You have decided on your next car and are ready to part with your existing wheels. Assuming your current car is not leased, you have to figure out what to do with your old car. You can sell the vehicle yourself (private sale) or trade it in at the dealership. While a private sale may get you the most money for your used vehicle, the trade-in process offers convenience, safety and tax savings that you don’t get with a private sale.

If trading in your vehicle is the right choice for you, here are a few tips to help you get the most value for your trade-in.

  1. Increase the curb appeal – Nobody wants to buy someone else’s mess and a car dealer is no different. First impressions count: Take the time to clean your car, remove take-out containers and other junk, and give the car a thorough wash and vacuum before presenting it for appraisal.
  2. Do your homework – Make sure you know the value of your used car. Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book are leading authorities providing estimates for used vehicles. Their reports present a range of wholesale and retail values. When trading-in your car, the dealer will base their offer on the wholesale price. Understand that the condition of your vehicle affects the value. Expect less for a car with excessive mileage or obvious wear-and-tear. A well maintained car with low mileage and complete service records may command a premium.
  3. Share your records – If you have complete service records for the car, share them with the dealership. This shows the car is well cared for and might make it easier for the dealer to re-sell your trade in.
  4. Negotiate Your Purchase and Sale Separately – By focusing on each transaction separately, you know how much you’re paying for your new car and what you’re getting for your trade-in. A great deal on a new car is worthless if it comes attached with a low-ball trade-in offer.
  5. Build Loyalty – Dealerships love loyal, repeat customers. If your next car is available at the dealership where you purchased your existing car, consider working with that dealership. If the vehicle qualifies for a dealerships Certified Pre-Owned program, the dealer can command a premium for the car and will be willing to offer you a bit more for the vehicle.

The bottom line is: know the value of your trade, understand what factors make your car more or less desirable in the eyes of the dealership, and bargain in good faith. Remember, convenience is one the main benefits of trading-in your car. Being properly informed and having reasonable expectations will help you fully enjoy the benefits of the trade-in experience.