If you’re in the market for a new car, and have an older one you would like to swap out, then it’s time to start giving some thought to preparing your trade-in to get the best value possible. Once you’ve negotiated the price of your new vehicle, a trade-in deal can pretty significantly sweeten up the bottom line, so you want to try for the best deal possible. And all of that begins by looking at your car like an appraiser would – realistically and slightly critically. Think of yourself as a stage parent – you want it to do well, but getting there will require a critical eye, tears, and blowing their entire college savings.
Nah, just kidding! But here are some realistic ways that you can start preparing your trade-in for its main event.
Preparing Your Trade-In Aesthetically
Everyone likes things that look good – this is an obvious and enduring tenant of being raised in an America’s Next Top Model world. Things like how clean the inside of the car is and if your car has 100 grocery cart dings in it can bias the appraiser’s check-writing hand. It’s both a conscious and unconscious thing – often times, the dealership can do many of the trade-in repairs on-site, but it may knock a bit off your trade-in value if they subconsciously assume you haven’t maintained other aspects of your car. So get in the game a bit.
Preparing your trade-in means looking for flaws like windshield cracks, which, if large enough, may be covered by your insurance. If they’re small cracks or stars, many times it’s fairly inexpensive to have them repaired. Make sure the car is vacuumed and that the carpet isn’t shredded or still sporting ketchup stains and mummified fries. Scrape off the bumper stickers with a little Goo Gone, and bang out the dings before you put on a new coat of wax. Act as though you were preparing it for a buyer getting it used – it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want it to look its best.
Preparing Your Trade-In Mechanically
Preparing your trade-in means something a little different if your car has significant work needing to be done. When I traded in my last car, it needed about $2,000 worth of work done under the hood. As I mentioned before, many times the dealership can do the work pretty cheaply, but if you already know the extent of repairs needed, best to be up front. I handed over the estimate from the mechanic I had taken it to, in the name of full disclosure, and the dealer was very appreciative of me being forthcoming. They worked hard to get me a great trade-in value (which they did), so not trying to pull a fast one is the best route to go in this case.
Preparing your trade-in also means getting your hands on whatever maintenance records you can find, especially for any work that’s been done recently. Make sure you have all of the users manuals, spare keys, and other documentation that came with the car, all of which are factors in the trade-in value.
If you think of your little ride as a Toddlers & Tiaras-style meal ticket to a better, more reliable car, then preparing your trade-in will become a little more self-evident. Just remember to put Vaseline on her teeth so that she can smile and be charming when the appraiser comes around!
[photo by theignitionpoint]