Whitney Russell
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What To Expect When Trading In Your Car at a Dealership

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Two men in business casual attire shaking hands next to a car in a dealership showroom
Trading in your car at a dealership can be faster and simpler than selling it on your own

Trading in your car at a trusted dealership has many benefits, from lowering the price tag of a new vehicle to saving yourself some time and stress by having the dealership secure a new buyer for your old vehicle. But how does the process work? Here’s a brief guide to help you navigate the trade-in process like a pro.

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Preparing your vehicle for a trade-in

Before you head to the dealership to trade in your current vehicle, take some time to ready the vehicle for appraisal, making sure it’s clean and fixing simple repair issues. And gather any documentation that corresponds to your vehicle’s initial purchase and service history. Check out this article for more details about how to increase your vehicle’s trade-in value.

Trading in your vehicle at the dealership

When you get to the dealership, tell the sales rep that greets you that you have a vehicle to trade in. That salesperson will take down your information, then connect you with someone in the dealership’s used car department to inspect your car. You can expect this person to test-drive the car, do a visual inspection of it, and run a vehicle history report to see whether the car has been in any accidents.

Per U.S. News & World Report’s John Vincent and Ben Koses, used car appraisers have a wealth of experience to draw from when vetting your car and identifying any potential mechanical issues it might have. This means you can have more confidence that they’ll thoroughly inspect your vehicle and offer you a fair price.

Besides a used car appraiser, the dealership might also have one of their service department mechanics inspect the vehicle, as the Cars.com editors confirm. They’ll determine the condition of vital components like the brakes, engine, and fluids.

The dealership will then make you an offer on the used vehicle. The auction selling prices of similar vehicles will have a huge impact on how much the dealership is willing to pay for your car, say the Cars.com editors. Though, if you need some more assurance that the price is fair, you can ask to see the auction selling prices and used-car estimates that the salesperson used to determine your trade-in’s value.

After you accept the dealership’s offer

If you accept the dealership’s offer for your vehicle, you’ll start completing the paperwork necessary to seal the deal. How soon you say goodbye to your old vehicle depends on whether you own your car or still owe money on it, explain the Cars.com editors. If you own the vehicle you’re trading in and brought the vehicle’s title with you, then the trade-in process can often be complete while you’re there at the dealership.

However, if you still owe money on your ride, the dealership won’t be able to close on your car until they receive the title from your lender. This means that you might be waiting a while before you return to the dealership to sign the final paperwork and apply the trade-in amount to the new vehicle of your choice.

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