Factors that affect the trade-in value of your car

Looking at the various parameters that will affect how much a dealer will give you part-exchange on your old vehicle.

Here we look at the key factors that affect a vehicle’s trade-in values, and also remind you that Carzone has a helpful car valuation tool that you can use to ascertain your car’s fair market price – right here.


One of the principal factors that can negatively affect a trade-in value on a used car is its age. Car buyers, even second-hand car buyers, prefer newer cars to older ones and this distinction isn’t just isolated to, say, an older generation of vehicle compared to a newer one (i.e. Ford Focus Mk1 versus Ford Focus Mk2), but also down to near-identical machines on different plates. So, for example, if two used cars are the same make, model, mileage, trim grade, colour, interior finish and general condition, but one of them is a 141 plate and the other is on a 142, the latter will be worth a bit more on trade-in values than the former.


Very similar principle to the above, only this time relating to how many kilometres (or miles) are on your vehicle’s odometer. Although the days of cars being considered ‘past it’ at 160,000km and more are long gone, there remains lingering buyer sentiment that expresses doubt about the reliability (or otherwise) of vehicles with higher mileages showing. On the same example as above, if two otherwise-identical second-hand cars have different distance values, the one with the fewer miles showing will be worth more money on a trade-in to a dealership or garage (i.e. a car with 50,000km on the clock will be worth more than if it had 80,000km on the clock), as it would be worth more money when it is eventually sold on.


People like luxuries and so higher-spec cars have greater value than equivalents with fewer toys. This means that, for example, a Toyota Corolla Sol is worth more than the same car but in Luna spec.


There has been a consumer backlash against diesel in recent years and so trade-in values of cars powered by this once-popular fuel type have been depressed as buyers tend to shy away from older diesels. You’ll find dealers might even offer you less than they’re still worth on a trade-in value, as they might be worried that the car will hang around on their forecourts for an inordinately long amount of time.


Seems obvious, but many people don’t seem to realise that a used car is not going to be worth as much money to anyone, let alone a second-hand dealer, if its bodywork is covered in scuffs, scratches and dents, or its interior is shabby. The next step in this is active problems on the car, like engine management lights showing or faults with onboard electrics. You will not get a good price on a trade-in value if your car is not in the best condition it can possibly be – allowing for its age and mileage, of course.


Connected to the above, a car might look all clean and shiny on the surface, but if it has a patchy service history then the trade-in value you are offered will be less than it would be with a spotless maintenance record. Folders showing receipts for repair work carried out throughout the vehicle’s life will also boost part-ex figures, as it shows greater care on the part of past owners.


Two things any car must have if it is to drive legally on the roads of Ireland are a current National Car Test certificate (once the car reaches its fourth birthday) and motor tax. If either of these have expired, the trade-in value will likely be depressed by more than whatever it would cost you to either put the car through the NCT or buy it some fresh tax.


Some buyers are put off by a long list of previous owners on a second-hand car. This will have a more significant negative effect on the trade-in values of everyday or commonplace cars, because these normally change hands less often than rare cars or high-performance sports cars, which can be chopped and changed more regularly. A litany of multiple owners suggests there might be an underlying, hidden problem with the car that these past custodians have failed to fix – instead just moving the car (and problem) on to someone else. You’ll get lower trade-in values for otherwise-identical vehicles where one of them has six past owners and the other has two, although – once a car has changed hands too many times and you’ve ended up with it – there’s nothing you can do to reduce the number of past owners.


Like the specification of the car, many vehicles when new come with a long list of cost options. Some of these, if ordered in the showroom, might not add as much to future used values as they cost in the first place. But some features are more desirable on certain vehicle types – for instance, automatic gearboxes are preferable to manual transmissions on cars that will regularly be towing. Try and gen up on what the cost options were on your car when it was new and which ones buyers seek out, to know if you’ll get a better trade-in value.


If you’re trading in a used car of the same make as a newer (or new) car you wish to buy, you might find the dealership gives you a more generous trade-in value as a ‘loyalty bonus’. This is not a hard and fast rule, but – for instance – a second-hand Volvo might be worth more on a trade-in at a Volvo dealership than it would be at a Peugeot dealership. You ought to also get a superior trade-in value at a bigger dealership (either a main dealer or a large third-party outfit) than you would at a smaller, independent garage, although (again) this doesn’t always hold true as some smaller car dealerships may try harder to win your custom and offer you a fairer trade-in price.


Finally, always remember that with a trade-in, you are paying a ‘hidden’ fee for the convenience of the deal. The process is that a dealer will use your car’s value to be offset against whichever newer or greater value vehicle you wish to buy. However, the dealer then has to clean your car up, put it back onto their forecourt or into their showroom, and hope someone takes it off their hands soon. To that end, the price a dealer will offer for a trade-in is less than the car would be worth if you sold it yourself. Car dealers aren’t doing this for the love of the game; they’re a business, they’re in it to make a profit. So if your car is worth €10,000 on the used market, a dealer may offer you around €7,000 for it, with the aim of selling it on for €10,000 eventually. If that bothers you, you’re going to have to go through the hassle of selling your car yourself to get the most money.