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Repair first or just trade in?

So I’m ready to trade in my car. I did a blue book valuation on it and its at 7000. Doesn’t mean I’ll see that from a dealership but my question is: How do you know when to make repairs before trading in versus simply trading it in?

I need a new windshield - cost: 350 out of pocket
I need body work on two scrapes on bumper - cost: 400 out of pocket
I need hail damage removed, multiple dents all over car. 500 out of pocket.

So, total repairs could be 1250 out of pocket. Is the blue book reliable enough, or do I need to take it to a proper dealership and get a trade-in value first?


you probably wont gain 1250 from doing those things.

How do I know if the dealership is offering me too little? I mean, they’re going to shoot low anyways, but what should my ballpark be? I’m thinking 5000…

How can we possibly guess without knowing year, miles, model, and engine?

Go to all the websites they use, Blackbook, Edmunds, NADA, and you already have the kbb. Sometimes you will present what its worth from kbb for example and they will come up with something lower, say they used blackbook or something.

Thank you! I’ll get a valuation for each source and write it down. If they shoot low, I’ll walk - thanks!

Glad you are willing to walk, that gives you leverage in negotiation.

The fact is you will never really know. If they give you $5,000 vs $4,000, that $1,000 in this example will be made up in the purchase price negotiation.

I personally am not a fan on trade in on a new car. The pricing gets really fuzzy and one thing I can guarantee is that the dealer will not lose money on the transaction. Your purchase price varys significantly based on how good or bad your negations are. For example, my dad is not as good as he thinks he is. He was about to buy a new camry and he called me before he finalized the deal. I told him it was way too expensive and I took over his negotiations and cut the price almost $2,500 from what my dad had negotiated at a different dealer.

The point to my story is that they can offer you whatever makes you feel happy. If it is a high number, they will not discount your new purchase as much as they might otherwise would have.

Back to your original question. I doubt that fixing the $1,250 in minor repairs will yield you $1,250 more in trade in value. If you sell via private sale it might make a difference to have a new windshield but chances are the buyer would rather have a discounted price in lieu of repairs.

When buying a new car, first find out exactly what you want. Don’t let the salesman talk you into something you don’t want. Then start the negotiations. Don’t be afraid to walk out the door if you are at the dealer. I went into a dealer late before they closed to buy my wife a 17 Rav4. They wanted to sell us a car but that pricing was not great. I walked out and said that I was going to the other dealer across town. We discussed price there too. I walked out there as well. The next day they both called me back and the price dropped another $1,500 from the night before. Then I went to true car and edmunds and got quotes there too. Some of those quotes came from the same dealers that I already visited. Funny how that best deal was not as good as they already offered me. I ended up negotiating over the phone with a different dealer (via edmunds quote) and negotiated even better deal. The local dealers said they could not do the deal at that price so I made the hour drive and picked up the new car. In order to know what you are really getting for your used car is to spring it on the dealer after you have determined what you out the door price will be. Now you know what you can get the new car for without trade in and the simple math will tell you how much they will give you for your used car.

Also before you consider trade in, go to places like carmax and find out what they will buy your car from you. At least you will have a benchmark to compare to. It might be best to buy from one dealer and sell your car to another if you don’t want to mess with selling it yourself.

Wow, thanks for the great reply - I’m currently getting valuations from all sources you listed. Thanks immensely for sharing your personal experience and advice!

I was gonna say just clean it up good and forget the windshield and bumper scratches, but the hail damage is something else. I think they will really ding you for that and what do you base the $500 on? No insurance to cover it. I had about 20 hail dents and it was over $1000 for the paintless dent removal. They expect to spend some to clean the car up and take care of the scratches, tires, etc. but it’s very hard to sell a car with hail dents all over it.

One thing to consider with Carmax and selling a car yourself is the possible sales tax issue. The trade in is deducted from the new car cost for the purpose of sales tax. If you sell the car on your own, you will pay the full tax on the new car. Can be substantial depending on your state.

Yeah I like to get the lowest price too but when you walk away two or three times over 3-4 months and still can’t generate much difference in pricing, you pretty much know that’s what your are going to have to pay for a new car. If the car is in demand, the dealer just isn’t going to be calling back the next day begging and offering $500-1000 off from the day before. Maybe on left overs that haven’t sold but not on high demand models.

Thats not the case in all states. My state they would consider the pre trade in price your taxable amount. Then if you get a sweetheart deal, the state will arbitrary assign a value to the vehicle that you are subject to tax on. In Oklahoma, they dealer does not collect the tax. Taxes are paid when you register the vehicle.

In Minnesota there is sales tax and registration/licensing. Both sales tax and licensing is collected by the dealer but the price is the same regardless of who collects it.

Your welcome.

Be sure you are negotiating the out the door price including any documentation and various fees. These fees can be expensive and vary significantly dealer to dealer. You need a price to actually compare the various dealers.

There should be some good deals out there. The auto sales boom is starting to bust and there are massive unsold inventories out there across the manufactures. This is a buyers market.

