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How to own your vehicle trade-in, like a boss

Five tips for a successful trade-in

It’s time for a new set of wheels. Either the old vehicle is wearing out, or you are just ready for something new.

It’s possibly only the second biggest transaction in your lifetime. (No pressure.) So how do you make sure you get the most for your vehicle trade-in without being taken for a ride? AutoCheck® can help. Position your trade-in for the greatest success by following these five tips.

1. Know your vehicle’s resale value.

This is the most important step you must take to be a boss when going to the dealership to trade in. There are a number of reputable sites that were created to help you understand your vehicle’s value. They provide you with a value if you are going to sell to another person or if you are going to trade in. On the site, you will provide the various specifications of your vehicle. Based on the vehicle’s current condition and market value, you will receive an estimate of your vehicle’s worth. Check out reputable sites like NADAguides, Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and Edmunds.com to understand your vehicle’s value. Be honest with yourself about the condition of your vehicle. If it has a ding on the right passenger side door, don’t ignore it. If you do, you are going to be given an unrealistic value. Remember, dealers do this every day. You won’t be able to pull a fast one on them.

2. Be realistic and understand the dealer’s perspective.

If you have a purple 1993 Dodge Neon with a manual transmission and window cranks, you aren’t going to hold the trade-in advantage. The dealer taking your trade-in is going to have to resell that vehicle, either to a consumer or wholesale at an auto auction. Either way, there has to be a market for your car. Even though you loved that car and still remember the glorious day you drove it off the lot, in its current condition it needs to be sellable in the dealer’s market no matter what KBB says it’s worth.

3. Timing is everything.

Seasonality and location matter when you are trading in a vehicle. If you bought a Chrysler Sebring convertible when you lived in Southern California and relocated to Duluth, Minn., don’t try to trade in your convertible in mid-February and expect to get the most out of it. There is a much smaller market for a convertible on a 20-degree day with snow than on a hot, sunny summer day with a beautiful breeze. Pay attention to timing to get the most out of your trade-in.

4. If you have maintenance records on your vehicle, bring them.

It always is prudent to keep the maintenance records on your vehicle, whether or not it still is under warranty. This will help you establish a solid vehicle maintenance history to demonstrate your commitment to its care and stability, which helps you prove its worth in the long run. Also, using an AutoCheck® vehicle history report that includes maintenance records as well as AutoCheck Score® will help support the vehicle’s value.

5. Don’t rely on just one dealer.

You don’t have to trade in your vehicle to the first dealer you talk to. If the dealer is coming in much lower than the estimate, it could be due to a number of factors. Maybe they believe they are going to lose money on the vehicle because a similar one has been on their lot for days, or maybe it is a brand they know people don’t come to their dealership to shop for. Regardless of the reason, it’s good to get a second opinion. You always can take your vehicle to a CarMax and get a trade-in evaluation for free.


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