Ready for your close-up? Teeth flossed? Eyebrows plucked? Nose hairs clipped?
Your vehicle might not be in showbiz, but it gets its own version of the close-up, when you hand it over to the dealership’s used vehicle manager, for him or her to establish its trade-in value.
It’s a one-shot deal. Don’t blow it. Here are some ways to make sure you get all that’s coming to you.
Clean the vehicle “Whether you’re the appraiser or not, nobody wants to get into a car that has a wet dog smell, a bad food smell, or an unknown smell,” says Nick Di Tommaso, the pre-owned sales manager at Formula Ford, Pickering, Ontario.
For that reason, he recommends potential trade-in vehicles get a professional detailing, especially the really ripe ones. And continuing with the theme, Di Tommaso notes that an $8,000 vehicle will be discounted to around $6,500, if it is obviously an odiferous “smoker’s car.”
Install a new air freshener Not a lot of money, a whole lot of “gee this smells nice.” Your choice of fragrance, but we’re partial to “Linen and Sky” from Febreze.
Change the engine oil
“One of the items the appraiser checks for sure is the engine oil,” says. Di Tommaso. “It’s an indication on how well you looked after the vehicle. If the oil is completely black or very low, it shows you haven’t been good. But if it’s just freshly done… Makes a huge difference.”
In this vein, if your vehicle has a good service history, collect all receipts and records and show them to the appraiser.
Collect all the factory paraphernalia
“The vehicle came with four hubcaps, don’t show up with three,” says Di Tommaso. So find and arrive with everything that came with the car, including extra key fobs, entertainment system remotes and earphones, cargo area nets and screens, and fallen off interior knobs.
Install the right tires
If it’s August and you’re still driving around with the winter tires, maybe get the all-seasons or summer tires on before the appraisal. They give the vehicle better ride and handling, and better looks, especially if the non-winter set is mounted to attractive alloy rims. You can throw the alternative set in the trunk, but make sure they’re clean.
Know what the price guides say
Do your homework. Research what your vehicle is worth both retail and wholesale. Realize that the trade-in value will almost always be “wholesale.”
Don’t take the first offer Get three appraisals. Di Tommaso says dealers will often differ in their appraisals, because the guides are only that — guides. Every used car manager will have different needs and wants, and will have to rely a bit “on their gut,” as to what will and won’t sell on their individual lots.
Fix select items
You don’t have to completely recondition the vehicle before you trade it. Not wanting to put any more money into your ride might be the prime reason you’re trading it in. Just remember that some small things that are amiss might knock your appraisal lower than it should, because the appraiser will have to factor in a repair, and will usually do so at the high end.
If a new gas cap can address a “Check Engine” light, then get a new gas cap.
If a faulty power window can be fixed with a fuse, then get a fuse.
Di Tommaso recommends that anything that makes the vehicle unfit for the road, should definitely be addressed, or the test drive will not even happen, or end up being very short. Don’t show up with bad brakes, imbalanced tires, non-working wipers, or a dead moose on the roof that’s not properly tied down.
Di Tommaso also notes that the used vehicle departments of new vehicle dealerships typically pay the same charges for reconditioning work performed in their respective service departments as would “regular customers.” Therefore, if you have access to a less expensive alternative for service work and parts — particularly tires — you might go a little further down the reconditioning road, so the appraiser doesn’t asses all your ride’s needs at “full retail” amounts.
Keep church and state separate
Establish the trade-in value before you negotiate the price of your new ride. Get appraisals in writing. Some dealerships may give you more on trade-in, with the notion to make up the difference on the purchase price of the new vehicle, or vice-versa.
Lying, fudging or misleading the appraiser on stuff like accident history and past use as a rental vehicle will show up anyway on easily accessible history reports, and will only cast dispersions on you and your vehicle.