The question of whether or not you can trade in a car with problems has many variables, and there’s no easy answer. With a little research and a few calls, you can determine if trading in your problem car is the best option.

Get the Vehicle Appraised

Can I Trade In a Car with Problems?A good first step in deciding whether or not to trade in your problem car is appraising it yourself by using online valuation services.

You can estimate the trade-in value pretty easily right from home. Be honest about the condition and problems with your vehicle while using these tools to get a more realistic estimate, so you have a better idea of what to expect.

These online appraisal tools aren't a perfect science, but they can help with rough estimates – especially if the car has problems. Using online appraisal tools can also offer some leverage, since you’ll have a basic idea of what the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV) might be. But remember, true AVC is subject to what a dealer is willing to offer you for the car.

What to Expect at the Dealership

If the vehicle has major issues, you could call a couple of dealerships and get some over-the-phone estimates. Be honest with dealers when trading in your car. Attempting to trick or hide the vehicle’s problems probably won’t work.

The dealer will thoroughly check the car over before deciding to take it in and may test drive it. During the appraisal process, they determine the trade-in value of the vehicle after an inspection.

Don’t be surprised if it's lower than the trade-in estimate you received with online tools. A dealer may want to change the oil, replace the tires, or deep clean the interior – as well as fix any issues that they find. They deduct these repair and reconditioning costs from the value.

If the vehicle has major issues, such as a blown engine, you may get next to nothing for it – if a dealer even accepts it. In the case of a non-running car, your best bet may be taking it a dealership that advertises taking vehicles in any condition, sometimes called push, pull, or drag events. Replacing an engine can cost thousands, and dealers usually buy trade-ins with the intent to sell them.

If you intend to trade in your broken-down car to use as a down payment on a new vehicle, it probably isn’t worth your time and money to fix any major issues. If the dealer does take your car, they can usually fix it for less than you can. In fact, if you’re trading in the problem vehicle with the intent of getting another one, depending on its issues, it may be better to save that cash for a down payment on the new one.

Other Considerations When Trading In

If your car has a few dings or some scratches, those may be worth fixing up. Remember, dealers deduct any repair costs from the offer price, and buying some touch-up paint could raise their offer.

Be sure to wash and wax your vehicle before taking it in, as well. A dirty car with mechanical issues can give the impression that it wasn’t well-maintained, and it could negatively affect the dealer’s offer.

Be sure to check headlights and taillights, and replace any burned-out bulbs. Give the vehicle a thorough vacuuming, wipe it down, and attempt to remove any stains. Also, remove any personal possessions except service records and the owner’s manual. A tidy, clean-looking car with problems makes a better first impression than a dirty, smelly car with problems.

What if a Dealership Won’t Buy It?

If you’re not having any luck with a dealer, you could try to sell the vehicle yourself, or you could scrap it if the problems are severe enough. A car with major engine issues may not get you much, but just the weight in metal could get you some quick cash from a scrapyard.

Again, this is why taking the time to call around in your local area can help you make a final decision, as well as save you time. Driving down to a dealership that rejects the vehicle can be discouraging and a major time-waster.

If your car doesn’t run and you don’t want to pay to tow it anywhere, there are services that can buy the vehicle and tow it away for you. It’s a rather hassle-free, straightforward process – if you owe nothing on the car and you have the title.

The Bottom Line

Whether or not you can trade in your car with problems is going to depend on the severity of the issues, how badly you want to sell it, and what the dealer’s appraisal is.

If you have bad credit and need to trade in that clunker for a new vehicle, a subprime auto loan could help, and Auto Credit Express can lead you to one. There are dealerships that work with special financing lenders who help bad credit borrowers get into car loans.

To get started, simply fill out our free auto loan request form. We look for local dealers in your area that may be able to help with your unique situation.