Trade In or Sell Your Used Car

How can you make sure you're getting the most value for your car?

by Spero Financial

To decide whether to sell or trade-in your car you need to determine approximately how much your car is really worth as well as the difference in sale or trade-in value.

First, gather all of your important car documents, such as the original sales papers, any service records, and the car title. Make sure you have an accurate list of all of your car’s extras options like a navigation system, a sunroof, or leather seats. Extra options can increase your car’s resale value.

Next, figure out your car’s condition. Be realistic about it — even brutal. Maybe your car has been your baby and you’re emotionally attached to all of her flaws, but for this step, you need to act like a potential buyer, not an owner. How are the tires? Have you really gotten your oil changed every 3,000-5,000 miles? Are there any dings or scratches on the body? Go over your car with a fine-tooth comb or, even better, ask your mechanic to do a pre-sell inspection and print out the results for you. A professional will find cosmetic problems that you’ve missed and will be able to check the engine as well.

You may want to trade-in your car if:

  • Your time is at a premium. Trading in is usually faster and more convenient than selling a car yourself.
  • You need to recoup value from your current car before you can afford to buy the new car that you want. A trade-in reduces the purchase price of your new car, which also saves you money on sales tax.
  • Your car has more than a few minor dings and scratches. Dealerships can get bodywork done at deep discounts, so a dent or two won’t lower your trade-in value as much as it lowers your resale value.
  • You don’t like the hassle of listing and selling your vehicle.

You may want to sell your car if:

  • You want or need to get more value from your car. Selling your car yourself typically results in 15-25% more.
  • Your car is in good shape and doesn’t need a lot of work before it’s show-ready.
  • You have the time to list the car, negotiate with buyers, and get the most return for your investment.

This material is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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