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Money Advice: 7 Tips to Maximize Your Car’s Trade-In Value and Get the Best Deal

When the time comes to upgrade your car, trading it in at the dealership is usually the best option. Trading allows you to offload your current vehicle, while reducing the financial burden of your next purchase, in a smooth, convenient, and safe way. However, getting the best trade-in value (trade allowance) for your car requires some strategic planning and preparation. In this blog post, we’ll share seven tips and techniques to help you maximize the trade-in value when visiting the dealership.

1. Research the Market Value of Your Car

Before stepping foot into the dealership, arm yourself with knowledge about the current market value of your car. Use online tools and websites to get an estimate of its worth. Understanding how much your vehicle is worth will give you a realistic starting point for negotiations and prevent dealers from undervaluing your car. Keep in mind that factors such as mileage, condition, age, and demand for the specific make and model will influence the value. The Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer is an excellent starting point to determine the estimated market value of your trade.

2. Enhance Your Car’s Appearance and Condition

First impressions matter, even when trading in a car. Dealerships are more likely to offer a higher trade-in value for a car that looks well-maintained and appealing. Invest some time and effort in cleaning the interior and exterior, fixing minor issues, and performing regular maintenance tasks like oil changes. Consider detailing your car to make it look almost new. These small investments can significantly impact the perceived value of your vehicle.

3. Gather Maintenance and Repair Records

Having a documented history of regular maintenance and repairs can boost your car’s trade-in value. It shows the dealership that you’ve taken good care of the vehicle and that it’s less likely to have hidden issues. Reconditioning costs are typically in the thousands of dollars, so organizing and presenting these records during the negotiation process may be the difference between a deal and no deal.

4. Know When to Trade-In

Timing can play a crucial role in maximizing your trade-in value. While cars generally depreciate over time, certain factors can influence their value. For instance, trading in a popular model during its peak season could fetch you a better deal. Additionally, trading in your car before it requires expensive repairs or reaches significant mileage milestones (such as the Certified Pre-Owned cutoff mileage) is likely to get you a higher value.

5. Get Multiple Appraisals

It’s always a good idea to obtain trade-in appraisals from multiple dealerships. Different dealers might value your car differently based on their inventory needs and market demand. Gathering multiple offers will give you a broader perspective on your car’s worth and increase your chances of obtaining the best deal. An efficient way to do this would be to bring the Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer with you to the dealership of your choice.

6. Be Prepared to Negotiate

Unless you know and trust your salesperson, negotiation skills are essential when maximizing trade-in value. Be confident in presenting your research and supporting evidence for the car’s value. Remain firm, but respectful during negotiations, and be prepared to walk away if the dealer doesn’t meet your expectations. Demonstrating that you are willing to explore other options might motivate them to offer a more competitive deal.

7. Complete Open Recalls

As per Kelley Blue Book, “A car recall results from a car manufacturer or the federal government, through its National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), determining a vehicle doesn’t meet minimum safety standards.” In other words, either the manufacturer or the government has found something wrong that needs to be checked or fixed. Recalls are very common and are a good thing; a thorough recall system means the manufacturer is doing its due diligence in ensuring that its vehicles are safe and reliable for its customers.

When trading in a car, be sure to check for open recalls and then contact your local dealership to have those recalls addressed. This becomes especially important when trading in for an alternate brand (trading a Honda for a Volkswagen, for example), since recalls can typically only be completed by the manufacturer. When a dealership takes in an off-brand trade-in and then has to schedule a repair with another store, arrange for transportation, and keep the vehicle off the lot while repairs are completed, unfortunately reconditioning costs do rise as a result.

Pro Tip: You will almost always get the best trade-in value when you bring your car to the dealership and have them physically appraise it. While it is certainly convenient to seek an online or over-the-phone appraisal, understand that most offers you receive this way will be conservative for the dealership’s protection.

It’s a far more pleasurable experience for all parties to agree on the lower end of the spectrum and increase valuation once we see and drive the car than the opposite: providing an inflated quote and “yessing” a customer, only to have to reduce valuation once the car is appraised and reconditioning costs are properly considered. In other words, I’d much rather pleasantly surprise you with $1,500 than have to take it away because the car needs tires and brakes to meet state safety guidelines.

The moral: For the best experience, go to the dealership and deal directly with a team you trust.


Unless you have established a relationship with a dealership and sales team, maximizing the trade-in value of your car requires careful preparation and strategic execution. By researching your car’s market value, enhancing its appearance, and gathering maintenance records, you can present your vehicle as a valuable asset. Timing your trade-in, negotiating separately, and arming yourself with multiple appraisals will provide you with the best chance of obtaining a favorable deal.

In our next post, we’ll dive a bit deeper into recalls: what they are, why they’re important, and how to address them. Click Next to continue.