When deciding to purchase a new or new-to-you car, many consumers depend on the trade-in value of their current vehicle to help pay for the new vehicle. It can be disappointing to be informed that your car is not worth what you had anticipated.
"Education is the best tool when purchasing a new vehicle and when trading in your older vehicle," said Randy Bosch, regional fixed operations director West U.S. for Penske Corporation. "When consumers understand the evaluation process of the trade-in from a dealer's perspective, it will help them get more value from their used car."
Ensuring that your vehicle has been properly serviced at all of the recommended intervals published by the manufacturer of the vehicle can significantly increase the value of your trade-in.
"Not only maintaining the vehicle, but also having a detailed record of service history on-hand when you make your trade can raise the value as well," said Steve St. Dennis, regional fixed operations director East U.S. for Penske Corporation.
Appearance and cleanliness are critical parts of the evaluation process, Bosch said, so have the vehicle washed and the interior vacuumed and polished. If the vehicle appears thoroughly clean, you can get more money for your vehicle.
"It's also important to make sure the body of the vehicle is in good shape," St. Dennis said. "If there are any dents, dings or scratches larger than the size of a standard credit card on the exterior of the vehicle, then they should be repaired prior to trading it in to increase the value."
A mistake that some consumers may make is not knowing the value of their vehicle at trade-in time. Without knowing the value, negotiation is pointless, and the dealer may not see the reasoning for the price a customer has decided the vehicle is worth.
Using third-party valuation sites can be helpful, but you as the consumer must be objective. Selecting "excellent condition" when the car may just be in "good condition" doesn't give you an accurate estimate, and disappointment will soon follow when you're not offered the amount you think you deserve. If unsure of the actual condition and quality of your car, ask your friends for their opinion of your car, and use their opinion for its condition level.
"It's also easy to choose to value the vehicle at 'retail value,' but if you're trading in a vehicle that most accurate value to look for are the 'trade-in' and 'wholesale' values," Bosch said.
The windshield and tires of your vehicle can be a significant factor when it comes to determining the value of your car as well. Make sure that your tires are in good condition and there are no cracks in your windshield.
It is important to bring two sets of keys for the vehicle, the manuals that it came with and the floor mats. These all increase the value and convenience for the next person that purchases your vehicle.
Purchasing a new car can be a big decision and investment, so make it worth your while by taking care of the car you currently own, knowing that you will one day trade it in for a new one.