How to Get the Highest Trade-In Value for Your Used Car

| Car Trade-In Value

If you’re getting ready to purchase a nicer, newer used car, you’re probably wondering how much you can get for your current vehicle and whether there’s anything you can do to ensure you get the most for a trade-in.

You want the best offer possible, but you don’t want to invest time and money that won’t add value. A little bit of work can mean more money. Your goal should be to look for inexpensive DIY fixes and ways to make your trade-in vehicle looks attractive.

Here are several steps to follow as you prepare your vehicle for a final ride to the lot.

Check Under the Hood

If your vehicle is running rough, arrange to get a basic tune-up at a modest cost. If your car is pulling to one side or the other, get an alignment. If your tires are bad and you’re on a budget, get some slightly used tires from a local shop.

If you haven’t done so in the last 3,000 miles, get an oil change. Don’t show up with an expired oil change sticker on your windshield. Replace any other fluids that might be dirty, and change the air filter if necessary.

In general, leave the major issues alone. To fix them, you’d have to pay retail while the dealer only pays for labor and parts costs.

Clean the Exterior

First impressions count whether you’re on a first date or trading in your used car! Anyone appraising a trade is, consciously or not, predisposed toward a vehicle that shows pride of ownership. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should invest a significant sum in professional detailing.

Wash and wax the exterior, and thoroughly clean the tires and rims. If any light bulbs are burned out, be sure to replace them. If your headlight covers are fogged, use a special headlight restorer or a home remedy.

It doesn't cost much to replace worn wiper blades. Get under the hood and clean the engine compartment. Be careful not to get cleansers and degreasers on the belts so they don't begin to slip.

Use glass cleaner on all glass and mirror surfaces. Do it twice to eliminate any streaking. However, if your windshield is cracked, it might be better to let the dealer fix it rather than deal with either the retail cost or a high deductible.

Bodywork and Blemishes

A bottle of touch up paint can go a long way toward taking attention away from those nicks and scratches sustained in crowded parking lots. There are some helpful ways to fix minor dents. Household items such as hair dryers, plungers, and vacuums can be used to pop them out by creating suction and making them less visible.

Touch up scratches or remove dents only if you think you can do a good job. A used car dealer will have to undo unsightly repairs. Professional bodywork may prove costly with a high auto insurance deductible. However, if you have a proper insurance claim and a low deductible, the repair might be worth it. With a $1000 deductible, you’re likely better off to simply trade your used car in Appleton, Antigo, La Crosse or Green Bay with that quarter panel in less-than-perfect condition.

Clean the Interior

Vacuum the interior and use a foam upholstery cleaner to remove telltale spots and minimize odors. Shampooing the carpet is ideal if you’re up to the task. Odor neutralizers like Ozium work wonders.

Remove all personal items from the car and take out documents in the glove compartment. However, do have maintenance records ready to share. Since those records can help a dealer resell your vehicle, they will inevitably help when your trade is appraised.

After you clean the glove box, put the records, owner's manual, locking lug key and leftover touch-up paint in it. Everything you can think of to reduce details for the dealer will reflect well on your efforts to trade-in your used car. Bring your car title, but don’t sign it until you're completing the paperwork for your new ride.

Consider the Expected Value of Your Used Car

Many decisions about last-minute repairs relate to the value of your trade. For example, if your trade has minimal value and you just wore out a brake pad, it might make sense to have it appraised with the brakes grinding.

However, you might very well recoup some of your investment in a brake job or new tires on a newer, more valuable vehicle. The dealer knows a used car with newer brakes and/or tires is easier to sell.

Finally, although there’s nothing wrong with trading in a vehicle with a quarter-tank of gas, you don’t want to roll in running on fumes. The appraiser needs at least a little gas for a quick spin around the block.

When you’re ready, we would welcome the opportunity to appraise your trade-in at any of our five Wisconsin dealerships in Green BayAppletonWausauAntigo, and La Crosse. It is the first step in arranging to acquire one of our nicer, newer™, worry-free used cars. Visit us today, or check out our large used car inventory to find the perfect vehicle for all your upcoming adventures!