Insider “Trade-In”: Learn About The Vehicle Trade-In Process

You’re beginning to eye the late-model vehicles you see on the road. Boy, how nice would it be to have a newer car or truck with up-to-date features? But before you head into the used car dealership, educate yourself about the trade-in process and what you can expect when you go to exchange your vehicle for a shinier, newer one.

Should You Trade in at the Dealership or Sell Yourself?

Most people believe that you can get a higher price for your used vehicle if you sell it independently, but that depends a great deal on the age and condition of your car and what you consider your time to be worth.Selling your car yourself can take many hours of posting ads, showing the car and negotiating with potential buyers. You may even find yourself hassled by an unhappy buyer after the fact!

In contrast, a dealership will give you a reasonable amount for your vehicle and will take on all the work of cleaning and repairing it for a sale. For many new car buyers, it makes the most sense to work with the dealership to establish a fair trade-in value that goes toward your next vehicle.

Is It Best to Get a Trade-In Appraisal at a Dealership or Online?

Online tools can be a great way to get a very rough idea of what your vehicle is worth. However, a brief tool where the owner evaluates the features and condition of the vehicle may not produce an accurate assessment of the car’s or truck’s true trade-in value. Owners tend to be sentimentally attached to their vehicles and believe them to be worth more than they really are.

For an honest picture of your vehicle’s worth, you’ll need to have an expert appraiser at the dealership evaluate your car’s condition and set an approximate value. The McCarthy Exchange Program lets you get a free appraisal and a bonus toward your next vehicle, which can be a great, no-hassle way to upgrade your current car or truck.

What If the Trade-In Amount Is Higher Than the Car You Want to Buy?

There are many reasons why you may wish to trade in a higher-value car for a lower-value model, such as better gas mileage and insurance costs. However, if you don’t own your car free and clear, you may have to roll over your vehicle’s loan amount into a new loan, which may not substantially lower your monthly payments. It’s ideal if you own your higher-value vehicle free and clear, or if you can pay off the loan before initiating the trade-in process.

Once your trade is negotiated and you provide the title for your vehicle, the dealer will cut you a check for the difference in cost between your original, higher-value vehicle and your new car.

Can You Negotiate a Trade-In Value?

In most cases, the dealership will make you a fair offer for your used car or truck. But dealers often do have a little room for negotiation. Let your sales team members know if you’re trying to get to a certain monthly payment or you need to get a certain amount to pay off a loan or to make your next car fit into your budget. If you have a reasonable request, it’s often possible for sales people to make some adjustments to your trade-in offer.

How Much Value is Lost if Your Vehicle Isn’t in Good Shape?

If the dealer will have to do a great deal to make your trade-in ready for sale, you will receive the lower end of its value. Dents and bodywork can and do count against the car’s value. On the other hand, your vehicle doesn’t need to be perfectly clean to be properly appraised. You also don’t need to pay for replacement tires or parts if you know you’ll be trading in — the dealer can replace parts for much less than you’ll spend, so you won’t make up the difference in your final valuation.

You’ll primarily lose value if your car has a high number of miles. The average driver travels between 12,000 and 15,000 miles each year; if your vehicle has a higher number of miles, it is more likely that mechanical problems will crop up.

Should You Mention Your Trade-In Before You Talk About Buying?

Some car-buying advice websites suggest that you shouldn’t discuss your trade-in at all until you have the details of your next vehicle ironed out with the dealer. The truth is that not telling the dealer about a trade-in until the last minute will just waste everyone’s time. You’ll have to wait longer while your vehicle is appraised and you discuss new buying arrangements with the trade-in value factored in. Be upfront with your dealership — you can always sell yourself or go elsewhere if you decide you don’t want to trade your existing vehicle in at the time you buy another car.

Your dealership generally wants an honest and fair transaction.

Bring Your Trade-In to McCarthy!

If you have questions about the trade-in process or want to set up an appointment for an appraisal of your vehicle, please contact us at 816-224-7500. As one of the largest used car lots in the Kansas City area, we’d be more than happy to assist you in getting an above-market value for your car.