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What to Do with Your Old Vehicle

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Your Old Vehicle

Trade it or Sell it? What should you do with your old car?

Trading-in old cars is easier than trying to sell them. Selling might require you to run ads, talk to strangers and negotiate prices. Trading-in usually takes less time and effort, but selling will usually net you a higher return. If neither of these options is appealing, consider donating your car to a charity to earn a tax deduction.

Whether you decide to trade-in or sell your old car, you should always clean it thoroughly before prospective buyers or wholesalers see it.

Cleaning Tips

  • Clean the engine yourself or have it done professionally, but be certain that electronic components are not exposed to water
  • Wash the exterior thoroughly and then apply a good wax to the body
  • Clean the windows using glass cleaner and newspaper: the ink acts like a polish
  • Use a revitalizing cleaner on the interior surfaces
  • Vacuum the floor mats, ashtrays, and trunk interior
  • Remove from the glove compartment all items except owners' manuals
  • Use a special cleaner on the tires, and ensure that they are safely and adequately inflated
  • Use a very lightly scented air freshener being certain not to over-apply it — less is more

Trading-in to a Dealership

When dealers accept your vehicle as a trade-in, they plan to sell it to another buyer, so they fully expect to make a profit on it. There are four important points to know when trading-in vehicles to get the highest value possible.

  • Tell the appraisers that you are selling your car — not trading it nor buying another car
  • Ask the appraisers for firm "buying" offers
  • You receive "wholesale" dollars for vehicles rather than "retail" dollars when trading-in
    • Values vary by vehicle, but wholesale is generally at least one thousand dollars less than retail.
    • As vehicle values become incrementally higher, there is a greater difference between wholesale and retail values.
    • The important fact that merits repeating is that wholesale values are always less than retail values.
  • You should ask for values from various sources and then compare them to gauge your vehicle's maximum wholesale value most accurately
    • American Airlines Credit Union Loan Officers use the N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide to determine trade-in (wholesale) value and will share that information with members
    • One of our Preferred Dealer Networks provides wholesale and retail trade-in values on vehicles from three of the world's leading used auto valuation companies
    • Used-car businesses will provide quotes
  • In some states, the amount of trade-in value you receive is deducted from the sales price of the vehicle you buy before sales tax is calculated
    • For example, if you receive $3,000 trade-in credit and purchase a vehicle costing $20,000, you would pay tax on only $17,000
    • The amount of tax savings realized like this can offset the difference in value realized between trading-in a vehicle and selling one to an individual
    • Contact your local department of motor vehicles or department of public safety to confirm your states' tax laws
  • Remember that trading-in vehicles is only one part of the three-part transactions that occur when consumers buy new cars from dealers. Be sure to read Three Separate Transactions for a complete explanation

Selling to an Individual

The retail values of used cars aren't "fixed" numbers. Variables that impact these values include sellers' negotiating skills, supply and demand market forces, and the conditions under which the vehicles being sold. Receiving retail value will probably gain you more capital but will require more time and effort.

There is an old saying in the auto business: "A used car is only worth what someone will pay for it now."

  • Determine an asking price — retail value being the highest and wholesale value being the lowest
    • American Airlines Credit Union Loan Officers use N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guides to determine retail values
    • One of our Preferred Dealer Networks provides wholesale and retail trade-in values on vehicles from three of the world's leading used auto valuation companies
    • Check your local newspapers to see what sellers are asking for vehicles similar to the one that you're selling
  • Advertise it
    • Consider running ads in your local paper and in an automobile publication. Those publications usually give you additional tips about writing ads and selling cars.

American Airlines Credit Union Loan Representatives will also provide advice and suggestions about disposing of old cars.

 

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