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Trading a Bad Car to a Dealer

We are in a situation of buying a car keeping to our budget. Our trade-in value is extremely useful to get the price we can pay. Our trade in has just been diagnosed needing a new transmission. The mechanic did not find this right away, only after it was making noise. Do we need to tell the dealer about this? We feel really bad NOT telling the dealer; and yet, know we won’t get much for our car if we are truthful. Chances are, they will not find it. Seeking advice!

What happens when you find out the car you buy also needs a new transmission? should the dealer have disclosed this to you?

I don’t understand the situation. Is this the dealer’s mechanic that found it or someone else? In any case, the dealer has mechanics that looked at the car. They are professionals and determined a value. I don’t think you owe the dealer an explanation unless you damaged the car between the time they inspected it and the time you turn it over to them.

Yes, this is the situation. My own mechanic found the transmission issue. We will be trading in our car soon for a new (but used) car at a dealership. They will be giving us trade-in money for the car. I am afraid to disclose the issue because I know they won’t offer us much.

Satisfy yourself with the possibility that YOUR mechanic may be wrong.

Really its up to the Dealer to make sure of the condition of the cars they take in trade. I am suprised the Dealer offerd you a trade-in price before he had a mechanic check out the car,everyone knows they should have a mechanic look over a car before they buy it,you are having yours looked over by a independant third party aren’t you?

Also, I’ll note that unless your trade in is very new, the dealer was probably just going to wholesale it anyways and, believe it or not, the difference in the wholesale value of a functional car and one with a blown transmission is not that much. The trade-in is really only valuable to the dealer as part of the whole game of price dickering and really he could probably care less whether the thing even runs or not.

I think most car dealers are aware that people don’t trade in cars in perfect condition. If your car was so great, why trade it in? They are qualified to look over the car, take if for a drive and assess the condition and the cost of reconditioning it for sale. Most dealers wholesale cars that are high mileage, have body damage, or are mechanically uncertain.

Just let them look at the car and give their trade in value. They don’t ask to you to disclose anything other than whether or not the odometer shows the “true” mileage on the car. Unless you had to change the odometer and speedometer for some reason it is the true mileage.

The Whole Thing Depends On The Model, Model Year And Miles Of Your Trade-In.

If this is an older car with high miles then the dealer may be planning on wholesalng your trade or sending it to auction and doesn’t care about the condition.

Also, there’s a chance that the dealer has already adjusted the price of the car you are purchasing to cover whatever you are trading. Have you ever seen those ads that offer $3,000 trade-in allowance for cars pushed, pulled, or dragged? They don’t even care to drive your car.

The best way to buy is to deal without a trade-in and get the price of the car you want. Then decide to trade-in your car after that and see how much they actually take off the sale price.

Give us the rest of this story.
What is the price of the car you are purchasing?
What is the model and model year of your trade-in?
How many miles on your trade-in?


It was making a noise. The dealer will have a mechanic check out your car and he will be able to hear the same noise your mechanic heard and can make his own decision. Don’t worry about it, don’t bother telling the dealer about the car, he is the pro not you.

Dealers know the situation with cars that are traded. I’ve had two experiences where the dealers were honest and let me know that they didn’t want my car. The first time was in 1973 when I had a well-worn 1965 Rambler. The dealer had priced a 1971 Ford Maverick Grabber at $2495. When I suggested I had a trade-in, the price went down to $2200 and my car. When I frowned at the price, the sales manager came over and said–$2000 straight out–$2200 if you trade your car in. The second time was in December of 1995. We were looking for a replacement car for my wife. We came across a nice 1993 Oldsmobile 88 with 14,000 miles. Th price was $14,900. When I asked about trading in my 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass with the 4-4-2 trim, the price dropped to $14,500. I frowned and the price dropped to $14,200 straight out or $14,500 if I traded in the old car. In the first case, I sold the Rambler for $250. I still have the Oldsmobile as a back-up almost 14 years later.

Dealers don’t want anything but the the best trade-ins. The value they give for many trade-ins is the price you would get dealing for the car without a trade. Both dealers in my situation indicated that my trade-in would just be a pain to them. Your situation might be the same.

