Tiny car on a monopoly board

Tips for Negotiating Your Car Trade-In

You want a new car, and you’ve decided to trade in your old vehicle. Trading in your car is a convenient way to “sell” your old ride while minimizing the price of your new one. However, it’s easy to get swept away and fall for the first price the salesperson puts on the table. Be smart and negotiate the value of your trade-in.

Do your homework.

It’s easy to find out the true value of your car online. KBB.com, the official Kelly Blue Book website, has a tool that will give you an accurate trade-in value based on the exact age and model of your car. Before you step foot in the dealership, you should not only know the true trade-in value of your car but the private market price as well. Test the waters by making a Craigslist post and price your car according to the appropriate trade-in value. Take note of the offers people make.

You can even see what other dealers will offer you. Call multiple car dealerships and ask what they’d be willing to offer for a trade-in. Even if you’re only using their figure for leverage, you might find a great difference: one dealer might have a higher need for your specific car while another might already have three on the lot.

Trade at the right time.

This may be common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it. If you’re trying to trade-in a convertible, don’t you think it would gain more if you traded it during the spring or summer? There are smart times to trade in certain types of vehicles as well. Your Ford F-150 isn’t going to fare as well as a Prius when gas costs $5 a gallon.

Aside from finding the right market timing, only trade in your car when the time is right for you (and that’s not whenever you get tired of your car). Be smart and trade in your car after putting in a sufficient amount of payments. If you haven’t put enough equity into your car and won’t be making much of a profit, you ought to hold off on trading it in.

Be firm and stand your ground.

The salesperson is going to start off by lowballing you—she or he is trying to buy your car at a low, wholesale price, only to turn around and sell it at a markup. When you’re offered an unimpressive figure, mention that you’ve done research online and made price comparisons with other dealers and private buyers. Make it clear that you’re not here to play around.

Talk up your vehicle.

When it comes to negotiations, there is a rule you should stick to: don’t be modest, but be honest. You’re practically trying to sell your car to the dealer. Mention the positive aspects of the car, such as a clean title and regular maintenance records. If your vehicle is a one-driver car, that will make it more attractive as well. 

Last Updated: October 18, 2017