A question we often get from customers is on how to get the most money for their trade-in vehicle. Here are a few things that we usually tell them:

Clean your vehicle. It seems like a simple thing, but having your car clean allows the trade evaluator to feel confident about your vehicle's condition and also presents a positive first impression. A dirty vehicle can sometimes hide things like minor hail damage, scratches, and other cosmetic issues. A trade evaluator will have to spend more time looking at your vehicle to make sure it does not have any of these issues and may not feel as confident about the vehicle as she should. If your vehicle does not have cosmetic issues, it is definitely in your best interest to get it clean so it's true condition can shine without any doubt. And don't worry about spending several hours trying to make it look perfect. A simple run through a decent car wash will usually be all that's needed.

Don't forget about the interior. Remove any trash, dog hair, or other items that make your vehicle look cluttered or impose an unwanted odor. Again, you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to make it look perfect. A quick once through followed by a vacuum does wonders on making a vehicle look and smell more presentable. If you smoke in your vehicle, you may even want to reach out to a detailing shop on helping to remove any smoke odor that resides in your vehicle. A clean car will make a better first impression and will get you more money during trade-in time.

Pay attention to any warning lights that are on. These would include the Check Engine Light, Air Bag Warning Light, ABS Light, Tire Light, etc… It is usually in your best interest to spend a little money up front to look into these items even if the vehicle seems to run just fine and they have been on for a while. Have your trusted mechanic diagnose these issues to determine their root cause. Even if you do not get the issue fixed, it definitely helps to know what is causing the concern. Also make sure to get an estimate on what it will take to resolve the issue and bring it with you to the trade evaluation. This will make the trade evaluator feel more confident in your vehicle knowing exactly what is wrong with it and what it will cost to fix it. Otherwise, they will be estimating on what is wrong with your vehicle and what it will cost to fix it. Trade evaluators will typically error on the side of caution as vehicle repairs can get pretty expensive, pretty quick. This can mean less money for your trade-in. The more mystery that you can take out of your vehicle, the more you will get for it during the trade evaluation.

Do your own online research on your vehicle's value. Use reputable websites such as NADA, Kelly Blue Book, Cars.com, Car Gurus, and Car Fax. You'll want to pay attention to what the "Average Trade" or "Good Condition" value is for your vehicle. Print off any of these sheets and bring them with you to the trade evaluation. Please keep in mind though that this is not necessarily what your vehicle is worth. It can be worth more or less than those values depending on the overall condition of the vehicle and current market trends. These websites are simply guides that will give you a good starting point in your research on what your vehicle may be worth. If you are given a trade-in value that is less than these websites are showing, a good trade evaluator will be able to explain why. Try to stay away from websites such as Facebook, Craig's List, or E-bay. These websites don't show the true value of a vehicle, instead they show what the owner is trying to sell them for. A vehicle can be listed for sale for $100,000 but that doesn't mean it will ever sell for that amount. These sites can give you a false sense on what your vehicle is worth.

Make sure when getting a trade evaluation that it is not contingent on the vehicle you are buying. Traditional negotiating-style dealerships can move money back and forth and may come up a little bit on your trade although you are paying more than you need to on the vehicle that you are buying. It is in your best interest to pay attention to the overall difference and not just the trade value. At Hastings Ford Lincoln, we present you with an actual cash value for your trade. Even if you don't end up buying ours, we will still write you a check for your trade for the exact same value as previously presented. This separates the two transactions and keeps the whole process honest. If you're at negotiating-style dealership, you need to negotiate the car you are buying first without bringing up that you have a trade. Don't even mention a trade until after you have agreed upon a price on the one that you are buying. Or you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle and just come see us instead… : )