Everything you need to know to get the best possible price when trading in your car.
You’ve found the perfect new car and you’re ready to buy, but before you can get behind the wheel, there’s just one obstacle you need to overcome: negotiating the best trade-in price for your current car.
Unfortunately, car dealers will never offer you a premium price when you trade in a vehicle, and they’ve got plenty of sales and negotiating tricks up their sleeve to help sway the deal in their favour. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to ensure that you get the best possible car trade-in deal.
Trading in vs selling privately
When you’re buying a new car and you need to get rid of your current vehicle, there are two main options available: trade the car in or sell it privately. Trading it in is a quick and convenient option and can allow you to negotiate a better sale price on your new car. Instead of going through the hassle of trying to find a buyer, you can take care of selling one car and buying another all in the one transaction.
However, you will need to accept the fact that trading it in won’t get you the best price. Generally speaking, you’ll secure a better price if you sell your car privately, giving you more buying power when searching for your next set of wheels.
On the downside, selling privately can be a lot of hard work. From taking care of maintenance issues and getting the necessary roadworthy certificates to the often-painful chore of dealing with potential buyers, private sales can be time-consuming and stressful, and sometimes it’s just not worth the effort.
Which option is right for you?
- Consider selling privately if your car is new or highly sought-after. This should help you get a fair price.
- Consider trading in if your car is a common model, needs some repair/maintenance work done or has a lot of kilometres on the clock. This will help you avoid the additional cost of preparing the vehicle for sale privately as well as the time and effort of actually finding a buyer.
Getting the best trade-in price
If you decide to trade in your vehicle, there’s plenty you can do to ensure that you get the best possible price from your chosen dealer. In fact, you can start taking steps to maximise your trade-in deal long before you even think about upgrading to a new car.
How to get the best car trade-in deal: Before you think about selling
The simplest way to maximise your car’s resale value is to take good care of it.
- Get it serviced regularly. Book your car in for regular servicing at the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. Make sure you record each service in the car’s logbook so you can provide it to the next buyer as proof the car has been well maintained.
- Stay on top of repair and maintenance issues. If there’s a funny noise in the engine, get it seen to by a licensed mechanic. If you’re involved in a bingle, get the car repaired by a licensed and reputable smash repairer. Ensure that you regularly clean the car inside and out, so it will still be in the best possible shape when it comes time to sell.
- Drive it like you own it. If you look after your car when you own it, you’ll increase your chances of getting a better trade-in price. So don’t thrash your vehicle to within an inch of its life and then expect a premium price from the dealer; treat it right and you’ll reap the benefits in the future.
Preparing your car for trade in
Some new car buyers rock up at the dealership without giving any thought to how their current vehicle looks. So if it’s scratched and dinged, been parked under a tree that is hosting a flock of pigeons and hasn’t been washed in months, it’s hardly going to look like an attractive trade-in prospect to the dealer.
With this in mind, it’s important to get your car into the best possible shape before stepping up to the negotiating table.
- Wash your car. First impressions count, so give your car a thorough wash to make sure it’s gleaming from every angle. A quick run through the automatic car wash at your local servo often isn’t enough, so you will need to give it a good scrub yourself.
- Clean the interior. It’s also essential to give the inside of your vehicle a thorough clean. Give all surfaces a wipe down to eradicate any stains, and remove all rubbish and personal items from the car.
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Negotiating with the dealer
This is the part where most people trip up. While you’re keen to get behind the wheel of your new car as soon as possible, the dealer sitting across from you is a professional negotiator who needs to do whatever he can to get the best possible deal for himself. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure that you get the best trade-in deal:
- Do your research. How can you know if you’re getting a good deal if you don’t know what a fair price is for your car? The knowledge of how much your car is worth will give you power at the negotiating table, so try to find out how much you can expect to receive when you trade in. Automotive data services like RedBook and Glass’s Guide can, for a fee of about $20, provide you with an online valuation of your vehicle, including private, dealer and trade-in values. You can also look at private sale prices for your make and model, remembering that trade-in values will usually be lower than private sale values.
- Know the tactics. Dealers are experts when it comes to buying and selling cars, so familiarise yourself with some of the more common negotiating tactics they may use. For example, don’t be surprised if the dealer claims your car won’t be easy to sell, or that they’re doing you a favour by taking it off your hands – these are tactics designed simply to maximise their profit on the transaction.
- Use your own negotiating skills. Instead of laying all your cards on the table straight away, you might want to negotiate on the sale price of the new car separately to the trade-in price. Once you’ve reached a reasonable purchase price for the new vehicle, tell the dealer that you’d also like to trade in your current car and that the right price will seal the deal.
- Shop around. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a better trade-in deal. You might be surprised just how much more you can get from a different dealer, so look elsewhere if you’re not happy with the price offered.
- Focus on the changeover price. One final, all-important tip to remember is that the trade-in price you got for your vehicle does not determine whether you got a good deal. You need to look at the changeover price for your new car – that is, the purchase price of your new car minus the trade-in price of your current car. While one dealer may offer the best trade-in price, if their price for a new car is more expensive then they may not offer the best deal overall.