How to Trade an Old Car for a New One

Careful research can help you get the best deal on your trade-in.
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Purchasing a new car is a big decision for most couples. Determining what type of car you should buy, as well as how much you can expect from your trade-in, play important roles in completing the purchase. Like a monetary down payment, your trade-in can help reduce the amount you'll need to finance or pay towards the purchase of your new car.

Step 1

Check your local lots and online dealer listings for the type of car you want to purchase. Perform this initial legwork to avoid wasting time with dealers that don’t offer the make or model you're looking for. Make a list of the locations you will visit, printing out any available information regarding your new car purchase.

Step 2

Look up the average trade-in value for your current car. Many websites offer listings of comparable trade-ins for your area (including, and Kelley Blue Book), giving you an idea of what your trade-in is worth. Print out this information to take with you on your car shopping expedition.

Step 3

Contact your lender if you have a loan on your trade-in. Notify the lender that you're planning to sell the car in the near future and have the company send you a current statement that lists the balance remaining on your loan, as well as the proper contact information so the dealership can obtain additional information regarding your trade-in vehicle.

Step 4

Clean your trade-in before you visit the dealerships. Thoroughly wash and shine the exterior and interior of your car, polishing the outside and vacuuming under and behind the seats. Although many dealerships have detailing services for cars they receive as trade-ins, polishing it up will help you see any possible flaws you should fix, and enable you to present your old car in its best possible condition. Have a body shop touch up any scratches, dents or scrapes that take away from the appearance or value of your trade-in. Check the fluid levels in your car, topping them off and changing the oil, if necessary.

Step 5

Visit your selected dealerships, taking all your paperwork concerning your selected make and model, as well as the information regarding your trade-in. Remember to bring any extra sets of keys or keyless entry components with you. Negotiate the purchase price of your new car, as well as the offered price for your trade-in. Point out newly installed items on your trade-in that may increase its value, such as a new set of tires and an upgraded sound system. Visit the other dealerships that advertise the type of car you want to purchase, comparing new car prices, trade-in offers and available incentives.

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