Your Trade-In Vehicle

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The first step you can take to improve the value of your trade-in is by gathering all of your vehicle's maintenance records, repair minor mechanical problems and making cosmetic repairs to door dings, scratches and replacing items like lost radio knobs. A little effort can improve your vehicle trade-in value by hundreds or thousands of dollars. Selling your used vehicle is not any different from dating, always present your best side to prospective buyers with hopes of creating some genuine interest.

You should first consider trying to sell your vehicle to a private individual instead of a dealership. Most people make more money selling their used car to another individual. Keep in mind that the buyer may not understand why you are selling the vehicle, so you should anticipate some skepticism. Try not to give anyone a reason to question your reasons for selling.


You can arrive at an approximate evaluation of what your vehicle is realistically worth with a quick internet search. You should not put forth any time and effort getting a $400 car ready to sale.

You can discover the estimated value of your used car using the popular NADA or Kelly Blue Book website used car valuation calculators. You should also take your vehicle to some local dealerships to determine what they will offer to pay you outright.

We recommend both approaches, and that you average your results to derive an estimated fair market value for your used car. If your car is paid off you are now ready to sell it to an individual or to a dealership.

If, on the other hand, you still make payments on your car, you should now compare the vehicle's estimated value to the unpaid balance. If you owe more for the vehicle than it is genuinely worth, then you are considered "upside down" and selling the vehicle will actually cost you money.

We would advise that you keep any vehicle that you are still making payments for and to wait until the vehicle is paid off before deciding to buy a new car. There is no value in trading a car you are upside down on and financing the unpaid debt with the new vehicle.


Once deciding that your vehicle is worth the effort to sell, collect your maintenance and repair records so that you can organize them to demonstrate to prospective buyers that the vehicle has been well maintained while in your care. The ability to reveal a responsible history of maintenance for your vehicle can considerably increase the perceived value to a potential buyer.

You should clean the glove box or center console and place the maintenance and repair records where a potential buyer may find and review them.


If the car is worth selling you should make an effort to walk around the vehicle and touch up small chips and scratches in the paint using a paint marker from the manufacturer which matches the factory paint. If the vehicle has dents which are not too severe you may want to visit an independent auto body repair facility to determine if it makes economic sense to repair the dents. Often you can add a significantly higher valuation to the car, at other times the repair costs preclude any probable benefit.

Simple things such as replacing body trim, floor mats, re-chromed bumpers, etc. can often improve the selling price of the vehicle beyond the cost of the improvements.


Repair minor mechanical problems like cracked hoses and belts, water and oil leaks, exhaust leaks, etc. It would also help to change the oil and transmission fluid, as possible buyers can be expected to examine the vehicle carefully for possible mechanical issues.

If your car or truck has a serious mechanical problem which is too expensive to repair before selling the vehicle, we recommend that you be up front with possible buyers and apprise them of the fact that your valuation reflects the fact that the vehicle requires major repair.

Honesty should always be your policy when selling a vehicle.


A complete detail, including a wax job and doing the tires, is the last step to getting your car ready to sell. If the car or truck is not worth detailing then it undoubtedly is not worth the trouble of selling.

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