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Should I repair my car before trading it in?

6 ways to boost your car trade-in value

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  • 1. Do your homework
  • 2. Take care of known mechanical problems
  • 3. Make sure that your car looks its best
  • 4. Shop around for trade-in value
  • 5. Negotiate trade-in value separately
  • 6. Time your trade-in

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4 min read Published October 28, 2022
Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Written by Holly D. Johnson

Arrow Right Author, Award-Winning Writer

Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.

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Edited by
Rhys Subitch
Edited by Rhys Subitch

Rhys has been editing and writing for Bankrate since late 2021. They are passionate about helping readers gain the confidence to take control of their finances by providing clear, well-researched information that breaks down otherwise complex topics into manageable bites.

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The car market has been difficult to navigate over the past few years amid inventory shortages and skyrocketing prices. But in September, for the first time in five months, the average price of new vehicles dropped slightly. Used car prices stabilized, too, according to Kelley Blue Book.

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If the market changes have encouraged you to trade in your car for a new set of wheels, don’t speed to the dealer and miss a good deal. First, take steps to boost your car’s trade-in value. These include researching your car’s current value, fixing mechanical issues and making sure your car looks its best.

1. Do your homework

Knowing the value of your car is important, particularly if you plan to trade it in. Conduct research to find your vehicle’s current trade-in value. You can use sources like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to get its current sale value, though you should also be honest with yourself about repairs and your vehicle’s condition.

Also, keep in mind that you’ll get less for your trade-in than you would if you sold your car on your own.

“Many people think they are going to get the top value, but dealers taking in the trade need a margin of profit and will offer you less than the trade-in price listed on these sites,” says auto expert Lauren Fix.

2. Take care of known mechanical problems

The mechanical and physical condition of your car are big drivers of value. So, it’s best to resolve any issues that are relatively simple to fix.

In general, minor repairs that don’t cost much out of pocket and are likely to increase the resale value of your vehicle are worth considering. This might include small cosmetic fixes such as dents and scratches or replacing lights that are out.

Research repairs that increase the resale value of your car and the expense associated with each repair to decide which repairs will be the most cost-effective.

You should also check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database for any vehicle recalls affecting your car. Recalled parts can be fixed free of charge, and the extra effort may up your car’s value.

Keep receipts for repairs and maintenance, and check your files for old ones. These can prove to the dealer or buyer that you took care of the vehicle. Consider pulling a car history report for your vehicle for the dealer to review when evaluating your trade-in.

3. Make sure that your car looks its best

Fix points out that a clean and well-maintained car is most likely to get the highest trade-in value.

“Clean the vehicle inside and out,” she says. “Detailing the car is like staging a home for resale.”

In other words, curb appeal matters.

4. Shop around for trade-in value

Zach Shefska, co-founder and CEO of Your Auto Advocate, says it’s important to “shop around” your car for trade-in potential.

“Get as many competitive quotes for your trade-in as possible before engaging with the dealer,” he says.

For example, you should get quotes from Carvana, CarMax and any other major used car dealers in your area before discussing your trade-in with the dealer you plan to buy from. You can use these figures, along with other research you do on pricing, to estimate your car’s baseline value.

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5. Negotiate trade-in value separately

By negotiating your trade-in and purchase separately, you can ensure you get the best trade-in value possible and the best price on the new vehicle you’re buying.

Shefska recommends that buyers watch out for dealerships that try to combine the two transactions into one deal. They do this because there are more opportunities for a dealer to generate profits when working on two transactions at once.

It’s also a good idea to get the trade-in offer in writing. This protects you from the dealer changing or going back on its offer for any reason. A formal offer is especially important if you leave the dealership to shop around further and return to the same dealer later.

6. Time your trade-in

Trading in your car to buy another vehicle may work better some times of the year than others, depending on the year, make and model of your vehicle. Weather conditions and other factors could also play a role in the offer you receive.

Financial advisor Matthew Kircher of Fairpoint Wealth Management says he recently timed his trade-in value based on demand.

He purchased a new 2021 Toyota 4Runner and traded in his old Ford Escape in January 2021. He was strategic about timing because he knew that all-wheel-drive SUVs would be in high demand during winter and right before the spring college semester.

“We waited until the perfect time to trade in our used vehicle to boost its value,” Kircher says. “We also timed it perfectly, with the best offers for new vehicles coinciding at the same time.”

The first two quarters of the year can also be a good time to trade in a vehicle because buyer demand tends to be higher. Dealers need more vehicles available on their lots to meet the demand and may offer a higher price for your trade-in.

