An important part of the haggling process when buying a new car is negotiating your old car trade in value. Knowing how much your current car is worth can help you get top dollar for it when you trade it in, and there are several helpful services available that allow you to calculate this value.
The most popular of these services is the Kelley Blue Book, or KBB, that is available both online and in print. Their website, www.kbb.com, offers a very easy step-by-step process to calculate your car’s worth, and provides you with three values-what you can expect to pay for your car, what you can expect to sell your car to a private party for and what you can expect a dealership to pay you for your car. While KBB can give you rough price guidelines, they should be taken with a grain of salt. These numbers are often six months old or older, are usually not adjusted for location and market (a critical factor) and are computer-generated numbers based on aggregated data.
Other online appraisal services exist as well, such as the calculator at InternetAutoGuide.com (http://www.internetautoguide.com/used-car-values/index.html) and the one at CarsDirect.com (http://www.carsdirect.com/tradein/about_tradeins_tab).
Individual dealerships sometimes offer trade-in value calculators on their websites as well.
Sometimes dealerships have no intention of reselling your trade-in on their lot, instead opting to take it to a local car auction and see what they can get for it. In this case, you don’t have much negotiating power. A manager at a dealership will take a quick look at your car and then consult his auction chart. This chart gives him an average price of what your car has been fetching at auctions over the past six months, and this is the price on which he will base his trade-in offer. The advantage of this system, he will tell you, is that this estimate is reflective of real-world prices.
Having a ballpark figure of what your car is worth is a good thing to know. Ultimately, however, it is solely up to the dealership to give you a price for your trade in, regardless of whether or not you think it is a fair one. Not being completely in the dark about your car’s value, though, can keep you from being taken advantage of when it comes to trading in your old car for a new one.