Car trade-in value – get your highest offer

    car trade in value

    What is trade in value?

    Trading in your car can be a handy way to knock some money off the cost of your next vehicle. Trading in a car requires a dealer to agree to buy your car as a part exchange, and take the trade-in value off the final purchase price of your new car. Most car dealerships, including branded ones like Audi, VW, BMW and MINI will offer a part exchange service.

    While that all sounds perfectly simple, it can require a bit of compromise on areas like selling price. You can also opt to have a car valuation with our Car Value Tracker to get an idea of what it’s worth if you were to sell it.

    How do I trade in my car?

    Part exchanging your car (there’s no difference between trade-in and part exchange) is when you sell your current car to a dealer as leverage for a new one. If you aren’t too fussed about shopping around, this can be as fast as driving to a dealership, agreeing on a trade-in value and driving away in a new car. Be warned, the precise value you get may not meet your expectations, though.

    How do dealerships find the trade-in value of my car?

    A dealer will look at many of the same areas a private buyer would look at when it comes to valuing your car, namely:

    • Age
    • Mileage
    • Cosmetic condition
    • Service history
    • Extras such as seat upholstery, air conditioning etc.
    • Location

    It’s always good to have a general idea of your car’s worth before you go to a dealer, so you aren’t walking in blind. Motorway can provide an instant, real-time car valuation based on live market data, so you’ll always get an estimate that’s accurate to the day of your query. 

    How trade-in value works

    We advise that you don’t enter into a part exchange with particularly high expectations. Generally speaking, when it comes to pricing up a car, it can very much depend on the fate of the car, so make sure you understand what the common terms mean.

    Wholesale valueThe vehicle’s price if it was entered into a dealer auction — not applicable to you as a consumer.
    Retail valueThe cost a dealer sells a car for, usually reached by calculating the vehicle’s wholesale value, transport, repairs, and general overheads.
    Private party valueThe cost you could get selling to a private seller. A private seller can offer the highest price, but admin falls to you.
    Trade-in valueThe price you’ll get for offering your car as part exchange. This is often lower than other options as the dealer needs to keep their markup in mind for reselling your old car.
    Salvage valueFor cars that don’t hold much value as functioning cars, they can still be worth something as scrap. Even if it’s just cash in exchange for the weight of their metal.

    Is trading in a car worth it?

    This depends on what you define as being ‘worth it’. In terms of cost alone, you’re unlikely to make as much as you would with a private buyer, that said, you’d also have a lot more admin to deal with if you were looking to sell privately. Here’s a general breakdown of cost vs convenience.

    MethodConvenience Sale price
    Private buyerLowHigh
    Car buying sitesHighAverage
    Trade in/part exchangeHighLow

    As you can see, the balance of high convenience and high sale price is a hard one to perfect, but at Motorway, we think we’ve done a pretty good job. When you sell your car the Motorway way, dealers compete to give you their best price. With a network of over 5,000 dealers, you can expect a swift and easy sale right from your phone. We can connect you with dealers who will help clear your car’s finance if you purchased your car using a finance scheme like PCP.

    What happens to cars that are traded in
    Dealerships may accept your old car as leverage towards a new one.

    What happens to old cars that are traded in?

    Your car will be put up for sale once it’s been traded in, usually after a bit of a spruce up. If your car fails to sell then the dealership may send it to another location where it thinks it would sell better. For example, a smart car would probably fare better in Birmingham than in rural Wales, whereas for a Land Rover it may be the opposite. Of course, if all else fails, there’s always the car scrapping option. 

    For the record, once a dealer agrees on a trade-in value and takes your car, and you happily drive away in a new one, that’s it. You have no responsibility to help the dealer get a good deal on your car, so the fate of it, be it in the forecourt or the junkyard, isn’t something you need to worry about. 

    Do they drive your car when you trade it in?

    There’s no strict rule here. Some dealers might just check the mileage and cosmetic damage. Others might want to take your car for a quick spin to make sure everything is in working order before deciding its trade-in value. This is why it’s good to have a valuation figure in mind so you can know if it’s more than just your car that’s being taken for a ride. 

    Ready to sell your car?

    Want to read more about owning, valuing and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from depreciation and maintaining your car’s value. Understand your car’s worth in the wider market.