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Prep before trade-in?

My old Nissan Quest has reached the point of diminishing returns, so I’m looking to buy a new car. What can I do to maximaze the questionable trade-in value of this old car? I do plan on getting it detailed, because it has been chronically filthy for years from carting around my kids. But should I address any other of its aging issues (I mean, lovable quirks)? It has a couple of dents. The rear window washer doesn’t work very well (the rear wiper is fine), and the VCR (yes, VCR, really!) didn’t work at all last time I tried, probably around 2008. Also, the dashboard brake light often flickers when I turn right. I had the brakes checked out, and the mechanic said the problem was in the light itself, not the brakes. Tires are so-so, enough tread but starting to cup. It was inspected and stickered just two months ago. I obviously don’t want to put a penny into this car that won’t bring me a positive return in trade-in value. Where is the breaking point for return on investment in terms of trade-in value?

If you are trading it in, my recommendation is that you clean it out on the inside, run it through a carwash and call it quits. The dealer will probably send it to the auction house anyway. You won’t get a dime more for anhy repairs you do on the trade.
If you are going to sell it yourself, then you might consider the detailing and have it in good enough shape to pass a safety inspection.

Year/miles would help up out here…

You can go to and in the used car section click on “appraise your car”. With the current mileage, zip code, color, and options entered you will get a good idea of the trade in value, also the private sale value, and what a dealer would charge for sale on a car lot.

Detailing services have lots of different levels so you can decide how much you want to spend on the clean up. It likely won’t make much difference but if the charge is nominal it can’t hurt. If the interior is really gross it would hurt the appraiser’s opinion on the car. Some dealers will keep a clean low priced car to appeal to lower income buyers and other dealers will send it auction. It depends on the dealer’s location and their business model.

Prepping an old beater for tradein will not alter the tradein value you get one dime. As Daq said, this one’ll go straight to auction. It’ll end up with some tiny startup dealer with an unpaved lot.

The amount you get i trade. Will be solely based upon a predetermined minimum amount that the dealer is willing to offer for tradeins just to get sales.

I would not pay anyone to do anything to your van. If you want to clean the inside well, that’s fine. But you will never get back whatever you put into repairs or detailing by someone else. Unless you sell the car to another driver and not trade it in.

My father’s advice was to never put money into a vehicle you don’t plan to keep. If you spend money on it, you will never recover that money on trade-in. I wouldn’t even get it detailed. You might detail it yourself if you have more time than money.

I am the asst used car manager at my dealership… Wash it and clean up the inside, other then that leave it. As others have said its going to auction or to a wholesaler… But clean does help

If you want to get decent money for the car, you have to sell it yourself. A dealer has to make a profit to stay in business, and the profit comes from the net deal on the new car you buy. I know that many folks do not want to sell their old car, and I understand why, but it will cost you money to pass that burden on to someone else. For the most money, you have to do the work of selling your old car. That means clean it, fix the flashing brake light, and put it on

Thanks, everyone, you helped - and it looks like you saved me $$, too.