A Guide To Selling or Trading In Your Old Car

Each year, there are tens of millions of used cars being sold in the United States alone, with a solid portion (around one-quarter) of them including the trade-in of another used car. Trading in your car is a popular way to take away the large down payment required to purchase another car and can go even further by helping to lower some of the monthly payments.

Not everyone is in a position to be able to pay for a brand-new car straight-up with cash, making trading in your used car an ideal option for millions of people. However, there are many people that don’t know how the process works or are afraid to pull the trigger on the acquisition. If you’ve been thinking about selling your old car or trading it in, we have some suggestions that could help you out. Here’s our guide to selling or trading in your old car.

Selling Your Old Car

While it would be nice to simply post on Facebook Marketplace that you’re selling your car and someone comes and picks it up and pays you cash, there’s more to it than that, especially if you want top dollar. This is what you’ll need to do to get the most from your old car:

Prep Work

There are a few things that you can do that will help the value of your car that don’t require a lot of money or work. The first thing that you’ll want to do is make sure that your car is cleaned both inside and out. Curb appeal is a big factor, and if you have a spotless and great-smelling interior, potential buyers won’t be nearly as wary of the car’s overall health.

Some small maintenance like air, oil, and tire checks will help, too, especially if you have the receipt. You’ll also want to make sure that the paperwork is entirely in order. Make sure that the registration is in your name so you’re legally allowed to sell the car while also providing insurance documents and the title to the car.

Finding the Value

You should always know what your car is worth so that you don’t get a lowball offer from a dealer or third-party buyer. Thankfully, the internet has made it incredibly easy to find an estimated value for your car with access to sources like Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book. Simply put in your car’s information, including the year, make, model, mileage, and condition.

Be aware of all of the bells and whistles that your car has that don’t typically come standard. Even things like power windows, a sunroof, or a satellite radio system will add a lot of value to your car that you might have taken for granted. 

These extras can be included through those car value estimate sites that we mentioned. Also, list any damages down to small exterior scratches or interior seat tears to get the true value. Don’t let a buyer tell you that a scratch around the keyhole lowers the value of your car by hundreds of dollars.

Art of the Deal

When you have all of your paperwork, your car is clean/maintained, and you know the value, it’s time to find a buyer. There are a few different ways you can go about this, with the first being through a third party. You can advertise your used car for free on websites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, while also paying for more premium advertising through your local newspaper.

During the selling process, make sure to be communicative with all of those who are making a serious offer. You don’t have to contact the people back who are severely lowballing you, but anyone who is genuinely curious should be up-to-date on whether or not the car is available and what the current bids are.

You’ll be able to negotiate with interested buyers and take the best deal that’s offered. The dream is to get your asking price, but getting close to it isn’t bad, either. Once the sale is complete and payment is collected, a trip to the DMV will be in order to transfer ownership so you won’t have to pay registration and make sure to contact your insurance company to have the policy canceled afterward.

The other option to sell is to go through a dealership, which is the same process, but they will likely try to entice you into the other option for your used car.

Trading In Your Old Car

That option, of course, is trading in your old car for the purchase of another car. Much of the legwork for trading is the same as selling with the paperwork, cleaning, etc., but there is an important difference. Some dealerships will offer you much more for your trade-in than others. This can be due to a promotion (i.e. holiday weekend), while other dealerships want certain makes of cars.

Shop around a little bit, and know what type of car you want in return. You can either use your trade-in as a down payment on a new car or use the car to significantly lower your monthly payments. Browse online and in-dealership for the car of your dreams, then get your used car ready for the trade.

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