Do You Trade in Your Used Car?

used car trade

I have never traded in a car. I have thought about it and even tried on occasion. Each time the price offered would have forced me to leave too much money on the table. I haven’t been willing to do that, yet.

I always end up selling the car myself. I have never failed to come out much better than if I had traded the car in. Typically, as might be expected much much better.

It is true when you sell a car yourself there is some time and effort involved. A lot of elbow grease is required to get a car ready to sell (though I would think to get a top trade-in offer this work would already have been done). There is also the variable of how much time it will take you to sell your car.

This of course will depend on several factors. Some of which are the price range of the car (more expensive cars will likely move more slowly), where you live, and how competitively your car is priced.

I wrote a post on how to sell your car in “7 Tips to Sell Your Car Fast.” I would recommend if you have questions about selling your car you review this post.

The key point is to know in trading in a car is how much money you are leaving on the table and what your time is worth. Is it worth your time to sell the car yourself? You should answer this question before you trade in your next car.

My Last Trade in Experience:

I will illustrate why I have never traded a car in with a recounting of my most recent effort to do exactly that.

In 2010 I was looking to buy a used Ford F-150 pickup truck. Since I was looking for a car priced over $10,000 used car dealerships were included in my search. I will later do a post on when and how I like to use dealers in my used car searches.

I had a 1996 Isuzu Trooper which I knew wasn’t going to be worth too much. After all, despite being very clean on the inside and outside, it did have 149,000 miles on it. It was also 14 years old. I thought this car is worth so little I would just trade it in. I thought I wouldn’t be leaving too much money on the table.

I cleaned the Trooper and prepared it for the inspection I knew was coming. I also researched on Edmunds.com and KBB.com to ensure I had a reasonable expectation for the offer I was likely to receive. The Trooper was worth $1,500 in trade. I figured based on this I would accept an offer as low as $1,200. This was an arbitrary number on my part. It was just as low a price as I was willing to accept for my Trooper.

I drove the Trooper to the dealership. I told the salesman that met me I was ready to buy the truck I had looked at a few days earlier. I also told him I had the cash to close the sale. I also told him I wanted to trade in my Trooper. He had someone inspect the Trooper and take it for a test drive.

About 25-30 minutes later I received an offer of $600 for the Trooper. I shared with the salesman that I couldn’t accept an offer this low. He asked me what I would accept. I told him according to the research I had done it was worth $1,500 in trade.

He asked me to confirm if they gave me $1,500 in trade I would buy their truck. I agreed. He was just about to go speak to his sales manager when the sales manager walked by. The salesman called him in the office.

The sales manager came in. The salesman explained the request. Confirming I would buy their truck if they would give me $1,500 in trade for my Trooper. I will never forget the sales manager’s next words. They were, “At that price, I don’t want the deal.”

I was quite surprised by his abruptness. I didn’t expect him to necessarily agree, but to be so blunt in his answer surprised me.

I informed them that we were in agreement about not wanting the deal. I took my trooper home. He lost the sale of a $23,000 truck that day.

How did things work out for me?

I drove the Trooper home and bought two for sale signs. I parked it in front of my house one sign in front and one in back. It took me two days, but I sold it for $2,800. The buyer didn’t even ask to come off my sales price!

A little later I found a two year older Ford F-150, which I have owned for the last three years. The really great thing about this is it only cost me right at $14,000. Not only did I make an additional $2,200 on the Trooper, I saved an additional $9,000 on the truck.

I don’t tell this story to say the sales manager was a bad guy or that trading a car in might not be the right thing for you to do. I tell it to let you know how much money you might be leaving on the table.

Do your research. Be informed. Know what your bottom line price is before you take your car in for trade.

If you think this post is of value, please share it.

Question: Do you have any trade in stories you would like to share? I would like to hear them.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jared Easley

    Dude, awesome story! I have always wanted a cool pickup truck. I’m coming to you when I am ready to commit. Keep sharing James!

  • James Kinson

    Thank you Jared. I hope these stories will help people be more intentional about their car buying habits. I will be happy to help you find an awesome pickup truck when the time comes!