One of the biggest decisions when shopping for your next ride is what to do with your current vehicle. If you are like most people, you want to get as much as possible for it through a trade-in. But how do you get the best deal on your used car trade?

Like almost everything in the auto business, that will depend in part on the market and other variables you simply cannot control. But by following a few simple recommendations from the team at AutoOne Lancaster, you can maximize the chances of getting the best possible offer and going home with a vehicle you'll absolutely love.

Main Factors Affecting Trade-in Values

Image via Flickr by MIKI Yoshihito (#mikiyoshihito) (CC BY 2.0)

Most cars, but not all, will have a decent trade-in value. The main factors that determine the kinds of offers you will receive are:

  • Condition of the car. This includes objective factors such as the age of the car and the number of miles on the odometer. But conditions can include aesthetic factors, too. Are there any dents or scratches? Is there any rust? Has it been in an accident? Is it an uncommon color?
  • Market demand. Some models of cars have better reputations on the secondary market than others and therefore are in greater demand. The most popular cars will generally draw the highest trade-in offers. Demand can also fluctuate between various models within a manufacturer's line.
  • Negotiating skill. If you do the homework about your car and the market, and are good at reading the room when talking with the dealership, you may be successful in negotiating a higher amount for your trade-in. 

How to Get the Best Deal on Your Used Car Trade 

The benefits of a trade-in can be substantial. The amount you are offered can be rolled directly into the price of your next vehicle so you borrow less and pay less in interest. It makes the most sense on several levels to seek a trade-in in conjunction with the purchase of your next car. One intangible benefit of doing so: Dealer trade-ins offer a frictionless way of disposing of your old vehicle as the dealer handles most, if not all, of the transactional paperwork. Here's how to improve your chances of getting top dollar for your trade-in.

Do Your Research

You have to temper your desire to get top dollar with reality. So the first step in positioning yourself for trade-in negotiations is to find out what the market says about your specific make and model. Check sources such as the Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to get a reliable current estimate. 

You might want to cross-check those values with insights from sites such as,, and, which can also give you a sense of what those cars are selling for at area dealers. Keep in mind that the value may differ depending on where you live. Trade-in offers will likely be higher in more expensive cost-of-living markets. The research may be useful in the context of negotiations.

Clean it up, Fix it up

Your car's condition will make a difference on whether you get the top-tier offer, middle-tier off, or lowest offer. At a basic level, make sure you wash and vacuum the car before going into negotiations, and consider having it detailed. If you have small dents or scratches, consider having those fixed. Remove personal items ahead of time to give a sense of an easy handover. That's also handy because once you agree on a trade-in value, things will move quickly in terms of conveying your car to the dealer.

Be a Smart Consumer

You can't be in a hurry if you want to get the best possible value for your trade-in. It would be smart to supplement your research with real information from the market. Take your car to at least three other dealerships to get offers. Ask for those offers in writing. You may be able to use these offers as leverage to negotiate a higher price. 

Calculate in Sales Tax Benefits

Negotiating a trade-in may unlock some hidden value that you might not be thinking about beyond the price of your car. The trade-in price typically lowers the sales price of your next vehicle. You only pay sales tax on that lowered sales price. So, that means if you settle on buying a car for $20,000 but are able to negotiate a $10,000 trade-in offer, you have lowered your sales tax by 50%. Evaluate these additional savings in judging your offer. This is also a good incentive to focus on a dealer trade-in rather than a private sale.

Separate the Conversations

The car-buying process involves a lot of numbers. And sometimes those numbers can feel confusing. There is the price for the car, the offer of the trade-in, the price of the car after the trade-in, the monthly payment, and other details. 

Those numbers sometimes merge and you can lose track of what you're actually being offered for your old car. One way to prevent this is to negotiate the new car and the trade-in offer prices separately. It's not necessarily easy to do, but separating the variables leads to greater clarity and you can walk out proud to know that you've gotten the best amount possible.

A Fair Trade-in Price and More at AutoOne Lancaster

Doing your homework about the value of your trade-in is an important part of the car-buying process. At AutoOne Lancaster, serving York, Lancaster, and other parts of central Pennsylvania, you can count on receiving a fair and transparent offer for your current car. You can then apply that amount to your purchase of a used car, truck, or SUV. 

AutoOne offers a comprehensive inventory of used cars for sale from all major manufacturers, including Kia, Honda, Ford, Infiniti, Lexus, Chevrolet, and others. As a full-service dealership, we also offer help with financing to find the loan or lease with the perfect monthly payment. Call us or contact us online, or better yet, pay us a visit!


Categories: Finance
Tags: car trades