12 Quick & Easy Steps to Maximize the Value of Your Trade-In


Trading a car in is like going on a first date. You only have one

chance to make a first impression! This report will give you a roadmap of quick and easy steps you can take to maximize the value of your trade in.



  1. Thinking Ahead Can Pay Big Dividends!

The key to getting a great trade-in deal lies in advanced planning. Here are some suggestions to safeguard you during the car-buying process:


  • Don’t if at all possible, buy a niche vehicle. There is little demand for these.
  • Don’t buy an unusual colored car
  • Don’t repaint your car an unusual color
  • Don’t make major modifications to the vehicle
  • Don’t heavily customize your vehicle
  • Don’t wait until there’s more than 100k on the meter — many warranty companies won’t warranty vehicles that have over 100,000 miles.
  • Don’t even think about leaving your documents lying around or even in your car. Always file maintenance records in a secure file, outside the car.



  1. The Most Important Step. Don’t Skip This!

Have the car checked by a reputable mechanic with no connection to the dealer you’re considering trading in with. Get the mechanic to write a condition report detailing the cost of fixing any faults. This may cost around $100. But it will be the best $100 you ever spend. It’ll give you a good jumping off point from which to proceed in preparing your trade-in and can also be invaluable when it comes to negotiating the trade-in itself.


  1. Key Products You’ll Need To Do An Excellent Job

Buy or obtain the following inexpensive products:


  • If needed, the correct color match touchup paint from the dealer
  • Rags
  • Glass cleaner
  • A vacuum
  • Armourall cleaner & Armourall Protectant (or similar)
  • Air freshener
  • Upholstery spot cleaner
  • Spray carpet shampoo
  • Tar and bug cleaner
  • Tire dressing
  • Paper towels
  • Wash and wax (I like Westley’s Wash & Wax because it does both in one product)
  • Wiper blades if needed
  • If your car has steel wheels, I suggest getting inexpensive wheel covers. These look much better. Be sure to get the correct size and match the style of wheel covers to the style of the car.



  1. Here’s What You Should Do Yourself

Thoroughly clean out the car including the trunk. Get absolutely everything out.  I mean everything!  Now use the following proven in the field technique!


You’ll need 2 large boxes and a garbage can. One box is for the items you’ll  put back in the car. Items like water, maps, ice scraper, CDs etc. The other box is for things you still want to keep but no longer want in the car. Everything you take out goes in one of the three containers.  Once the car is completely cleaned out, take the following steps:


  • Vacuum the inside of the car and the trunk
  • Clean all surfaces with the Armourall cleaner
  • Cleanse the upholstery — clean any spots, shampoo every rug.
  • Clean interior glass


  • Remove unsightly decals
  • Put an air freshener in the car and trunk


Now it’s time to clean the outside of your car:


  • Remove large debris on the paintwork
  • Remove decals or bumper stickers if possible
  • Wash the car thoroughly starting at the bottom
  • Wash the car from the bottom up to avoid missing out areas
  • Dry the car before any water spots can develop
  • Now wax the car
  • Clean mirrors and windows
  • Finally, add a few personal effects to give the car some character
  • Clean the engine compartment with a degreaser and some rags
  • Remove any corrosion to the battery
  • Remove any leaves or twigs up near the windshield wipers.
  • Remove the source of any odors in the car. A great way to do this is to use an ozium spray (available at your local auto-parts store). Spray it into the interior air intake vent (usually just above the passenger’s feet) with the fan on high, and let the vehicle run for a while to circulate the ozium.



  1. Get This Work Done Professionally

Consider it a good investment to get minor servicing done professionally:


  • Oil change
  • Checking and top-up of fluids
  • Rotation of tires
  • Replacement of wiper blades if needed


Also, you’ll probably want them to attend to:


  • Blown fuses
  • Broken lenses
  • Burned out light bulbs, headlights, taillights
  • Dead key fob batteries
  • Replacement of missing knobs or door handles (it gives a very bad impression if you can’t open the door).
  • I would also suggest having the check engine light reset if it’s on, which is often only on because of an oxygen sensor.
  • It’s important that the air conditioning works well so make sure that the Freon is adequate and fill it if necessary.
  • If your car has dings or dents, contact a reputable paintless repair specialist who will fix these for around $25-$50. They can sometimes also fix curb rash on your alloy rims, so ask about that if it’s needed.
  • For larger body repairs, I wouldn’t get them done, but I would get a few estimates and bring those with you to your trade in appraisal. It gives you a frame of reference.
  • If you have full glass coverage, you may want to get any broken, cracked or starred glass on the car replaced. Usually this coverage is zero deductible and won’t affect your premiums, but be sure to check with your agent first before proceeding! Another idea to consider: If you have one well worn tire on the car and a full size spare tire in better condition, you may want to have them swapped. Worn tired can also be replaced by retreads but make sure you get the right size tire.



  1. When To Trade Your Car In — This May Surprise You!

The ‘when’ of car-trading is more important than people think. Some specialty vehicles have greater appeal during certain seasons. For instance, it’s best to trade-in convertibles in the late spring. This allows the dealer to have the full prime season to sell it and he should allow slightly more.