Also one more thing, if you require financing, get pre approved at your bank of choice first. Now you are also armed to negotiate the financing. If they can’t give you a better rate, then you go with what you already have. If the dealer will beat it then you can take their offer. This prevents the last minute curve ball. After you go through the exhausting process and you are in the financing room, if they spring something crazy on you, you are going to feel ashamed and pressured into taking a high financing rate. If you do this before, there will be no surprises. Be sure and check your credit reports for any items that might need to be resolved before hand.

Also watch out for all the addons that they will try to gig you on in the financing room. Extended warranties are very expensive. Typically the auto makers will give you a second shot at the warranty before the original warranty is up. Typically they will start mailing you stuff 6 months before your factory warranty is up. At this time, these warranties are often deeply discounted (50% off) and you can choose to buy or not. The benefits to this is reduced cost and not paying interest on this for a couple of years. When I bought my Rav4, there were a handful of these little addons that they were trying to sell. Once when buying a car, the financing rate varied based on if i purchased the overpriced warranty or not. I hate those kind of gimmicks.

The dealer is just going to wholesale your vehicle to a used vehicle dealer along with other trade ins they don’t want on their lot.
All you can do is agree to a final deal you can live with. The only people who will know if you got a good deal or not are the closing agent and the sales manager. Don’t tell anyone how much you got for your trade or how much you paid for the new one. No matter what the price is relatives and co-workers will always say you paid to much.

Why not ask the dealer what the trade in difference would be?

I completely agree with that

That goes with any purchases, as a matter of fact

When coworkers borrow tools, they sometimes ask how much I paid as they’re returning them

My standard response lately is “I’ve had it awhile now, unfortunately I don’t recall what I paid” . . . even if I know darn well what the tool cost me. Some were full price from the tool truck, others were bargains from ebay, but my coworkers don’t need to know such details


This smart alecky one-up-man-ship is a problem in almost every parameter of owning a car. I bought a stripped 1967 Chevy II new, it didn’t even have a radio. A few years later, I sat down and examined the journal where I recorded all car expenses. I forget now the figures, but it must have been around 7 or 11 cents a mile. that was nearly 50 years ago and my memory is not perfect That included all expenses, and purchase price, minus resale value at the time.

The big heroes at work, threw a fit. “That must be a terrible car! My car doesn’t cost anywhere near that much!” And, they all had much more expensive cars, top of the line with all the options. And, most of them traded for a new one every few years.

The difference was, I had accurate figures, and they were dealing in Science Fiction. Their true cost per mile was probably double mine.

In the late 90’s, I had a big, old Pontiac wagon, around a 1986 model. If Parisienne was a Pontiac wagon model, that might have been it, not sure any more. I mentioned to a hero at work, that I got around 17 mpg at 70 mph on the highway.

He informed me there was something really wrong with that car. He had one much like it, and he told me he averaged well over 24 mph on the highway on long trips. Hohohohahahaheeheehee.

Over my lifetime, I have learned when I encounter one of these people, that I call sarcastically, heroes, that they are unhappy, pathetic non-achievers who will never do anything special in life, nor help anyone better themselves. So, knowing they are never going to rise to a higher level, they attempt to drag others down to their level.

(By the way, not to get into politics, but historically this was the profile also of those filled with racial hatred. They need to invent someone lower than themselves, and certain minority groups were obvious targets.)

The truly high achievers are almost always positive people willing to support those around themselves. A few years ago, when Nobel Winner Dr. Norman Borlaug died, I commented to almost anyone who would listen what a great man he had been, and he spent much of his life in Mexico, in the Valley of Mexico, with the double season for food grains.

Most folks here in Mexico never heard of him. But, we drove a few miles south to buy farm chemicals. The engineer at the Agrochemical store immediately said when he studied for his agricultural engineering degree at UNAM (in Mexico City and worked on the same farms as Dr Borlaug) that he worked with the good doctor. He said Dr. Borlaug was one of the most pleasant and friendly people he had ever known. If you didn’t know who he was, you would never suspect he is the only man in history credited with saving over one billion lives (and still counting.)

The car I drove to work was about 11 cents a mile but the car the wife drove was somewhere around $2 a mile. The difference was the number of miles and the cost of the car amortized over the number of miles. If you put half a million miles on a car, the initial cost is insignificant per mile.

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That seems to ring a bell in my mind

Full size, square body style, double rectangular sealed beams on each side, body on frame, corporate cousin to the Caprice, correct?

Don’t remember exactly which small block it had, though. Either 5.0 or 5.7, I believe

Yes, that sounds right. While I think it was 5.7, my memory cannot be trusted very much. But, Yes, I think it was the “Pontiac Caprice”. Big old thing.

I wouldn’t mind too much having a good one like that, but of course that old here in Mexico would be a nuisance to keep repaired.

I gotta’ ask my wife. For some reason I can’t remember what color it was. Seems like it was blue. Strange I can’t remember.

But, I did not and do not think you could get 24 mpg without pumping the tires to 90 psi or something. I didn’t hot rod it that much and it got around 17 mpg at 70.