Real Leverage in a Trade Negotiation

When you are negotiating the price of your trade, book values mean nothing to the dealership. You cannot sell your car to Kelley Blue Book or NADA, so the dealership will not take those values seriously. 

The best way to get some negotiating power on your side is to come prepared with real offers that dealerships will buy your car for.

There are two great ways to get leverage on the value of your trade: instant offer tools and taking it to a dealership to get a real offer.

Instant Offers Online


Instant offer tools can be completed online and therefore a great place to start. It is important to know the site you use is going to sell your information to dealerships. The job of the salespeople at those dealerships is to create a relationship with you and try to earn your business by buying your car outright or getting you to purchase one of their vehicles. I recommend giving out  a working email, (that is how the price information is going to be sent to you) but save yourself a headache and skip giving out your phone number. Remember, right now you are just doing research.


When using an instant value tool giving accurate information matters: find your VIN, input the real mileage, honestly answer questions about your tires, windshield cracks, any warning lights that are on, any large dents or scratches and so on.


These systems will often err on the side of caution, giving you a slightly lower number than you may receive at the dealership because they are trying to make the dealership profit. But, as long as the information you entered is correct, you have a real offer that can be used to strengthen your negotiating position.




Taking your vehicle to Carmax is one of the few tips you regularly find online that I fully agree with. Carmax usually offers the best trade quotes, based on the actual condition of your vehicle, and they will purchase your vehicle for even if you do not buy their vehicle. (As a side note, if you receive a trade appraisal from CarMax that is much lower than what you were expecting or what you need, it is a good sign you need to readjust your expectations on what your vehicle is worth.) CarMax appraisals are good for 7 days, and I can confirm that a CarMax appraisal is something that a dealership will take seriously in a negotation.


If the dealership will not match a CarMax appraisal there can be a couple reasons:

  1. The used cars at CarMax will generally have a higher markup than a new vehicle, so they can afford to pay more for their trades.
  2. Carmax has a national network, so they can move particular vehicles to areas with higher demand easily

Whatever the reason may be, if a dealership can not come close CarMax’s offer, you MIGHT want fall back on the CarMax offer, but only take your trade out of the deal after you read on and understand all of the benefits you get from trading your car into a dealership.


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