Calculating Fair Trade-in Values

The deal on the new car has been sealed, but there may be one important matter left undone. And that is calculating the trade-in value, what ultimately might clinch the sale or have the buyer changing his mind and leaving your showroom in search of a better offer elsewhere. Once you lose the customer there may be no going back. Here’s how calculating fair trade-in values will turn your shoppers into buyers.

Determine Trade-in Value Early

Dodge ChallengerIt is important for salespeople to determine whether a trade-in will be involved early in the sale. If the customer says that she will trade in her car, then ask for the keys to have it evaluated by your shop. Make it known to the customer that the evaluation is free and that her keys will be returned to her as soon as the appraisal process has been completed. In the meantime, continue with the negotiation.

Obtain the Vehicle History Report

At the same time the shop is reviewing the car, they should obtain the vehicle history report for the car.

It will serve as evidence to the customer if your offer comes in lower than her expectations. For instance, if the car has been in an accident, its value has been diminished even if the repairs were successfully completed. As the dealer, you know that the same vehicle history reports are available to customers, including people who want to buy the car from your inventory. You could lose money if you do not take previous problems into consideration, a fact you must share with the customer at trade-in.

There is another point that dealers must consider when accepting a trade-in. If the car involved is part of a major recall, including one that was initiated due to injuries or deaths, you are the one who will be held liable if something goes wrong, not the customer. That also means if the car is traded in with open recalls, you may lose time acquiring parts to make the car ready for sale.

Establish a Fair Trade-in Value

Lexus ES350Your appraisal team may be able to determine a value simply by examining the car. Of course, that is not enough as the value must be backed by hard data. A service such as should be consulted and it may also be the same service used by your savvier customers.

It is important that the information related to the car is precise, going beyond the make, model and year, and right down to the trim level, engine and transmission, mileage, and other details about the vehicle. Take note of the rough, average and clean trade-in prices as well as the retail price. Wherever possible, aim for the average trade-in price when presenting the appraisal to the customer. Adjust if necessary to account for low or high mileage and other factors. This will be your starting point for negotiation.

Present Your Offer

At some point in the car buying process, you will have the appraisal offer in hand to present to the customer. Your company’s policy may be to present the offer as part of overall negotiation, but the customer may want it handled separately.

Regardless of the policy, you will quickly learn if the amount offered has satisfied the customer. There is a very good chance that he’ll hold out for a higher amount. Be prepared to explain how that figure was determined, but don’t be surprised if the customer presents his own data offering different numbers. It is at this point when the business office will get involved.

Making it Fair

Audi A6What one person considers a fair value may be perceived as inequitable by the other, usually the customer. If the difference is a few hundred dollars, you might be instructed to meet the customer part way. It is at this point you need to gauge the customer to determine whether a deal is possible or if the sale is about to collapse.

For the salesperson, he may feel caught in the middle between the car shopper and his business office. The process can become especially difficult if both sides come armed with data and are firm in their positions. Fortunately, your company likely has some steps in place to help close the deal.

One of these steps may be to offer the customer something for free, such as paint or door protection. The retail cost of the item may more than offset the price difference, but only cost your company very little to implement. Do what is necessary to help the customer understand that the trade-in value is fair.

Satisfying the Customer

Your deal will close if the customer is satisfied. If not, you risk having the trade-in taken off the table. And in many cases, the trade will cancel the deal as it usually serves as the bulk of the down payment.

Ultimately, the business manager will either approve or nix the trade-in value. If the car being traded in is something your lot can turn around and sell for a significant profit, then more than likely your manager will bend to the customer’s wishes.

See AlsoDealers: Use Open Recalls to Drive Sales

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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