If you’re in the market for a new car, you want to get the best price available. Taking advantage of incentives like trade-ins can lower your final bill and help you save. Learn how to maximize the value of your trade-in so you can snag a great price at the dealership. 

How Does Trading in a Car Work?

A trade-in car is a vehicle you offer the dealership in exchange for a discount on a new car you’re trying to purchase. The trade-in value of your car is the amount of credit the dealer gives you during the trade, which you can put towards a new car. If your car’s market value is still relatively high, you could save thousands of dollars with your trade-in. If you plan on financing, the credit can be bundled into your monthly payments to make them cheaper. You can typically trade in any car that still has market value, but the trade-in value will vary depending on a few different conditions:

Due to depreciation—the reduction in the value of an object over time—your car loses a lot of its value when you drive it off the lot. Your car continues to depreciate until the resale value of your car is zero. If your vehicle has some resale value, you should be able to use it as a trade-in.

Man signing documents with car key on table - how to trade in your carShould You Trade in a Car That Isn’t Paid Off?

It’s possible to trade in a car that isn’t fully paid off yet, but it’s important to make sure it’s beneficial for you. Before you visit the dealership, see if your vehicle has negative or positive equity. You’ve achieved positive equity when the trade-in value of your car is greater that your remaining payoff amount. If you have positive equity, your car’s trade-in value can cover the remainder of the loan with some left over for the new car.

Negative equity, also known as being upside down, means you owe more on your auto loan than the potential value of your trade-in. If you still have negative equity, experts recommend waiting until you’ve paid off a greater portion of your loan before trading in.

How Can I Get the Best Trade-in Value?

To get the best deal on your trade-in, make sure your car is clean and well maintained before bringing it to the dealership. Remedy any minor problems so your car is looking its best when you trade it in. This can include fixing any mirror or window issues, tuning up your motor, attending to your tires, etc. Like getting a quote for car insurance, some dealerships will give you an estimate of the trade-in value of your vehicle online, so you can compare quotes before hitting the lot.

Trading in your vehicle? Don’t forget to secure insurance for your new ride before your first spin around the block. The General specializes in high-risk insurance, which means we offer policies to drivers with less-than-perfect credit scores and driving records. You can get an insurance quote in under two minutes or read more car-buying tips on our blog.