What do you do when you’re finally ready to part with your car and it’s time to decide whether to trade it in to a dealership or conduct a private sale?

Well, if you’re like most people, you’re probably going to start researching trade in, private party, and retail pricing on similar vehicles to the one you have. But wait, you realize that not every car fits that mold! You might have the rare V6 Turbo option and most people that year got the 4 cylinder model. Or, you added a ton of accessories after the fact, so your vehicle can’t be worth what the books all say because you invested $3400 in tonneau covers, window tint, custom wheels, lighting kits, towing receivers, and the like so obviously your vehicle will be worth more than the book value, right? Wrong!!!!! That $800 moonroof option you had to have when you bought it, only accounted for $50 in the total appraisal you received. Remember, not all trades will have the same mileage or physical condition.

Book values are compiled from a number of criteria and were originally conceived to align with a “fair market system” for insurance reasons originally. Since that time, consumers have pillaged vehicle evaluation sites quoting what they see printed as the true gospel value and are often mislead because of several factors.

To truly know what to expect, I suggest knowing your margins both high and low and be willing to compromise if you can get close to an agreement with the other party. If book value says your car should trade out for $12,367 & your dealer comes back with a few items for improving the condition to make it appealing to a future buyer they would sell to, then I’d suggest considering the offer that comes back very seriously if you’re not wanting to drive that old car anymore provided that it would come back anywhere in the vicinity of a fair market value to you. Even if the offer comes back at $11,000 or $1,367 less than you estimated based on someone else’s online research.

The bottom line is that there are several companies online that all boast claims of being the definitive authority in online appraisals, but that’s never what you get. What you have instead are several sites that generally have very similar figures calculated to represent trade value based on odometer readings, age, condition, and trim level. In other words, five different online sites will generally generate five different quotes as to what they say your vehicle should be worth.

If you are selling, be prepared to deal with people who will scrutinize your vehicle over what you’d consider small things and then be prepared to let them meet with you, test drive your car, negotiate, stall, and exchange documentation for the vehicle. (Note: If you are going to let someone test drive your car, be sure to get their driver’s license info and have your insurance in order in case there would be an accident while they are behind the wheel.) Don’t forget that when you deal with the public, you will often have to sacrifice time that you might want to otherwise have to yourself in order to negotiate your sale! Sometimes this is the defining factor in whether or not to trade to a dealer. And remember in some states, it is even beneficial to give up perceived private party sales for trade in value if you make it up in tax credit by be taxed on the difference in trade vs. sale price of your new vehicle instead of being taxed on the amount of the purchase vehicle solely.

If you are a saavy shopper, check out all the most popular sites first. Take notes when you visit based on the criteria I just outlined. Consider your vehicle history. (Note: Accidents in the vehicle history and Carfax reports with accidents listed will skew the data you’re researching, so be prepared for a dip in the offer if that is the case. Also, if you are trading a rebuilt or salvage vehicle, these sites won’t have data to support an evaluation.)

When you’re finally ready to visit a dealership in person, make sure you are dealing with a sales professional and not a typical “salesman”. You should be able to tell pretty quickly by the way that they carry themselves. Are you being treated with respect and courtesy? Is the salesperson inquiring on your likes, dislikes, usage needs, driving habits, and any changes that may be soon to happen like parental expectancy or change in job requirements or disabilities? Did this person highlight your key areas of interest in the walk around and demonstration? Did they open up the hood? (Note: 90% or higher won’t show you what’s under the hood unless you ask. A true professional will show you what’s under there for reasons of driving home the benefits of the safety systems, reliability, durability, and easiness of knowing what to possibly be aware of should you need to get under the hood for any reason, such as blown fuses, refilling the washer fluid tank, etc.)

If you ensure that you are dealing with a pro, they will thoroughly go over the vehicle they are attempting to sell to you and be equally as thorough in evaluating your trade for the highest and fairest possible value.

A truly great sales professional will make your time spent with them as enjoyable as they can and provide an exceptional delivery with follow up and service long after you leave the showroom.

Thanks for checking out this post. Please leave any thoughts on the subject in the comments below or email me at wmccormick@toyota.bertwolfe.com.