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Can I Trade in a Car with Problems? Here’s Everything You Need to Know!

how to trade in a car with problems

Are you considering trading in a car with problems? While trading in junk cars is a growing industry, it’s not without its drawbacks. One of the biggest hurdles you may come across when trading in a used car with problems is dealing with fake local pre-owned car buyers who want to get the best bang for their buck. Thus, they offer you a lowball value and hound you to take their quotes. And worse of all, if you cave in and sell, these phony buyers will want you to deliver your vehicle to them. This means that you will have to cover all of the towing charges to get rid of your used car.

⚠️ If It's Broken, Don't Fix It - Get Paid Cash for Your Vehicle ⚠️


Selling your car to a scrap yard to be utilized for parts can be an easier process. All you have to do is haul the car to the scrap yard, have it weighed, and then get paid. However, you will only be paid for the price of the scrap metal, which leaves you with significantly less money than you started off with. And for scrapping to be effective, you must drain all of the fluids from your car, as well as remove the car battery before you have the vehicle towed.


To avoid the hassle and headache of selling your car to the scrap yard or a cheap junk car buying company, here is everything you need to know about trading in a car with problems.


Should I Fix My Car Before Trading It In?


The better condition that your used vehicle is in, the higher its trade-in value is going to be. But what’s not as obvious is how much work you should put into your old car before bringing it to the dealership. Major repairs are best left to the pros. They will do it for less money, and they won’t add the cost you paid for repairs to the trade-in value. Small fixes that you can do yourself, however, are worth the effort.


Here are some things to fix on your car before trading it in:


  • Clean and/or Replace the Headlights: Before trading in a car with known problems, be sure to check all of your lights, both inside and outside, and replace any bulbs that have stopped working. These car parts are affordable and available for purchase at all auto parts stores.


If your headlights are just foggy, you can clean the lenses yourself to give your car a fresh new look. You can buff out the headlights yourself by rubbing toothpaste over the lens cover with a soft rag. After, rinse it thoroughly with water and then let it air dry.


  • Top off Your Fluids: Check your engine fluids and top them off if necessary. This includes the oil, brake, radiator, transmission fluids, and the windshield-washer reservoir. This is a simple job for the dealer to do, but they may be left wondering whether you’ve properly maintained your car, which could result in a lower trade-in price.


In addition to your fluids, ensure your wiper blades are in good condition. If they’re dried or cracked, they’re an easy and inexpensive fix.


  • Use Touch-Up Paint on Small Scratches: If you have small scratches, scuffs, or dings in your car’s paint job, cover them up with some touch-up paint. You can find touch-up paint at a dealership or online for $20 or less.


  • Wash and Detail Your Car: Make a great first impression when you pull up with your used car at the dealership by thoroughly washing and detailing both the outside and the inside. Firstly, hand wash and wax the exterior. Waxing it will instantly add an appealing shine. Then, climb inside the cabin and clear out all of the trash and personal items you want to keep. Next, vacuum both the carpeting and seats.


Don’t waste your time or money on significant repairs before trading your old vehicle into the dealership. Leave the heavy lifting to them as they are in the business of fixing and reselling used cars.


Will a Dealership Take Any Car as a Trade-In?


A car dealership will accept any make and model of used car in any condition. Even if the car isn’t currently running, you can still have it towed in as a trade. Dealerships don’t care about rust, stains, dings, or dents. However, some dealerships will not accept the car if it has significant collision damage, such as a missing bumper or destroyed fender.


While you obviously will not get top dollar for your used car, you can rid yourself of the headaches that come with your old vehicle.


Is It Illegal to Trade in a Car with Problems?


While it is not unethical to trade in a car with issues, you will not get top-dollar for your trade-in.


When you meet with the dealer to trade-in your used car, they will thoroughly inspect it for damage and deduct the costs if any necessary repairs need to be made from the value of your vehicle. If you know if there is anything that is significantly wrong with your pre-owned car, it is best to be upfront about it. This is only because dealers will sometimes make less-than-generous offers if they discover the issues on their own.


It’s a smart idea to get your vehicle with problems appraised before you take it into the dealership as a trade-in. Sites such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, and the National Automobile Dealers Association all have online appraisal kits that make appraising your car super easy. These tools allow you to include your old car’s condition for the most accurate figure. However, many dealerships have their own estimates of the cost of repairs, and these can differ from yours. Dealerships are also required by law to fix critical problems with old cars before they resell them, so be aware that your dealer will deduct the cost of these repairs from your old car’s trade-in value.


