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How do I trade "down"?

I’m planning to purchase a vehicle that is worth considerably less than the trade in value of my current vehicle (also less than my current loan balance). How does this work? It’s difficult for me to imagine a dealer writing a check in order to sell a vehicle.

A car lot will be very happy to pay you cash for your car. But they will only pay wholesale. They are in business to make a profit. Check the online pricing sites and enter realistic answers. And certainly they will sell you a car, with or without a trade.

Thanks for the reply!

You need to separate the two transactions in your mind. You are selling one car and buying another. Try to get the most for your used car, and pay the least for your new car. Dealers will combine the two transactions to confuse you, and to give you the least for the used car while charging you the most for the new one. That’s one reason not to trade in your car, selling it yourself instead. You can get a free offer from used car dealers like Carmax and compare it to the trade-in amount you’re offered.

Thanks. I just found it difficult to imagine a dealer “paying” to sell a car.

I understand. I recommend coming to agreement on the new car price before you even bring up the subject of your trade-in (assuming you don’t sell it yourself). That’ll help keep the two transactions separate.

Will do. Thanks again.

Here’s an additional idea.

Call up a couple different dealers in your area, and tell them that you have a car you want to sell that you no longer need anymore. Tell them what it is, how many miles are on it, and ask them what the range is that they would be willing to buy the car for.

If they want to inspect the car, let them.

Then, with those offers in your pocket, find out how much your car dealer is willing to give you for your car, combined with how much of a discount they are going to give you for the new car you are buying.

If it makes more financial sense, sell your car to one dealer, and buy the replacement car from its dealer.


Your best deal would likely be to sell the car yourself. You should get considerably more than wholesale.

CarMax makes a business of buying cars, even if you don’t buy one from them. I sold them a minivan and got a great price for it - a lot more than I expected. No, I don’t work for them. I suggest that you check trade-in values and private seller values on for your car. Decide if the difference is wroth trying to sell it yourself. And you will also know if the value they offer is a good deal for you. If they offer less than you expect, ask why. Maybe there are some things the car needs that you are unaware of. If you don’t like the price one place offers, try another.

Try, autotrader and and sell it yourself.

Do you have positive equity in your current car or are you under water? If your loan balance is larger than the wholesale value of your car, you will have to bring cash to the deal.

If you trade a more expensive car toward a less expensive car there will be no sales tax (at least here in CO). If you are trading your Bugatti Veyron for a Ferrari 599, this could be significant.


Dealers seldom if ever trade cars and write a check to the buyer…I suspect you are greatly overestimating the value of your current vehicle and underestimating the cost of obtaining your next vehicle…

You probably would be better off outside of a dealer. It is just like stocks, Sell high, buy low.

The KBB trade in value of my vehicle is $30,100; the KBB private party value is $32,500. The listed price of the dealer vehicle is $22,900.

KBB “trade-in” values are typically $3k - $5k over what dealers will actually pay. How much do you owe on it? Dealers may want to even trade you on this deal.

Is the Dealer even offering to take your car in trade? who is making the decision on what the car is worth? You are correct that unless you are trading is some rare model, they wll not be writing a check.

Why not sell it yourself & use the cash to buy the cheaper car? Probably get a better price.

The maximum bang for your buck is to sell yours yourself.

My Dad did it this way.
He sold his 01 Ford E150, Amigo cart hoist, swivel seats etc.
He bought a new 07 Focus, tax, title & insurance.
– with NO money out of pocket. —

Or better still, donate it to Public Radio and take a tax deduction for it.

I will make one suggestion. DO NOT give your key to the dealer You will be stuck for hours while they are trying to wear you down to agree to their offer. Only after you have an agreed price for the new car, then let them take a look at your car and you can work on an agreed price for it.

I would go further and make sure I had my cell phone with me and if they run past the 15 minutes for their test drive tell them they have five minutes before you call to report a stollen car.

Keep them from controlling you. It is your right. The best part is once they know they can’t bully you them may make a good offer.