How to get the most for your trade-in

One of the things that people hate most about the car-buying process is getting what they believe is a proper amount for their trade. Most of the time, a customer is a bit out of step with reality, because they have an emotional attachment to their old car; it ferried them and their family to various destinations, it was a unique color, maybe it even saved their life. Because of the emotional attachment, customers tend to think their car is worth a lot more than it is.

We dealers, however, have to look at the car from an empirical standpoint. Your average dealership probably looks at 10 trade-in vehicles a day, and countless more on various auction sites. (Auctions are a great way to bolster inventory.) If you have a blue 2008 Chevy Impala with 42,091 miles on it, we can probably put a valuation on it without even seeing it. We don't have an emotional attachment; further, we can't afford to price ourselves out of the market on your vehicle by giving you much more than the vehicle is actually worth on the open market. So, to arrive at a value for your trade-in vehicle, we will do the following:

1. We will write up an appraisal form, with all of the pertinent information about your vehicle, including the VIN and the equipment.

2. We will get a CARFAX on it. (yes, dealers use this, too)

3. We will check the Manheim auction reports to see how much a vehicle like yours would bring if we were going to purchase it from somewhere else.

4. We will also check the NADA book to see how much a bank would loan for your particular vehicle.

That's how it works. That being said, it isn't that hard to get us to go a little further for you and try to earn your business by getting you a bit more for your trade that it's actually worth. This is called an over-allowance. Here's how to get one.

- Don't be a prick. Dealers are people too. We are far more likely to try to help people that we like. If you are nice, we will try to help you as much as we can. Honestly. I can't stress this enough. Acting like a jerk will make your salesperson hate you and attempt to add your name to his wall of fame of sky-high commissions.

- Clean up your vehicle. I know we should look past the dirt and Cheerios that your kids ground into the deep fibers of the backseat, but we can't. If the outside of your vehicle is unkempt, how likely is it that you took care of the mechanical soundness of the vehicle? Take it to a car wash and vacuum the seats. I promise you, that alone is worth another $300 at least.

- Tell the dealer how much you want. If we know going into the appraisal that we need to hit a certain number to put a deal together, the likelihood of us getting to that number increases dramatically. If you're unrealistic, most dealers will tell you.

- Tell us what is wrong with the vehicle up-front. Just be honest. If it has a check engine light on, and you know what the cause is, tell us. A check engine light could be as much as a $1,000 swing in the value of the vehicle.

- If you have a "niche" vehicle (think Hummer H1, Corvette, Pontiac G8) please be patient as we put a number on it. And don't even think of trying to have us put a number on it when the vehicle isn't present.

That's it. It's simple. Just be nice, and be realistic. Doesn't sound too hard, right?

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