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Trading in your car

How to get the most value out of your trade-in deal.

Need to get rid of your vehicle? You could sell it privately where, for the pain of advertising and dealing with the sale, you’ll get the most money for it. Or you can take the easier option and trade it in to the dealer when you buy a replacement.

Trading in your car means you’ll get less for it (the dealer needs to make a profit when they onsell it), but save a lot of hassle. Here’s what to know before offering up your ride.

Before you sell, add some “kerb appeal” to your car. Whether selling privately or offering it as a trade-in, thoroughly clean your car inside and out. You might also consider cleaning the engine bay and fixing up any loose trim. If your car looks dirty and unloved, it’s likely a buyer will suspect you’ve not kept its hidden parts well-cared for either. If you don’t want to tackle the job yourself, employ the services of a vehicle groomer – you’ll easily recoup the money you spend.

All new and used car dealers will take a trade-in. They’ll ask if you have a car to trade when you get serious about buying – it has a big effect on the profit they could get from the sale. Although the dealer might accept your old car, it’s not likely to be really wanted – it’s an inconvenience the dealer needs to remove after you’ve driven away in your new ride. Offering a trade-in won’t put you in any type of strong negotiating position, you’re usually better off if you can buy a car without handing yours over.

The dealer will want to assess your car before making an offer. Prepare your car before they check it out. Make sure you know how much your vehicle is worth before you start negotiating. You can buy a “personalised vehicle valuation” from Redbook for your car that lists private and trade-in prices – it’s the same data the dealers use. A report costs $20 and is worth every cent.

Be prepared to negotiate the value of your trade-in. Your aim is to get the best “cost to change”, which may be a combination of discount from the advertised price and a good valuation on your trade-in.

Beware used car dealers guaranteeing “$$$ for your trade-in, regardless of condition”. You can bet the dealer isn’t doing you a favour by taking your worn-out lemon – sticker prices on its lot are likely to be inflated to compensate.

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