Trading your vehicle into a dealer won’t fetch the highest price—selling it outright will—but there’s no denying that a trade-in is far easier and more convenient to the average American shopper. Still, doing a little bit of homework before you make the swap will get you a fair or even a surprisingly close-to-market-value price for your old car.
Follow these 7 tips to boost the value of your car when trading it in at the dealership. Tip No. 4 will shock you! (Just kidding: It’s “cleaning.”)
7. Mechanical & Cosmetic Repairs
The best way to get the most for your trade-in is to ensure the car is in excellent condition. That means taking care of it from the moment you buy and drive it off the lot. You can, however, get away with holding off on minor repairs until trade-in time. (While you’d ideally take care of these problems ASAP, the adage “better late than never” applies.)
These repairs may address the following:
- Windshield chips or cracks
- Small dents and scratches
- Bent rims
- Torn upholstery
- Worn steering wheel
- Paint chips
- Air conditioning issues
- Old or mismatched tires
Many of these minor car problems are fixable with minor car repairs. Dent removal, for example, can be performed in no time and costs very little. The same can be said of replacing bent rims, fixing air conditioners, and changing tires.
In addition to the above, you should also get any recalls taken care of prior to bringing your vehicle in. This is especially true if you plan on, for instance, trading your old Toyota truck in for the all-new rugged 2021 Ridgeline at a Honda dealership near you. The Honda dealer doesn’t want to deal with a Toyota recall, and that may reduce your trade-in estimate in order for the dealer to cover that extra effort.
Besides, all automobile recalls should be covered and performed for free by your dealer, so there’s no reason not to get it done.
You know how important it is to perform routine maintenance on your vehicle. The oil changes. The tire rotations. The wheel alignments. Everything outlined in your owner’s manual should be performed at the correct mileage interval, whether that’s a 7,500-mile oil change or new brake pads after 50,000 miles.
In the normal day-to-day, Honda’s Maintenance Minder™ makes these basic maintenance tasks easier. For instance, if you own a 2021 Honda Accord, Maintenance Minder will alert you when the engine oil life is less than 15%. Once that warning light pops up, you can call your Honda service center to book an appointment.
But what about when you’re getting your vehicle prepped to trade in? It all starts with a thorough inspection and assessment. Have a qualified service technician check your vehicle over with a fine-tooth comb. They’ll be able to identify if you need new tires, if your battery is dying, if you should get new brake pads and rotors, and more. Then, you’ll get service performed, parts replaced, and your car trade-in-ified.
As you get all those tire rotations and oil changes—even if you change your oil at home—be sure to keep a record of all services performed. This includes just about everything done to or for your vehicle, including tire rotations and oil changes, as well as new windshield wiper blades, battery replacements, new tires, brake pad replacements, etc.
Stick all those records in a convenient place, like your glove compartment, along with the owner’s manual. Staying organized by maintaining all your service records says more about your vehicle than anything.
Here’s a little secret, dealer-to-shopper: Dealerships don’t really care if your car is cleaned to the max. Should clutter and trash be cleared out? Yes. Should stains and tears be addressed? Yes. Should you shell out hundreds of bucks to get it fully and professionally detailed? Probably not. (Most dealers will detail the vehicle before selling it, anyway.)
Still, it’s a good idea to get your vehicle in trade-in shape by performing some basic cleaning tasks:
- Vacuum the carpets and seats
- Clean any large, visible stains
- Get rid of pet stains and smells
- Get rid of cigarette smell
- Clean out all cupholders and storage compartments
- Hand-wash or go through a carwash
You can take it a step further by restoring foggy headlights and taillights, cleaning under the hood, shining your wheels and rims, and waxing your car. But, again, going above and beyond is not likely to increase your trade-in value significantly.
3. Multiple Trade-In Estimates
Although we all but guarantee that our Honda dealers offer the highest trade-in values in Jacksonville, you should never accept just one quote. Get multiple car trade-in estimates, from multiple car dealerships near you, to find out your vehicle’s current resale value, on average.
Then, take that newly accrued information, get your vehicle in tip-top shape, and bask in your cleverness as you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
2. Know & Time the Market
Everything is about supply and demand. If there are few compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V for sale, yet shoppers continue gobbling them up as if they’re candy, you can bet the used car lots near you will pay more for your pre-owned CR-V—even if it’s in cruddy condition. This is the nature of the local market.
When should you trade in your vehicle? No one can give you a straight answer for that; situations are fluid and market conditions are largely based on regionality. For instance, in New England, AWD vehicles like the Honda Passport are high in demand yet lower in supply during the winter months. But sales for AWD vehicles in Jacksonville don’t typically fluctuate as much from season to season.
On the opposite end, in regions like Jacksonville, trucks like the Honda Ridgeline pick up sales steam in the springtime, which is when people use their tax refunds to begin work on home remodels and other projects. So, if you have a Ridgeline to trade in Jacksonville, do it in March or April. (If you have an Odyssey to trade, do it in the summer—that’s when parents start buying minivans for school and road trips.)
Then you have to consider the overall desirability of your model. Popular models, like the CR-V, Civic and Accord, tend to sell well no matter the location or season. Other unique models, like certain hybrid cars, EVs and large SUVs, will have more of a niche market, which would make it more difficult to find a buyer.
Once you know how your trade-in vehicle fits into the “supply and demand” marketplace, you can time it to get the most money from an auto dealer.
1. Negotiate Separately
Here’s another secret: If you go into the dealership and inform the sales team you’re in the market to, say, lease a new Honda Accord, don’t tag on your trade-in until they ask or you’ve already “negotiated” the sales price of the Accord. That way you get the dealer’s best price on the Accord without your vehicle trade-in’s value being applied.
Of course, when you work with any of our Honda dealerships near Jacksonville, you can rest assured that we’ll never nickel or dime you come trade-in time. You can get your trade-in estimate up front and negotiate the price of a newer vehicle at the same time, and you’ll get the best deal on both. We wouldn’t do business any other way.
Need more info or want to trade your vehicle into our car dealerships near Jacksonville? Request a quote online or find and contact your closest First Coast Honda Dealers store today. We have Honda dealerships in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Lake City, Waycross, and Brunswick.