How to Trade-In a Car with Engine Problems


If you don’t think that you can trade-in your car to the dealership, you can sell it to a company that buys cars with engine problems. The company will inspect your car and the extent of its problems. Always be honest and upfront about any known issues the car might have.


How to Trade-In a Car with Transmission Problems


Just like trying to sell a car with engine issues, there are plenty of companies that will take a car with transmission issues too. These companies work hand-in-hand with partners that will utilize the car for all of its parts. They ensure that the total process is performed in an environmentally-friendly fashion.


Pros and Cons of Trading Your Old Car In


When it comes to deciding whether to trade your old car in to your dealership or sell it, it can be a rather difficult choice. Many folks prefer the simplicity of trading-in their old ride because it avoids the hassle of trying to sell it on your own. Here are some pros and cons of trading-in a vehicle with problems:




  • It’s a simple way to get rid of your current car. You can just hand it over to the dealership.
  • You can use the trade-in amount as a down payment on a new set of wheels.
  • There’s also a tax advantage. Many states will charge sales tax only on the difference between the trade-in value and the new-car price.




  • You may not get as much money for your trade-in car if you were to sell it privately yourself.
  • To get the best deal, you will probably need to haggle with an experienced sales person over the trade-in price.


Selling a Car on CarMax


Sometimes, trading in a car with transmission problems isn’t the best decision for some people. You may want to try to sell your car CarMax, a national used car retailer. It’s quick, simple, and can leave you with a lot of cash in your wallet.


Here are some simple tips on selling your car to CarMax:


  • Before you head over to CarMax, look up the estimated value on your car on one of the websites we mentioned before.


  • Bring your extra set of keys, the car’s title (or “pink slip), the car’s valid registration, your driver’s license, information about your car loan if you are still paying it, and your check book, in case you owe more than the car is worth.


  • A CarMax appraiser will then thoroughly inspect your vehicle and provide you with a non-negotiable written offers for the trade-in value.


  • The inspection process will take as little as 30 minutes. While you wait, you can also check out other cars that you may be interested in purchasing.


Trade-In Value vs. CarMax Offer


If you have gotten a trade-in value from a dealership, you can compare it with the CarMax offer. Hopefully, the CarMax offer is the same or more as the trade-in value offered at the dealership.


Selling your old car to CarMax has many advantages, including:


  • It eliminates the hassle and expense of advertising your car and showing it to strangers.
  • CarMax may offer you a higher price than a dealership.
  • They handle all of the paperwork and work in accordance with state and local laws.


Should You Trade-In Your Vehicle or Keep It?


Whether you decide to trade-in your car or keep it depends upon your unique circumstances and needs.


There are several reasons why trading-in your vehicle is a good idea. It can lower the down payment on a new car, come with potential tax savings, and help rid you of the burden of your non-working vehicle.


Many of today’s cars can effortlessly pass the one-hundred-thousand-mile mark on the odometer with the proper upkeep. But as your vehicle ages, its value will decrease. Is your old car worth all of those upkeep and maintenance payments to keep it running? Or should you trade it in for a newer vehicle?


What Not to Do When Trading-In Your Car


If you want to make the most money off of your trade-in, here are a few things to avoid doing that could deter the process:


  • Underestimating or Overestimating the Car’s Value: As we stated before, it’s important to know your car’s value from a reputable site such as Kelley Blue Book. Know how much your car is realistically worth before going to the dealership.


  • Not Cleaning Your Car: You should thoroughly wash and wax the exterior of your car and clean out its cabin before you sell it. Always ensure your vehicle looks its best before trading it in.


  • Forgetting Important Documents: Never forget to bring your maintenance records, title, loan paperwork, and any other essential documents with you to the dealership. Missing information may mean that you cannot trade your vehicle in.


  • Not Knowing the Car’s History: Has your car been in any accidents? Has it been properly maintained? You need to be able to give all of this information to the dealership before you trade it in.




You can trade-in your car with problems. It’s important to be open and honest about all of the troubles that you know your vehicle has. If there is extensive collision damage, some dealerships may not offer to buy your trade-in. However, you can also contact CarMax, or other used car buyers who will purchase your vehicle for parts.


Before you attempt to trade-in your car, wash and wax it, clean up the cabin, fix minor repairs, and have all of the proper paperwork in order. Also, be sure to check out Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to get the correct estimation for how much your vehicle is currently worth.


Trading-in your car can save you a lot of time and hassle from trying to sell it yourself and can provide you with the cash to get a newer, and better, vehicle.























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