What’s the Best Way to Find My Car’s Trade-in Value?

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, - April 20, 2018

Hands down, the best way to find out the true trade-in value of a vehicle is to have it professionally appraised at the dealership where you plan on trading it in.

Starting with Basic Knowledge

People are always eager to share their two cents when it comes to car appraisals. The most common recommendations are to use online vehicle valuation services such as NADA. These websites give estimates for vehicle value, but there’s no telling how it’ll align with what a dealer is willing to offer.

Rather than starting with the money in mind, begin by documenting the basic facts about the vehicle that an appraiser may need. Note how many miles are on the odometer and tires, major repairs, or if there’s past flood damage. Once a consumer is sure they know all the proper information for a car, they can research similar vehicles for estimated trade-in values.

Being truthful about a vehicle’s condition leaves a borrower in better shape when they begin researching car values online. Typically, sites like NADA.com will outline several price points based on the condition and mileage of a vehicle. Entering accurate information into these sites is the only way to get a realistic valuation.

Shopping Around for the Best Deal

Getting estimates online will give a seller the price range they may expect to find their vehicle falling into, but remember those are just meant to be guidelines. When a trade in is on the horizon, it’s a good idea to get in-person appraisals from several dealerships to find the best value. Offers can vary from dealer to dealer, as can the amount of time an appraisal is good for. It’s also a good idea to make sure at least one of the dealers visited is the same brand as the vehicle being sold.

Some other tips for getting the most out of a trade-in are:

  • Make sure the vehicle is clean inside and out so it looks its very best.
  • Perform minor repairs or standard upkeep on wipers, lights, and minor glass chips for example.
  • Sell at the right time. It might be tough to get a deal in December when selling a convertible.

Remember, in order to get value out of a vehicle, it has to have equity. If it’s paid off, the equity is its actual cash value, which sellers can keep or use as a down payment on something new.

If a vehicle has negative equity, it means that it’s worth less than the loan balance. A borrower can sometimes trade in a vehicle with negative equity, but instead of paying the seller, the purchasing dealer pays the current lien holder and the seller is responsible for covering the difference – usually by paying out of pocket or rolling the negative equity into a new loan.

Trading in with the Right Dealer

Regardless of if you’ve got a trade-in or not, it can be tough to find the right dealer for your situation if you’re struggling with credit issues. At CarsDirect, we work with an extensive network of special finance dealers that have the lenders available to work with people who have bad credit, no credit, or even bankruptcy. Don’t delay, get the process started today by filling out our online auto loan request form and we’ll get to work finding you a local dealer that can help!

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


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