spending more time outside.

Visit multiple dealerships. Yep, it’s a pain in the neck, but visiting several auto dealers will give you a good idea of the best trade-in deal. Make sure you let the sales manager know that the number one factor in buying a car from him is the value of your trade-in. See if he can beat the best price you’ve secured so far.

Hike your chances by using the “right” dealer. Your chances of getting a great trade-in deal are increased if you approach a dealer who actually sells the car you’re looking to trade-in. For example, if you’re trading in a Ford SUV, take it to a Ford dealer first.

“Stage” your car. Put your car in the best light possible by cleaning it inside and out. Some higher-end car washes offer thorough cleaning and detailing services for under $100. It’s well worth that price to get a gleaming car to bring to dealers.

In all honesty, the best price you can get for your car is through a private buyer. But if you don’t have the time or inclination, then bone up on the secrets of the trade-in market, and buff up your chances on getting a great deal for your car.

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