Sure, exchanging your old vehicle for a new one at the car dealership is easy. But getting the most value for your vehicle trade-in shouldn’t be left to fate. To find a great deal for your trade-in, it’ll take patience, effort and research. Before you drive to your local car lot, follow these steps to ensure you’re not leaving money on the table.


6 Tips for Trading in a Vehicle


1. Check Your Trade-in Value Frequently

If you request a trade-in value in September, there’s a good chance that price isn’t the same in December. The used-car market changes constantly; as such, so too do car values. These market fluctuations have a direct effect on the trade-in value of your vehicle from month to month.

The five biggest factors at play here are:

  1. Seasonality/Time of Year – Average car prices can increase by 15% in the spring (February to May) and autumn (September to November), which includes used car pricing.
  2. New Models – When newer models are released, people begin trading in older models, increasing supply and decreasing demand. (Trade-in values drop.)
  3. Geography – Certain models sell better in certain locations. A used Honda Ridgeline will have a bigger market in Arizona than it would in New York City, for instance.
  4. Recent Recalls – If a model has a particularly dangerous recall, sales of that model will drop, as will its resale and trade-in values.
  5. Price of Gas – When gas prices increase, SUV and truck trade-in values decrease as shoppers opt for more fuel-efficient cars, like the Honda Civic or Accord.

Pay attention to the market. Request your car’s dealership trade-in value regularly, at least once a quarter. Get to know what your vehicle is worth at each time of year, then make the decision based on that historical data.


2. Detail & Fix Up Imperfections

Maintaining your vehicle’s appearance and keeping it operational can increase its resale value by as much as 40%.

Service it regularly by following the manual. This includes proper oil changes, tire rotations, changing air filters, fluid flushes, windshield wiper replacements, battery checks and more. You should also log each service in your manual to show your dealer that you were a good owner.

Get to your repairs as soon as possible. Don’t let those mystery sounds or small windshield chips go unattended; these seemingly innocuous problems can quickly escalate into catastrophic ones when not taken care of quickly. A strange squeak could mean your brakes are dying, and a windshield ding could spread into a spiderweb crack. An early visit to the mechanic or your auto service center is key to prevent those extra costs.

Detail the vehicle before you decide to trade it to a dealership. A $100 full-vehicle detail is worth it if you know how much your car’s book value is. Appearances matter to the auto dealer, too.


3. Understand Vehicle Conditions

When you seek a trade-in quote, you’ll be asked to verify your car’s condition; this is not really a “subjective vs. objective” guideline, so it’s best to know what conditions qualify as “good” and “excellent.”

  • Excellent Condition: A vehicle that looks new, is mechanically sound, and has a clean vehicle history report and title history. These vehicles will not need any reconditioning and have not likely had any bodywork done in the past. Only about 5% of vehicles qualify as “excellent.”
  • Good Condition: Vehicles that don’t have any major issues, including rust, electronic problems, chipped paint or big dents. They typically have clean title histories and vehicle history reports, though some minor notes may not disqualify them. Only minor blemishes and defects that don’t affect the overall operation are allowed, including seat stains and small body dings. Up to 60% of vehicles are in “good” condition.
  • Fair Condition: Some mechanical and cosmetic defects are probable in these vehicles. Servicing and extensive reconditioning is necessary, though these vehicles usually have good title histories. Necessary repairs and services usually include: new tires, bodywork, engine maintenance, electrical repair and new brakes. Up to 25% of vehicles fall into this category.
  • Poor Condition: Automobiles that are in “poor” condition are typically older models that have serious defects and run poorly. Damaged frames, bad suspensions, extensive rust, and nonworking electrical systems are common, as are sketchy vehicle history reports and title histories. These vehicles may also be previously damaged in a flood or deemed as “salvage,” which will tank their resale value. About 10% of vehicles on the road are in “poor” condition.


4. Be Prepared to Negotiate

Although our Arizona Honda dealers pride themselves on offering great vehicle trade-in deals, they’d never suggest a customer not negotiate with them. After all, we want you to be satisfied with both your trade-in and that new Honda CR-V with leather seats and wireless phone charging. If you come into one of our dealerships having done your homework, we’re sure we can get a deal made.


5. Check Your Credit

Your credit score may not have an effect on selling your car, but it certainly makes a difference when you apply for a new car loan. You can get your credit score for free before seeking auto financing or requesting a trade-in quote, which may save you some hassle (and embarrassment) at the dealership.


6. Does it Qualify as “Certified Pre-Owned”?

If you’re trying to sell your late-model vehicle for a newer car, it may be eligible to join your dealer’s certified used car lot. Only select vehicles qualify for CPO status—this varies by auto manufacturer—and if you trade one of those lucky vehicles into your dealership, you could get more cash for your exchange. Here’s how Honda judges who gets to see the “HondaTrue Certified” gate open:

  • Vehicles must be no older than 6 model years in age
  • Vehicles must have fewer than 80,000 miles on its original engine
  • Vehicles must have a good vehicle history report

Valley Honda Dealers Logo

Simply ask your dealer if they’ll be selling your car as a certified pre-owned car. This will allow you to ask for a higher trade-in price. If you’d like information about the HondaTrue Certified and Certified+ programs, contact your Honda dealer or one of our Valley Honda Dealers near Phoenix. Or, if you’d like to exchange your jalopy for any of our certified pre-owned Honda vehicles, we can help you get the best deal possible!