How Do Dealers Really Come Up with a Trade-in Value on a Car?

When you’re looking to trade in your old car toward a brand new or used vehicle, you’ve probably already got a lot on your mind. One of the biggest

questions we have drivers approach us with is “How do car dealers really come up with my trade-in value?”

Well, the answer, like most things in life, is not that simple.

The Value of Your Car

Many drivers trust Kelley Blue Book to find the value of their car. We can’t blame them; after all, KBB has a reputation in the business as auto value experts. But that’s very rarely what auto dealers use. In fact, auto dealers take into account many different factors and sources, like:

  • Time of the year
  • Local auction reports
  • Manheim auction values
  • Black Book value
  • Carfax reports

The simple answer is that you’re not likely to pull the wool over an auto dealer’s eyes, and the KBB value of your car won’t really be much leverage. So, what can you do?

How to Get the Most You Can

The first thing we’re going to tell you to do is haggle. Believe it or not, you usually have a little bit of wiggle room and can get an auto dealer to bend a little, especially when you’re trading in toward a new vehicle.

But in order to be able to justify your haggling, you need to already have a car that’s a good trade in. Here are some tips to maximize your trade-in:

  • Be sure you always keep up with your routine maintenance—This is simply the best way to have the best car you can trade in.
  • Bring in a record of oil changes, tire rotations, etc. to show that you have taken care of the vehicle—Your word on regular oil changes isn’t worth much to the dealership; a series of invoices that show it, on the other hand…
  • Consider investing in tires before trading it in—You probably don’t want to spend the money on brand new tires, but if your tires are balding, they’ll have to replace them. Consider some used tires to boost the trade-in value.
  • Be honest—If something is wrong with your car, be upfront about it. The last thing you need is for a dealer to think you’re trying to swindle them.

Good luck, and we hope you get the most for your car!

February 27, 2014 by Jamie Rettig