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Steps Necessary To Make Your Car's Trade-In Value Worth More

First, you need to understand that the Dealer's "impression" of your car is going to have a significant influence on the price you get for it. You see, most Dealers do not have the time to put your vehicle through an extensive mechanical check while you are waiting. Instead, they want to get back and close the deal with you.

2015 Chevrolet Equinox

So, they'll look it over as carefully as they can in a fairly short time frame, and of course, they'll drive it briefly as well. Their primary objective is to make sure that the vehicle does not have any "major" problems.

First, Get An Online Appraisal

It's very important to get the approximate trade-in value of your existing vehicle online before you take it in to the dealer so you can determine if the dealer offer is acceptable. Or, maybe you are just curious. It's always good to know what one of your assets is worth.

Where? Getting trade-in values online tend to vary a lot from site to site. But I've found the one at Edmunds Trade-In Quotes is particularly comprehensive and accurate. It's free, it's quick and there's no contact by any third parties. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN#. They really focus in on the specific vehicle.

The Trade-In Numbers Game

The dealer will come up with a number based on similar vehicles sold recently at Dealer Auctions and cut that a bit to cover themselves in case they find a somehat significant problem later (or several minor ones). And unfortunately, many will offer you a lower price simply to see how informed you are and to test what they can get away with.

The purpose of this article is not, however, to deal with various dealer tactics and what you should do in preparation for them (see the articles referenced at the bottom of this page for this). What I'm focusing on here are the ways to "impress" a dealer with your product so that you are maximizing their trust in your vehicle and therefore increasing its value to them.

Think Like A "Seller"

To get the most for your trade-in, right off the bat you need to change your mindset. You need to think in terms of being a "seller". The dealership is selling a car to you. And in return, you are selling a car to them.

Okay? You're not just a car buyer. You are a "seller" as well.

I've always been surprised by how dirty people's trade-ins are. And not just dirty outside, but extremely messy and cluttered inside as well and with trunks loaded with items from years gone by, including empty oil containers and various car parts.

I think many people feel it's best to bring in something that's dirty and messy so they can say they weren't planning to make a car purchase. I believe they think they are conveying the message that since they weren't planning on buying today, that they better be getting a great deal. On numerous occasions I've even seen this strategy passed around as advice.

Well, it's not a very good approach and it's not very good advice. First of all, dealers are quite clever and are fully aware of this tactic. Remember, they sell cars every day and have seen it all over and over again.

Secondly, and more important, a dirty, smelly, neglected looking car makes the dealer think it's very likely the owners didn't take very good care of it or have it maintained regularly. This isn't good for the price they'll then likely offer.

Instead, you want the vehicle you're trading-in to get the same positive response from the dealer that the dealer's car had on you. Now perhaps this isn't always possible because you may be trading in a real clunker. Well, all the more reason to put it in its best light.

Surprise, Surprise ... Wash The Darn Car!

You may even want to have it detailed. You want the vehicle to be washed and waxed. You should shampoo the carpet and floor mats. And you defintely want to use odor neutralizers or ionizers. This is especially true for a smoker's car.

We all know how important "first impression" is. A shiny and clean car immediately strikes the dealer as a nice surprise and he'll begin to entertain the idea that you actually cared about the car ... a strong indication that you likely maintained the car properly as well.

Empty Your Trunk And Glove Compartment

Again, neatness sends just the right message. Get everything out of the trunk and vacuum it. If there are any stains, shampoo it.

The glove compartment should be neat and tidy (also the center console compartment if you have one. All you really want in the glove box is a neat pile (or a sealed plastic baggie is even better) including the Owner's Manual, your registration and any other vehicle related documents.

If you've had work done on the car, include those maintenance records as well. If you have any small care products, such as touch-up paint or leather cleaner or conditioner (another good sign for a dealer), they should be kept here as well.

Gain More Than You Spend

After the dealer has assured himself that your car doesn't have any major problems and seems to be in decent shape, he'll look for signs to indicate if you're the type of person that has been having it properly maintained. He'll look for small things such as uneven wear on the tires (neglecting a possible balancing or alignment job) or oil that is dirty and overdue for a change.

2015 Honda Accord

So, put on new wiper blades, top off fluids, change the oil and air filter if needed, check the tires and even have a tune-up done. The dealer is going to quickly notice these things. This will increase your credibility as being someone who takes care of their car and, by now, the respect factor from the dealer is definitely on the rise.

You're doing great so far. Now it's time to top it off.

Point Out Something Wrong!

Yup. Tell the dealer about a minor problem. It might be a few scratches on the side of the car. It might be a burnt out interior light bulb. It might be a loose screw holding the fender ... or slightly corroded battery cables... or whatever. Find something minor and point it out.

Again, this is building up your credibility and the dealer is thinking, "Hey, if this is all he's worried about, I bet this car is in good condition".

However, if you do have some sort of major problem, disclose it upfront. The dealer's going to find it anyway. And because there's been so many other positives about the trade-in, and you've already won lots of credibility and respect points, it's less likely the dealer will kill you for it price-wise, and will simply deduct his cost of the repair (less than what you'd pay).

Planning Ahead

All of the above are steps you can take right now to increase your vehicle's value. However, there's an easier overall approach ... and that's to take good care of your vehicle from the moment you purchase it and keep all of the records. Your vehicle is an asset and maintaining it will maximize it's value.

Realize that one day you are going to trade it in or sell it, so simply follow its recommended maintenance schedule the best you can. I don't think anything impresses a dealer more when an owner has done all the above, and then puts the icing on the cake by saying, "Oh, I've got all the maintenance records since I owned it in the glove compartment".

By doing these things, you'll be far ahead of the typical trade-in customer. By adopting the mindset of a "seller" and preparing your vehicle to look and drive its best, you'll be adding to its value. The closer a vehicle is to being "lot ready", the more value it has to the dealer.

As you've seen, there's a lot you can do to increase what you get. So, head over to Edmund's Trade-In Quote Page to get started.

Good luck and all the best - Josh

Other Tips For Car Buyers:

How To Buy A Used Car At The Best Price Dealer competition is the key to getting the best used car prices - how to do it, where to do it, what to say - this is used car buying made easy.

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Buy ANY New Car At The Lowest Price There's a "right way" to go about buying a new car. And plenty of wrong ways. Here's a step-by-step process for doing it right.

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