Trading in a car when you owe money on it

Trading in may not be the right choice if you’re still paying off your car, particularly if you owe more than your car is worth. You may want to postpone your next car purchase or sell the car on your own to earn a higher price. But if you trade it in, the negative equity doesn’t just disappear and is likely to roll into the subsequent car loan.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions against using a dealership that promises to “pay off your loan no matter how much you owe.” While a dealership might pay off your old loan, it must make up the difference somewhere — and that “somewhere” will eventually catch up with you.

“Dealers may include the negative equity in consumers’ new car loan,” writes the FTC. “That would increase their monthly payments by adding principal and interest.”

The bottom line

Ensuring you get the best trade-in value can help you get a lower price and monthly payment on the new or used vehicle you want. It’s well worth it to do your research, make much-needed repairs, spruce up your ride and secure multiple quotes.

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When it’s time to buy, use the same research skills to compare auto loans. A dealership you’re working with might offer in-house financing, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best deal. You may be able to get preapproved for an auto loan online with better terms and use the loan offer as leverage when negotiating a deal on your next car purchase.

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Should You Fix A Car Before Trading It In?

If your car is damaged or in less-than-perfect shape, you might wonder whether you should bring it to a repair shop before trading it in. Learn what the best option for you is. Find out why selling your damaged car to might be the best choice for you!

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Should I Fix My Car Before I Trade It In?

Whether you should fix your car or not before you trade it in depends on the condition of the car. If your car has some minor body damage or easy-to-fix mechanical problems, fixing it before trading it in may allow you to get a better trade-in value. However, if your car is seriously damaged, fixing it could cost several thousand dollars. Additionally, chances are even after you repair your car, its trade-in value will be less than you spent on the repairs. Most companies that accept trade-ins are hoping to repair and resell the vehicles. If your vehicle requires a lot of work to repair and resell, there’s a good chance the company will send it to auction instead. In that case, you may only receive the vehicle’s scrap metal value as a trade-in offer. If that is the case, attempting to fix it may be a waste of money.

What Is My Car’s Trade In Value After An Accident?

A damaged car’s trade in value depends on the type of damage it has. A car with minor body damage, such as dents or scruffs, will be worth significantly more than a vehicle with a destroyed frame or undercarriage. Unless you were only involved in a minor fender bender, there is a good chance the car accident has totaled your car. If that is the case, the vehicle’s value dropped significantly. If you have been in a car accident and want to trade in your damaged car, you may have to accept an offer for its scrap metal value.

How can I get an instant quote for my vehicle?

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Should I Sell Or Trade In My Damaged Car?

When you trade in a damaged vehicle to a company that buys and sells used cars, you are generally obligated to purchase a car from their limited stock. Additionally, its car prices might be slightly inflated due to the fact that the companies will generally spend some time repairing and refurbishing vehicles they buy in order to sell them again. Finally, if you are trading in a damaged car, you can expect to receive only a fraction of what a newer vehicle might be worth. You may only receive a couple hundred dollars of the price of your new car. By choosing to sell your car rather than trade it in at a dealership, you can get quotes from more locations. This allows you to get a better idea of what value your car may have. Additionally, you are not obligated to purchase any particular vehicle when you sell your car independently.

Should I Fix My Car Before Selling It?

You might wonder if you would get more benefit out of fixing your car before selling it rather than trading it in. Unfortunately, the answer is the same in both situations. Minor wear and tear should be repaired if possible. Serious problems are costly enough that they’re not worth addressing. You can attempt to clean up a damaged vehicle to make it look nicer when selling it privately. However, if your vehicle is seriously damaged, whether from a car accident or due to mechanical problems, it has lost a significant portion of its value. If it was in a serious car accident, chances are it cannot safely be rebuilt at all. Therefore, you might only be able to sell it for its scrap value.

Benefits Of Selling A Damaged Car To has over a decade of experience buying less-than-perfect cars in any condition. Our experts know how to determine a fair market value for your damaged vehicle. Additionally, offers always include free towing and free title transfer, so you never have to pay any hidden charges or fees. It takes less than 90 seconds to get a offer, and our quotes are guaranteed for seven days. There’s no obligation. There’s no fuss. There’s no hassle. operates throughout the contiguous United States. We come to you — you don’t need to leave your house to complete the sale. You can complete the entire process online.

How To Sell Your Car To

Selling to is simple. All you have to do is:

  1. Click “get an offer”
  2. Fill out the form
  3. Check out your quote.

To get a guaranteed offer, upload photos of your car and a VIN. If you like the price, we can help you schedule a pickup at a time convenient for you. Additionally, our offers are guaranteed for seven days so you have time to think it over. Once you’re ready, all you have to do is reach back out to us.

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