Tips on Getting the Most Money for Your Trade-In


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By Anita Slomski

Illustration by Doug Chayka

No question: when selling a car, you want to get the most money possible.

Profits can be maximized by doing a private sale, but an ad will need to be placed, strangers will want to drive the vehicle, haggle over the price, and deal with the hassle of transferring money once the deal is made.

If just reading that last paragraph is exhausting, consider a dealer trade-in. It could save time, plus, all that money made from it can be applied to the next car purchase—two birds, one stone. Another upside: The dealer typically handles transferring the title and the registration paperwork, as well as the payoff of any existing car loan.

Used vehicles are welcome at most dealers, so don't limit choices to those that sell your car's make. In 2017, there were more than 39 million used-car sales in the United States, according to Edmunds.

Here's how to rev up a vehicle's appeal to get the most cash for it.

Know the Car's Value

Be a prepared shopper and take advantage of online resources, such as the GEICO Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar, to see what others paid and compare market averages on used-car listings.

To score the best deal on a trade-in, calculate the car's market value and use that to determine the asking price.
Online resources will give estimates based on the make, year, mileage, and condition of the car. Also, factor in the dealer's gross profit margin—around 12%). Take it to a few dealers and compare offers.

Give It a Shine

Presenting a clean car is a simple way to boost offers on the trade-in. Get it detailed, including the engine. Having service records also helps. "A clean car and good maintenance records indicate that you've taken care of your car," says Cari Crane, senior industry analyst for TrueCar.

Be up Front about Repairs

What if the trade-in vehicle isn't in the best shape? First, pay for small repairs yourself—e.g., worn brake pads or small blemishes. If you can't fix what's wrong, get repair estimates from a mechanic that can be used when negotiating with the dealer. For example, if a dealer wants to deduct $2,500 from the asking price to replace the brakes and fix the windshield, but there's an estimate of $750 for both, you're in a better position to negotiate. If the dealer doesn't budge on the price, consider paying for the repairs to get the maximum amount for the car.

Separate the Transactions

Negotiate the new or pre-owned vehicle first, followed by the trade-in. "You're more likely to get a better deal on the new vehicle by keeping that transaction separate," says Laurence E. Dixon III, director of market intelligence for the NADA Used Car Guide, a division of J.D. Power.

To get a great deal on your next car, check out the GEICO Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar.

This article was originally published on GEICO.

In business for over 75 years, GEICO gives you the benefit of great rates on high-quality car insurance. You could be eligible for a special WITI membership discount on GEICO auto insurance. In addition to your special membership discount, you'll also receive 24-hour service online or by phone, as well as efficient and fair claim handling. Visit www.geico.clm/disc/witi or call 800-368-2734.