How to part-exchange your car

Andy Newbound

By: Andy Newbound

Your car is a fantastic tool. It transports you wherever you need to go; work, holidays, retail therapy, family days out…the list is almost endless.

Many of us get emotionally connected to our vehicles. They’re an extension of ourselves; often a representation of how stylish or smart or successful we are. Even when the relationship with our car has come to an end and we’re on the lookout for something bigger, brighter and better, our current car remains a valuable asset which could be used to help pay for our next car.

Deciding how best to change your asset into cash can be a challenge. Do you sell it on the open market, take it to a Cars For Cash company, or do you go straight to the dealer and trade it in as part of a part-exchange deal?

Why should you consider part-exchange?

Many people choose the part-exchange route. Indeed, over 3 million people part-exchange their cars at a dealership ever single year. So why exactly is it so popular: What are the benefits?

It’s no coincidence that part-exchange is such a popular way of selling a car. For a start, it’s a one-to-one process; you and the dealer. There’s no advertising needed, no time wasted waiting for people to turn up, no awkward test drives, no risk of the buyer backing out, no waiting for a payment to be received.

Part-exchanging your car with a reputable dealer is quick, immediate and straightforward. Often, you can turn up at the dealership and conclude your deal in no time and with no hassle at all. The dealer will even take care of all the paperwork for you too, leaving you free to get down to the real and exciting reason for visiting the dealership – to buy your new car.

What’s the alternative to part-exchange?

Remember, it’s unlikely that the dealer will be prepared to pay the full market value for your car, even if it’s in fantastic condition. The dealer has to sell your car on and will want to make a small profit (that’s how a car business works, after all.) Yet when you consider the alternative, a part-exchange deal is still a very attractive option.

Selling the car privately might net you a little more cash, but think about the drawbacks: Advertising costs, time taken and time wasted, making appointments with strangers, and haggling with potential buyers. By the time you’ve considered all these things and the time, effort and cost it takes to sell privately, a convenient part-exchange deal starts to look very competitive.

What things should you consider?

So, you’ve weighed up the various options and wisely decided that part-exchange is the best route for you. This doesn’t mean you should jump in your car and drive straight to your nearest dealership. There are a number of things you should consider before that.

Firstly, is your car in the best possible condition? Spending a little time and energy preparing your car can often make the difference between getting a good deal and a great deal, sometimes boosting your car’s value significantly. Here’s what we recommend.

Clean and Polish

Many dealers will interpret a well looked after car, with a spotless interior and polished, glistening paintwork as a sign that the car has been cared for under the bonnet too.

- Give the exterior a thorough clean. Remove all dirt and grime from each area of painted surface, and make sure you remember to clean the window inside and out, using a specific window cleaning solution to prevent streaks.

- Think about giving the paintwork a cut and polish. Although it might take an hour or two of extra effort, the results will certainly be worth it.

- Clean the cabin and interior. Start with the door jams and clean out the pockets too; these have a habit of collecting unseen grime in the corners.

- Make the glove compartment presentable and clean, and vacuum the carpets and upholstery. Also invest in a new set of car mats to make the interior even smarter, and clean out the boot.

Repair the faults

Small dents and scrapes can often be repaired easily and cheaply using SMART Repairs.

In addition, there are smaller areas and minor repairs that you can sort out yourself. This includes things like your car’s lights, windscreen wipers and tyres. Plus, top up your car’s fluids if they appear low.

Find the paperwork

Providing official car documents and paperwork can help you establish a degree of trust, credibility and reassurance. Here’s what we recommend you include:

- V5C document. This is also known as your car’s Log Book. It shows vital details to potential buyers.

- MOT Certificates. It can also be a good idea to collate your current and old MOTs, plus invoices for any maintenance work you had done as a result of advisories.

- Service History. A full or even part service history can boost the valuation of your car. Make sure you can supply the car’s original service handbook and that it has all the relevant stamps from an authorised dealer or approved garage

For more detail about the documentation needed, please see: What documents do I need to part-exchange my car?

What to expect at your part exchange dealership

Reputable dealers usually want two things from any deal; a good profit margin and a happy customer. They also recognise that you can’t have one without the other. It’s important that you’re as happy with any deal as they are; happy customers will recommend them, unhappy customers do the opposite.

This means that you should always be treated well. The sales person will usually talk to you about your car, ask about its history, and then inspect it. Don’t be surprised to see them look under the bonnet, start it up, even take the car for a brief test drive.

Then, when they make you an offer, they’ll explain why the offer is as it is. Remember, the sales person won’t offer you the retail price for your car – that’s the price they’ll look to sell it at. They have local knowledge too so they’ll know how well your particular model of car sells.

How to prepare yourself

So, once you’ve got your car into the best possible condition, what else can you do to ensure that you’re in the best possible shape to get a good part-exchange deal? Well, lots actually, and we’ve made a list of the things you can do before and during any negotiations:

Research thoroughly

With so much information now available online, a quick search of any car selling website will give you some idea of what cars comparable to yours, particularly those in your area, are worth. Many Cars For Cash companies, such as WeBuyAnyCar will give you a free no-obligation quote. Plus you can also get a free online estimate from a car valuation service, such as Glass’s Guide.

For added convenience, you can use Stoneacre’s no-obligation part-exchange valuation service here Just provide a few details, including your vehicle’s registration number and mileage, then receive an accurate price by return.

Set a minimum value

Once you have your valuation, you’ll be able to set a minimum value that you’d be prepared to accept. Then, even during the heat of the part-exchange price negotiations, you can bring the situation back down to earth by insisting the dealership at least meets your minimum.

Cost up any repairs

Don’t worry if your car is showing a degree of wear and tear. The sales person and even the online valuation services will take this into account when working out a price; they expect to see chips and dents, even the odd scratch.

However, if your car has more damage than this, it’s still not necessarily bad news. Again, do your research. Get a local garage or friendly mechanic to give you a realistic estimate for the price of the repair work before you go car shopping. Then use this yourself to set your own minimum selling price.

Stick to your guns

If negotiation isn’t one of your core skills, going head-to-head with an experienced car sales person could feel intimidating. Don’t be nervous.

However, if you’ve done your research, know your car’s valuation, and set yourself a minimum part-exchange price, you should feel confident. Sure, the sales person does this every day and will know how to get the best deal for the dealership. Yet that doesn’t mean you should accept the first offer.

The first offer is rarely the final offer. Ask for more, but be prepared to give and take. If the sales person sees that you’re prepared to be realistic and a little flexible, they’ll usually match your approach. The final agreed part-exchange price is almost always nearer to your price than the dealership’s first offer.

Have a Plan B

Remember, if the dealer’s numbers don’t stack up or make sense, it’s not worth taking the deal. With this in mind, always find another car that you can go look at.

Indeed, knowing that you have a plan B often gives you the confidence to say no to low offers and the strength to negotiate a deal that suits you.

Being willing to walk away from a deal will ensure the sales person places all their cards on the table. If they are willing to offer a little more discount, then the fear of losing the sale might be all the encouragement needed to make them sweeten the deal.