Car-Buying Savvy: Tips For Negotiating Your Trade-In

Buying a new car can be stressful as it is, but when you throw a trade-in into the mix, it can be even more so. Not only are you trying to get a good price on the car you hope to buy, you have to deal with negotiating for your old one too. Negotiating can be intimidating especially, when it comes to car dealers who don’t always have the best reputation. They know more than you, that is for sure. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance. Simply arming yourself with some basic knowledge can take you pretty far in getting a more favorable offer for your current car. Here are just a few tips to help you out.

Research the Value

If you hope to be successful with your trade-in negotiation, you absolutely must research the value of your car. This is the only way to know whether you are getting a good deal. You can find this information at a variety of websites, such as Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader.  If you live near a CarMax, they will give you a free appraisal. You can also stop by a few used car dealers in the area to see what they would give you for it. Once you do all this, you will have a good idea of the high-and-low-end sale value.

When you broach the topic of your trade-in, start off by saying you have done some research. This lets the dealer know you know the approximate value of the vehicle.

Understanding Dealer Value

One of the reasons bargaining does not go as smoothly is because the value of the car to you and the value to the dealer is different. The dealer is considering several factors when formulating his offer, such as how much it will cost to recondition the car, how quickly he think it will sell, the cost of advertising and what he would do if it didn’t sell on the lot. Don’t let this discourage you from negotiating, however, as you can probably get a better offer than whatever one is given initially. It is important to keep in mind, the convenience of trading in a vehicle comes at a cost, which is less money for your car.

If your primary concern is getting as much money as you can for your car, you should consider selling it privately.


Timing is another important factor to consider. If you are looking to trade in your convertible at car dealerships in New Jersey during the dead of winter, you probably won’t get as good of an offer. Consider the time you are visiting the dealership as well—if you are there on a busy Saturday, a dealer may not be as inclined to win your business as there will be plenty of people walking through that door. Going near the end of the month, where the salesmen are itching to close a deal and increase their commission for the month may make them a bit more generous with their offer if that will seal the deal on buying from him today.

Don’t Negotiate the Trade-In along with the New Car

Negotiating both prices at once can leave you at a disadvantage. The dealer will likely be throwing around a lot of confusing terms, and you really won’t know what is going on. Negotiate separately. Many people recommend not even discussing the trade-in until you settle on the price for the new car. But, if your current car is in high demand, it might be good to lead off with that.