My Dad told me that when he went to purchase his first car, a new 1938 Chevrolet, the dealer didn’t want to discount the price of $675, but said that if he had a trade-in, there would be room to deal. My Dad asked him if he was really supposed to buy a junker for $20, push it in and bargain for a discount. The dealer gave in and he got the Chevrolet for $625.

One of my friends said they went to trade in a vehicle that wasn’t in the best of shape. Said they gave him $1000 for it, but said the guy could keep his car.
So, all they really done was give him $1000 off the sticker price(and still got a hefty commission for it too)

Rest assured that regardless of what you finally decide to do, if the dealer finds he must fix your car after you trade it in, it will cost him substantially less to do so than for you. I would be truthful about the noise if asked. But, what an independent mechanic thinks is wrong with the car is no more useful to them then you saying to them an independent mechanic thinks it’s in perfect shape. That part is useless information to the dealer and it’s up to them to evaluate the car. Trade on.

My first suggestion would be to have a second opinion on the transmission problem. Your mechanic could be wrong. What gave you the impression that there was a transmission issue in the first place? It might be cheeper to fix the tranny instead of purchasing another used car. Remember to keep emotion out of it… when you purchase a used car, you are most likely purchasing someone elses problem!

My 2001 Civic EX was diagnosed needing a new transmission after it died last week. It has 119,000 miles on it. We are going to a dealership today. The car is at the garage and needs a tow to the dealership. Once I get the price I want to pay on a new vehicle (CR-V), when do I mention the trade in and the fact the car needs a new transmission. Will the dealership arrange for the tow or will I? Thanks!

A 2001 Civic with 119K and a blown transmission is of no interest to any new car dealer. They may “accept” it to keep you happy and to keep the sale going, but they’ll only have it towed away for junk.

Don’t expect it to save you any money on your new car purchase.

I told her that her mechanic could be wrong 2 days ago,and you get the stars,there ought to be a law.

Yeah Joe that’s what I was afraid of. I guess I was hoping they would be interested in replacing the transmission and re-selling the car. The exterior and interior is in decent shape still. Just wish the cash for clunkers program was still going on. I’ll post back later tonight and let folks know what went on.

So what is going to be your opinion of the dealer who sells you another car that turns out to be problematic?
Assuming your car really has a transmission problem, you appear to be perfectly willing to palm it off on the dealer and let the next buyer find out the hard way.

For what it’s worth, few dealers send their tradeins back to the service department for inspections or repairs except under very limited circumstances.
I worked for one dealer who actually did this and he kept only the best ones; everything else when to wholesale.
With every other dealer I worked for, the service dept. seldom ever saw a Used Car Dept. vehicle.

In the few cases in which we did, the repair was often a toss-up because even at a discounted labor rate and limited parts markup, there was not that much of a difference between the amount a customer would pay and what the Internal rate was.
Maybe 15-20% on labor and 75% on parts.

While it may be fashionable to rip dealers for knowingly selling junk, the truth is that most dealers may be unaware of problems that exist because an inspection will consist of nothing more than a test drive followed by sending it to the detail shop.
This applies to tradeins, cars purchased at auction, or wherever and since most dealers and sales dept. people have comparatively little mechanical aptitude, they may be blissfully unaware that a problem even exists.

The car gets sold, a problem occurs, and the buyer is convinced the dealer “knew all about it”; which then leads to the get me a lawyer scenario.

the c4c program wasn’t for broken down vehicles. 1: you had to drive it there under it’s own power. 2: it had to get less than 18mpg combined and you had to get a vehicle that got X amount better mpg to qualify for the c4c program

You drive a Civic, that wouldn’t qualify, and you’re likely going DOWN in fuel mileage as well…
Also, for a known transmission problem, they’d either turn you away, or you’d wind up paying THEM to take it off your hands

This is an ethical sitaution. Who you are and how your moral compass goes will tell you what you do.

Personally, kudos to those who would say something or are thinking about the loser in the end.