Cruising on a new ride while inhaling the leathery scent of a fresh interior is one of life’s greatest luxuries. The brand-new steering wheel and the mint dashboard makes you let out a sigh of satisfaction because you’re driving off with the latest model.

But, before you could breathe in that fresh car smell and drive away with new wheels, you’ll have to figure out how much your old car could fetch for a trade-in. You might shrink at the idea of doing the math to determine its worth, but it’s a far better option rather than not knowing its real value. The trade-in might require extensive research and several trips for appraisals, but it will surely help you get that sweet new ride you’ve been wanting for a long time.

Car Values: Trade-in, Private Party and Retail


Setting up your old car for a trade-in requires knowing a few terms related to it. You need to understand what these means, as they help you gauge if the estimates given to you are fair and realistic.

A trade-in value is an amount a dealer proposes in exchange for your old vehicle. The trade-in value also acts as a down payment for your new car prospect. As you contemplate this, you may come across related terms that form the basis of dealership quotes and estimates.

A retail value is the price of the vehicle including the costs for upkeep and transport. This also includes all other costs (advertising, cleaning, detailing, etc.) and is also padded with the dealer’s markup.

A private party value is the price of a vehicle agreed upon by two private entities. The seller benefits from this transaction because of a higher price, but there may be a need to spend on repairs and upgrades. On the other hand, the buyer pays a slightly reduced rate, but this occurs without warranty or finance options.

The trade-in value, retail, and private party value reflects the worth of your car should you consider going to a dealership or if you could benefit from selling it on your own.

Determine Trade-in Value


Several factors determine the trade-in value of a vehicle. These can revolve around the car’s condition and its history, the current market, as well as the demand for vehicles in a given locality.

  • Car Condition

Dealers often consider the year and model of your vehicle, mileage, added features, and cost of reconditioning when appraising your vehicle. Newer models, like those with two-toned car paints, have higher trade-in prices as the dealer can dispose of these more quickly than older ones. Mileage also says a lot because a higher number on your odometer says you’ve been on the road most of the time, and it might indicate mechanical problems in the future.

Interiors also count towards or against your car’s trade-in value. Leather seats are a plus, but pet hair and carpet stains can depreciate their worth. The same thing goes for windows and exteriors. An appraiser will surely notice dents and scratches, no matter how minimal these may seem. All these can spell the difference between getting a “good” to “fair” condition for your vehicle.

  • Car History

Dealers will also ask about your auto loan (if any), if your car was recalled, and in what instances along with a history of car accidents and repairs.

  • Market Demand

Car markets also experience fluctuations in prices. Used car markets also experience high demands for certain brands such as Nissans, with pick-ups and SUVs preferred by most Americans. The timing could also dictate the prices of trade-ins. Now is be the best time for a trade-in as the Covid-19 pandemic brought a slow down on the sale of new cars, and people are finding ways to save money by buying used cars. You could take advantage of higher trade-in prices to meet the current demand.

Steps in getting a trade-in estimate


There are three ways you can get a trade-in estimate. Two of these require a few taps on your computer, while the other requires driving in for spot-on inspection and appraisal.

  1. The easiest is to go online and make use of trade-in calculators. Usually, these require putting in your vehicle’s year, model, and make. You also need to include your mileage and location to get a fair estimate. Aside from this, you can also check similar listings on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and eBay Motors to have an idea how much your car could fetch in a trade-in.
  2. Email dealerships such as to get an estimate. Aside from the details required by online trade-in calculators, you also need to prepare necessary documents (vehicle title and registration, auto loan payoff and registration, etc.) to upload so that they can give you a decent estimate.
  3. Check local lots and dealerships. It’s best to contact two or three dealerships to obtain appraisal values for you to consider. You can even request if these values will be honored even if you don’t purchase a new car from them.

Ways to increase trade-in value


Online estimates set the baseline for your vehicle’s appraisal. The real deal comes when you’re at the dealership. But, before you go for a drive, you might need to take note of the following suggestions so that you can maximize your vehicle’s worth.

  • Give your car a wash and a vacuum before heading off to the appraiser. You won’t get close to the estimates you got online if your ride looks like it came from an off-road trip. Ensure you have a decent car wash and allow some vacuum time to prepare the interior for a thorough check-up.
  • Fix dents and scratches. You might think that a scratch is no big deal, but picky appraisers can take this against you. You can patch these minor flaws with store-bought remedies to keep your exterior in good condition.
  • Remove personal items inside the trunk and interior.  You probably consider your car as part of your family. It’s been your reliable travel buddy that you’ve made it as comfortable as your home. But, the appraiser might mistake personal effects for trash. Be sure to keep your interior and trunk empty while you’re at the dealership.
  • Consider auto detailing. Auto detailing goes beyond car wash, as it also entails deep cleaning for your interior and even under your hood. It restores your exterior’s luster and adds shine to its windows. Think of it as a car make-over that’ll surely make it worthy of its trade-in value.

Drive Away

Trade-ins often leave owners confused and disappointed when they drive away with a new car thinking they could’ve gotten more for their old vehicle. The truth is, trade-in values reflect how much love you’ve shown your car all these years. The only external factor that affects it is the market demand—the rest is what you do when you’re behind the wheel. Vehicles depreciate the moment you turn the ignition. However, regular maintenance and some last-minute touch-ups will surely give you the trade-in value you desire and the difference between a sad parting with your old car and a victorious smile on your new ride.