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Should I fix it before trading it in?

I have a 2004 Mitsubishi Eclipse, about 55,000 miles, average condition, that I want to trade in. Things that need repair: left headlight only works on high beam; lifters on hatchback are shot (I use a PVC pipe to hold up the hatch.); underneath of front bumper is scraped up and torn (This car is lower and has a longer front end than I was used to when I got it.) Is it worth it to fix these things and get it detailed? Will I get a better offer that covers the cost of repairs?

A new headlight bulb should cost less than $10. New struts for the hatchback probably cost less than $50. These aren’t a difficult do-it-yourself repair. Check with a body shop about repairing the piece under the front bumper.
Keep in mind that when you trade in a car. there are two transactions: 1) you are buying a car from the dealer and 2) the dealer is buying a car from you. Now the dealer wants you to pay top dollar for his car and wants to pay as little as possible for your car. A 10 year old Mitsubishi may even go to the auction block. I would advise fixing the obvious, have the car detailed and sell it yourself. Otherwise, I don’t know how much you will gain on a trade by the repairs.

Yeah, I think you will be in for a shock when you hear their trade-in offer…Take Triedaq’s advise…

What they said. Don’t spend much on the front bumper. Maybe just trim off the torn areas.

I wouldn’t do any cosmetic repairs, but I would replace the struts on the rear door and fix the headlights before trading it in. Everything should be in working order before you head to the dealership.

I agree too. The dealer can do these things much cheaper then you and they will have a minimal affect on trade in values. Do nothing other then make the body look good, motor and trans. That’s where the real value is. So, fix if you want to sell yourself, don’t bother if you trade as the trade in sticker shock won’t vary.

I agree with Dagosa on this. A new car sales price and the related trade value are not really affected by the value of the trade in. They play a numbers game. Most traded vehicles end up at dealer’s auctions only open to licensed used car dealers. That’s where the used car lots get most of their inventory. Only a select few end up as part of the dealer’s inventory.

The cost is so minimal to repair the headlight and hatchback that its worth it to get those fixed. Plus you might save yourself the cost of a traffic fine for driving w/out a headlight. If trading it ink, that’s all I’d do. If selling it yourself, the other items would probably give a return on investment of better than break even, so it’s probably worth it. But you could probably do almost as well $$-wise just by washing it and otherwise leaving the cosmetic upgrades to the next owner. Sometimes it is easier to sell a car if it has a minor cosmetic fix, as the purchaser will think he can get a better bargain by having something to complain about.

I recall reading a story in a business book – maybe it was that Freakonomics book – where a retailer that sells clothes washers and dryers, they found they could sell more by purposely pre-denting the appliances. When the new ones came in, first thing they’d do is hit them with a hammer, before putting them out on the sales floor.

George, that explains our kitchen appliances! I don’t think we were willing to pay more for the flat because all the appliances had dents, but it had been on the market for a few months before we bought it. Maybe the realtor brought in a hammer one day… Sure looks like it. We don’t eat at home much or I’m sure we’d have fixed them by now (we’ve lived with the dents for close to 20 years.)

Maybe “The Economic Naturalist” by Robert Frank is where I read about why retail outlets sometimes pre-dent their appliances.

•Why does a $500 tuxedo rent for $90 a day while a $20,000 car rents for only $40?
•Why do female models earn so much more than male models?
Why might retailers deliberately hammer dents into their own appliances?
•Why do the keypad buttons of drive-up cash machines have Braille dots?
•Why are child safety seats required in cars but not in airplanes?
•Why are whales, but not chickens, in danger of extinction?
•Why is there a light in your refrigerator but not in your freezer?
•Why do 24-hour convenience stores have locks on their doors?
•Why are newspapers, but not soft drinks, sold in vending machines that allow customers to take more units than they paid for?
•Why are brown eggs more expensive than white ones, even though the two types taste the same and have identical nutritional value?

Why do we drive on parkways and park in driveways?

I wouldn’t do any repairs. In my experience they’ve given me low blue book value but I don’t know if that is standard. You could ask the dealer how much they would give you for your car. If the amount sounds too low ask them why. If you are told it is because of the needed repairs, ask how much you would get if it didn’t need the repairs.

Only then can you really decide whether it is worth fixing.