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How to get the best car trade-in deal

Trading in your car can help you save on the cost of a new one but the value can be different to selling it yourself.

Unfortunately, car dealers don't 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. But there’s also plenty you can do to make sure you get the best possible deal.

Trading in vs selling privately

When you’re buying a new car and want to get rid of your current vehicle, there are 2 main options available:

  1. Trade the car in at a dealership
  2. Sell it privately

Trading in your car is a quick and convenient option that can help you to negotiate a better sale price for 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 at the same time.

But trading in you car won’t typically get you the best price compared to selling it privately. A private sale gives you more control over the price, which also means you have 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 a dealer. In fact, you can start taking steps to maximise your trade-in deal 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

man washing his carSome new car buyers go to a dealership without thinking about how their current vehicle looks. If it’s scratched, dented or even dirty, it’s not going to look like an attractive trade-in prospect to the dealer.

So, 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.

Negotiating with the dealer

This part of the process can be hard, especially if you want to get your new car as soon as possible. But keep in mind that the dealer is a professional negotiator and will do whatever they can to get the best possible deal for themselves. So, some tips you can use to help get the best possible trade-in deal include:

  • Do your research. 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 Australia can provide you with an online valuation of your vehicle for a fee of around $20-$40 (or more). Depending on the service you use, this could include 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. 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.

Finder survey: How do Australians of different ages finance a new car?

ResponseGen ZGen YGen XBaby Boomers
My bank43.82%35.6%37.5%32.67%
Cheapest rate on the market15.73%27.17%21.05%19.03%
A big 4 lender12.36%10.05%3.95%1.7%
Peer-to-peer lender1.12%0.82%0.99%0.28%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023

Ready to trade-in but need finance? Here are some products you can compare today

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Name Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp. Rate (p.a.) Application Fee Monthly Fee Monthly Repayment
Stratton Finance New Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
to 23%
Application Fee
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Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.52% p.a. depending on the lender you are approved with.
Apply for up to $300,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available. - New - Variable Rate Special
Variable3 - 7 Years $5,000 - $150,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
to 7.74%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
to 8.85%
Application Fee
Monthly Fee
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
OurMoneyMarket New Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $2,001 - $75,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
to 18.99%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
to 21.78%
Application Fee
Monthly Fee
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
Stratton Finance Used Car Loan
Fixed1 - 7 Years $10,000 - $300,000
Interest Rate (p.a.)
to 18%
Comp. Rate (p.a.)
to 23%
Application Fee
Monthly Fee
Monthly Repayment
Go to siteMore Info
You'll receive a fixed rate loan from 6.52% p.a. with a comparison rate of 6.95% p.a.
A used car loan of up to $300,000 with quick approval times and balloon payment options.
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Picture: Shutterstock

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