What Documents Are Needed for Trading in a Car?

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


, - October 5, 2018

If you’re thinking about trading in your car for a newer one, you may be wondering what documents you need to bring with you. While buying a vehicle involves a lot of paperwork, there are some additional documents you need, especially if you have bad credit.

Preparing to Trade in Your Car

Before you head to the dealership, you can get prepared by doing some research. Calculate how much vehicle you can afford using online tools, and check to see how much your trade-in is worth by visiting sites such as NADA Guides. You can use the estimates you receive as a reference, but the final value is set when it’s appraised at a dealership.

What Paperwork Do I Need?

Once you have an idea of what your car’s worth, you can begin gathering information needed for the trade-in process. There are two things that are necessary and one that’s optional:

  1. Car’s title – You won’t be able to trade in your vehicle without the title. If the title has a secured party listed, make sure you also bring in the payoff letter or get a 10-day payoff amount from your lender along with their contact information.
  2. Registration – In many states, if you plan on transferring the license plate to the new car, you need to have a current copy of the vehicle’s registration.
  3. Service records (optional) – If the car’s been well kept and you’ve followed all the maintenance requirements, you should bring in its service records. You may be able to get more money out of your trade-in by showing service records, but this isn’t always the case.

In addition to the title, registration, and service records, if you have bad credit you need to bring in some additional documents in order to get approved for a new car loan:

  • Driver’s license – To prove you’re legally allowed to drive, and to confirm your identity.
  • Proof of income – A recent computer-generated pay stub with your year-to-date earnings.
  • Proof of residency – A recent utility bill in your name at the address listed on the loan application.
  • Proof of a working phone – A recent phone bill from your carrier at the address listed on the application. No prepaid cell phones.
  • List of references – Typically six to eight personal references are required with names, addresses, and phone numbers (no one living at your address).

Looking for a Dealer to Work With?

Dealerships handle trade-ins all the time. But while the process of trading in a vehicle is the same for all dealers, the trade-in value can vary from dealer to dealer.

If you’re in the market for a used car but worry your credit’s holding you back, let CarsDirect help. We work with a coast-to-coast network of dealerships that specialize in helping bad credit car buyers get the financing they need. All you need to do is fill out our auto loan request form. Our service is free of cost and obligation, so get started right now!

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Megan Foukes is a recent graduate from Indiana University who graduated with a bachelor’s in journalism. Megan works as a content writer for Auto Credit Express and contributes to several automotive and finance blogs.


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