Going from car owning to car leasing with a trade-in
September 28, 2018 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I have a 2011 Nissan Versa hatchback with 83k miles. I am considering making the leap to leasing, as my lifestyle and needs are different than when I was younger and liked to road trip a lot. I understand the lease part but my question is more about my trade in.

I have always been a car purchaser - finance the car, drive it until it dies and then repeat. The dealer where I purchased the Versa is the one that I would like to use. My car is dirty, hasn't been washed in a few years and is also dirty on the inside.

My question is this: When I talk with the dealer about a trade in, do they calculate it based on the paper/book value, or do they tend to do a thorough inspection? I ask because I intend to detail the car before trade in, but that's probably going to cost me $150 - $200 (it's THAT dirty) and I want to know if it's worth it to go all out, or just do a vacuum, wash and window/dash wipedown.

I have about $2k in payments left on the loan (car will be paid off next July).

The car also needs a new muffler (one mechanic called it a "cat-back") and I was quoted about $700 to fix by two sources - an independent garage and also the dealer I'm using. Should I get the muffler fixed or just trade it in as-is? I would assume that the dealer will fix it up for resale, so should I do all the legwork and present them with a shiny, clean and repaired car, or does that even matter?

I'm in SW Connecticut, if that has any bearing on the answers. Thanks!
posted by sundrop to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total)
I vote yes on the detailing if needed to remove stains and grime. Why? Because in order to maximize trade in value, the buyer should to see what they are getting. If there is layer of grime the analysis is easier to go in an unfavorable direction, where the buyer thinks the problem is worse than it is because they can't see the condition of the paint and upholstery underneath.

Similarly, I vote you dont need to fix the muffler because that the dealer can evaluate on inspection easily along with the rest of the mechanical issues and adjust the offer accordingly.

If you havent done so Kelly Blue Book online has a condition quiz to evaluate whether your car is in poor fair good or excellent condition and adjusts the trade in quote accordingly.
posted by charlielxxv at 8:56 AM on September 29, 2018

I’d do the work and then take it to CarMax and get an appraisal. It’s good for a couple of weeks or so and will give you a baseline and a negotiating number with the dealer and it’s more solid than a figure pulled from KBB. The appraisal is free.

You can decide to go with whatever the dealer offers or take it back to CarMax and take the price they offer. I’ve done it both ways (take the dealer’s offer; sell it to CarMax) and was happy with the convenience and the $$$ both times.
posted by notyou at 11:23 AM on September 29, 2018

Thanks for this advice. Update: I went to the dealer today and found out that not only am I underwater with the car value (vs. what I still owe), my credit score is low enough that I don't qualify for a loan. My only solution is to fix the muffler and go back to the way I was doing it before (drive car until it dies, buy new car, repeat).

I appreciate the replies - thanks again.
posted by sundrop at 6:18 PM on September 29, 2018

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