Alternately, you want to avoid trading in a convertible when there’s snow on the ground! By contrast, all terrain 4 wheel drive vehicles bring more during periods of snow. Just use your common sense.


Here’s another useful tip:  It’s often advisable to trade your car in on the last day of the month. This is when dealers are under most pressure to meet quota and they’ll often stretch on your trade to close a deal. If this is your chosen route go in early in the morning when they first open up. Things will get hectic later, leading to bottle-necks in the finance office!


  1. How To Find The Best Place To Trade Your Car In


Conventional wisdom says you should trade-in to the closest dealer of the brand you’re buying. All things being equal, this is the logical place to go. However I strongly recommend that you research more before committing.  There are a number of review sites that you can go to to read honest reviews from dealers’ actual customers. Google, Yahoo, Dealerrater, Superpages

and Yelp are market leaders worth trying.


For the record, every dealer has disgruntled customers so look for a consistent flood of positive reviews. (You can even use these reviews to find a great salesperson who is mentioned favorably over and over!)


Also check to see if the dealer won any awards from the manufacturer. For instance, the Honda dealer I work for, won the President’s Award three years in a row! This award is given only to the best of the best — the top 6% in the country and is based on customer satisfaction surveys that the manufacturer conducts and is thus not vulnerable to manipulation.


One final thing you may want to look for is if your dealer buys cars at auction. The dealer I work for generally does not and thus they are sometimes willing to stretch on a trade because they are largely dependent on trade-ins for their pre-owned inventory.



  1. Crucial Items To Bring When You Go To Your Trade Appraisal

Sort all maintenance records/receipts in chronological order, then make an outline cover page of all repairs, bolding all major repairs.


If you don’t have your repair records, go to the dealer you service at

and have them print out the service history of the vehicle. Bring these

maintenance records with you.


Also bring all owners manuals, keys, title document and any accessories. Most likely you’re  buying a car when you trade yours in. If so, you’ll also want to bring your current insurance ID card, your driver’s license plates & registration (if you’re transferring from a different car than your trade-in), a check for any downpayment and proof of income and residence.


If this is a leased or financed vehicle, bring the original lease/finance

papers along with the latest account statement showing the account number and phone number of the lease company so the dealer can easily get the 10 day payoff. (It’s not a bad idea to get the 10 day payoff yourself before you go).


Before the trade appraisal, it makes sense to go online and to get

an idea of what your car is worth.  Appropriate sites include Kelley BlueBook, NADA, Edmunds and Blackbook.  Most of them are on the high side and don’t account for problems and defects of your vehicle. I’d say Blackbook is most in line with what dealers offer because many dealers use a combination of that and auction results as a starting point to figure trade-in values.



  1. Some Subtle Negotiation Tactics To Net You A Higher Value

It’s often a good idea to have the price of the vehicle you’re considering buying figured separately than the trade value. If not, it you don’t it’ll be harder to determine if you got a fair value.



  1. Remember To Do This Once You Agree To The Deal

Once you are in agreement and have decided to move forward:


  • Take any CDs out of the CD player
  • Remove any club or parking stickers
  • Remove your garage remote control


These are the items most often forgotten. Remember that it’s generally not acceptable to take items like an expensive stereo or new tires off the car. Doing so will require a reappraisal, lowering the value. So if you must have those, replace them before the trade appraisal to avoid problems!



  1. What You do after any trade-in could save you over $500

Make sure to apply for and get a pro-rated refund on service contracts, road

hazard and extended warranties. These are usually handled between you and the warranty company directly but the dealer may act as a go-between.


I personally got a $540 refund on my extended warranty from Honda

when I traded in my Fit and I helped my customer Henry get an $860 refund on his extended warranty!


Do remember to cancel insurance coverage on your old car, cancel any auto pay on the loan and if you didn’t transfer the plates, get them back and return them to the department of motor vehicles. Depending on your state, you may be due a credit or refund!



  1. Major Advantages & Disadvantages To Trading Your Car In

There are some clear advantages to trading in a car. You don’t have to pay to advertise it for one thing. Nor do you have people coming to your house (and maybe coming back if the car breaks down!) Also, in most states you get a tax advantage when you trade your car in so you don’t pay tax on the value of your trade-in (check your local state for their policy). It’s faster. The trade-in happens immediately whereas when selling it yourself, who knows?


It’s easier too. Your lease/loan payoff is handled automatically. Plus, you

don’t need to be accompanied to the dealership in case you buy the car (1 person can’t drive two cars). If the place you want to buy the car is far away, this can be a big deal. About the only disadvantage is you can sometimes get more for the vehicle by selling it yourself. Each person’s circumstances are different so you’ll need to decide what’s best for you.




Everybody knows that the trade-in value of your current vehicle is an important part of the transaction when buying a new car. Hopefully, this report has shown you just how many ways you can influence the trade-in price by following best practice as described above.


Sincerely, Jim Timpson.

Leave a Reply