man and woman looking at trading in car

4 Steps for Trading in Your Car

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Being able to afford a new car can be tough, but trading in your vehicle makes it much easier. Knowing the best practices for trading in your vehicle may be difficult since it is a process you likely don’t have to go through very often. If you are wanting to trade in your vehicle, these are the steps you will need to follow.

Perform Cleaning and Maintenance

Before taking your car in to be traded, be sure to perform routine maintenance and cleaning on your car. Having a clean and well-maintained vehicle will increase the value of your vehicle. You will want to do things like replace the windshield wipers, check the quality of oil and other fluids, and wax the outside of the vehicle to a bright shine. Don’t worry about any major fixes -- simply trading in the vehicle as is will save you money rather than paying for an expensive repair and then trading it in. The important thing is to fix up the minor details without spending too much money.

Get an Appraisal

Getting an appraisal for your car will tell you how much money you can expect for your trade in. Dealerships will likely offer you prices that are lower than this amount, so knowing how much the average price of your vehicle is will allow you to negotiate. You can either have the dealership perform the appraisal, hire a professional appraiser, or use a website such as Kelley Blue Book. If you use an online appraisal tool, the dealership may still want to perform their own appraisal so that they can assess the condition of your vehicle themselves.

Shop Around

Trading in your car will help with your purchase of a new vehicle, but you still want to make sure you can find a vehicle that is financially possible. Take into account how much money you can expect for your trade in and whether or not you have additional financing for your purchase. Once you have crunched the numbers, shop around beforehand for what kind of car you can afford. When buying with a trade-in, ideally your trade-in value should take care of the bulk of your purchase amount. This will save you money in the long run, such as any interest that would accumulate on a sizable auto loan. As you determine your trade value, keep in mind that dealers will generally attempt to give you slightly less than the market value for your trade in in order to make a profit on the deal.

Head to the Dealership

Once you have your eye on a car, take your trade in to the dealership. Negotiate the price for your purchase first, then focus on negotiating the price of your trade in. Be aware that many dealerships will offer wholesale value for your vehicle, which can be anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000 less than the market value. Understand that the dealership’s main goal is to make a profit on your car, but don’t be afraid to try and negotiate your trade in value

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