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How to Shop Your Used Car to Dealers

Many people don't realize dealerships not only sell cars, but they buy them as well.

Every time someone trades-in a vehicle, they are essentially selling their car to a dealership.

Don't ever think for a second that a dealership is doing you a favor by buying your trade-in. This is a huge profit center for them, and whether you're buying a car or not, dealers are always hungry and willing to buy a good used car.

If your current car has less than 80,000 miles and is less than 5 years old, most dealers will be ecstatic to buy it, knowing they can make hundreds or even thousands when they sell it.

Here's what you need to do to get dealers to compete and offer you their best price for your trade-in:

Step 1: Prepare Your Car

Make sure your car is mechanically sound and cleaned inside and out before you begin this process. Ideally, you'll want to spend no more than a week preparing and shopping your used car before you actually purchase your new one. A dealer will quote you a price for your used car, but if you wait too long, the offer may not be valid anymore.

Step 2: Contact Multiple Dealerships

Call several dealerships in your area that sell the same brand of car you own, ask to speak to the person in charge of buying used cars.

Use the following script:

"Hi, I own a very clean [YEAR, MAKE, MODEL] with [# of MILES]. I'm buying a new car to replace it and I'd like to know if you're interested in taking a look at it."

In most cases, the used car manager will ask you to come to the dealership so he can have a look. If not, you just saved yourself a trip to that dealer.

Step 3: Negotiate and Compare

After you've called at least 2 or 3 dealerships, start visiting each one. When you get to the dealership, tell the used car manager that you're shopping the car to a few dealerships and you'd like to know the best price he can offer you.

Be sure to read my article on How to Negotiate Your Trade-in for tips on getting the best price.

Step 4: Finalize

After you negotiate price with all the dealers, you'll know the highest price you can get for your car, but you're not done yet. Most states offer a tax credit on your trade-in when you buy a new car, so it makes sense to try to sell your used car at the same dealership you buy from.

You may not get a better offer from that dealer, but you can show them the best offer you got from the other dealer and ask them to match it. In a worst case scenario, they know they can just turn around and sell it to the other dealer for the specified price so they won't be losing money.

Even if the dealer can't match the price, they will try to make it work out so you still end up with a better deal through the use of the tax credit. If for some reason they can't, just sell your car to the dealer that offered you the best price.

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar No-Haggle and Edmunds Price Promise are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

Gregg Fidan

About: Gregg Fidan

Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.

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