Appraising a car happens when a dealer gives you an actual cash value price for your trade-in. It’s a simple procedure, and doesn’t take long to complete. But, to get the highest amount possible, you may need to do some cleaning and fixing.

How Should I Prep My Car for a Sale to a Dealer?

When getting ready to get your vehicle appraised, you want to make sure it’s in the best condition possible. To do this, there are six things you should do if you want the highest appraisal amount possible:

  1. What Should I do with my Car Before Getting an Appraisal?Clean the car – This means inside and out. You can either get the vehicle detailed, or clean the interior yourself by vacuuming and shampooing any stains or marks. For the exterior, make sure you wash, wax, and buff it.
  2. Fix minor issues – Top off any fluids and make sure the car is up to date on regular maintenance. If any minor parts needs to be replaced, such as burned out lights, make sure these are taken care of. Any major issues that are expensive to perform typically shouldn’t be done, but know that the appraised value is going to drop.
  3. Get all documents ready – The dealership is going to get a full vehicle history report and check the VIN number, but you still need to bring in some paperwork. Have the car’s title, registration, and any service records ready.
  4. Make sure you have all accessories – Dealers typically check to see if anything is missing, as this could also affect the appraisal value. Make sure you have important items that came with the vehicle, including extra keys and DVD or SD cards.
  5. Have it inspected – Besides looking at the car yourself, you can have a mechanic look at it more closely. Everything may seem fine to you, but a mechanic can dig deeper and look for potential issues you normally can’t detect.
  6. Research its estimated value – Finally, do some research on your vehicle. You can visit valuation sites, such as, to get an estimate for how much the car is worth. From there, you can use the estimated appraised value to help you negotiate a price for your trade-in when you visit the dealership.

How Much Does it Cost to Get Your Car Appraised?

It costs you nothing to get your vehicle appraised by a dealer. In fact, you should visit multiple dealerships and compare each appraisal. This gives you more options to choose from, and you can pick the best offer available.

It’s recommended you visit at least two to three dealers, and make sure at least one is a franchised dealership that sells the make of your current car. Getting an appraisal doesn’t affect your credit score, so there’s no harm in getting multiple appraisals from different dealers.

The Bottom Line

While using valuation sites are a great start, getting an appraisal is the best way to understand what your vehicle is worth if you plan on trading it in or selling it.

If you recently got an appraisal on a trade-in and are looking for your next car, Auto Credit Express can help if you're dealing with less than perfect credit. We work with a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that have lenders available to help people in unique credit situations get the financing they need. Fill out our online auto loan request form to get started today.