How to part exchange on a car

Part-exchanging your old car can reduce the price of a new one – and save you the hassle of having to sell your old model. So how does part exchange work? We explain.

Part-exchanging your old car can reduce the price of a new one – and save you the hassle of having to sell your old model. So how does part exchange work? We explain.

Daniel Hutson
Motor insurance expert
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Posted 10 OCTOBER 2019 Last Updated 21 DECEMBER 2021

What does part exchange mean?

When you part exchange a car, you trade it in to buy a new or used car from a dealer. The value of the car comes off the price of the new vehicle. This could save you money and might be easier than selling your old car privately, auctioning it or selling it outright to a dealer with no exchange.

The advantages of part exchange

Part exchanging your vehicle means you won’t need to cope with the stress of advertising it, organising viewings and test drives, and haggling with potential buyers. Plus, you won’t have the problem of a buyer coming back to you because something has gone wrong with the car.

Part exchange pitfalls

The main problem with part exchange is that you probably won’t get as much for the car as you would if you sold it privately, because you won’t be setting the price yourself. However, you can still negotiate with the dealer over price, and you can put yourself in a better position for doing this if you go in prepared.

Getting ready to part exchange

Before approaching a dealer about a car part exchange, you need to have an idea of how much your car is worth on the market. A car’s value is based on its age, its condition, the mileage on it, its specifications, and any modifications you’ve had done to it. Popular makes, models with added extras, unique colours and a low mileage are factors that can make your car more desirable to car dealers and private buyers alike.

There are several online tools, like AutoTrader, you can use to get a value for your car and it’s worth looking at a few to get a fuller picture. Of course, the resale value online isn’t necessarily what the dealer will agree to pay for it, as they will want to make the deal as profitable as possible, but knowing your car’s value will help you negotiate.

It’s also good to have a figure in your head of how much you’ll accept for your car. If the dealer’s offer is too low, it might break your car-buying budget – so know the cut-off point at which you’ll be willing to go elsewhere or sell the car privately.

Decide where to part exchange

Do some research on the dealers you could approach. If you’re getting your car serviced at a local dealership anyway, it might be worth checking to see if they can offer you a good deal. Franchised dealers can make it easier for you to buy another car of the same make, and their familiarity with the brand means that they can easily appraise your car.

How can I get a good deal on a part exchange?

As well as getting to grips with the range of how much you want and how much you’re willing to accept for your car, it’s important that it – and the car’s paperwork – are in tip-top condition.

Dan Hutson

From the Motor team

"If you’re looking to part exchange your car, you’ll get a better deal if you know exactly what vehicle you want and what your current car is worth. You don’t have to accept the first deal offered to you – you’re the person in charge and you can walk away if you want to.”

Get the car looking its best

Sort out any minor repairs before you take your car to the dealer – they’ll spot even the smallest scratch. Top up your oil, pump up your tyres and make sure your car is clean inside and out. If your car needs any mechanical work, it could be worth getting a quote from your local mechanic to see if it’s worth getting it fixed before you head to the dealer.

Ensure your car is as complete as possible with floor mats, spare wheels and other extras present and correct. You should be able to provide both sets of car keys, if possible. Dealers will want these for security reasons and modern keys can also be very expensive to replace.

Get your documents in order

Make sure you have:

  • an up to date MOT certificate
  • service records
  • any invoices for tyres and other vehicle extras
  • your V5C log book

Be honest about any issues you’ve had with your car. It’s easy for dealers and private buyers to check your car’s MOT history online to see your mileage, whether it has passed or failed the MOT in the past and any advisories, so it’s not worth trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

Should I part exchange on my car?

Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you’re determined to get the highest price for your car, it may be better to sell it privately. Do some research on how much cars similar to yours are selling for and compare this with potential part exchange prices before you make your decision.

If you’re chomping at the bit to buy your new car and would rather take your time to get a good sale on your old car with a private buyer, you could also consider car finance to bridge the gap.

Compare car finance

Frequently asked questions

Does it matter what time of year I part exchange my car?

Depending on what kind of car you have, there may be times of the year when it’s more attractive to dealers and private buyers. For example, a convertible is unlikely to fly off the shelves in the cold winter months, but a sturdy 4x4 may be a hot commodity.

It’s all about supply and demand. In 2021, we saw the price of used and new cars rise due to a global shortage of computer chips and other materials that led to fewer new cars rolling off the production lines.

Can I still part exchange my car if it’s damaged?

In some cases, you may be better off part exchanging your car if it has mechanical issues or cosmetic damage. You’ll need to weigh up the costs of repairing the damage against the increased value of the car in a private sale to see if it’s worth the effort and expense of getting the damage fixed first. A good mechanic should be able to advise you if it’s worth it.

Can I haggle over the value of my car in a part exchange?

Yes, to get the best price, you’ll often need to haggle with the car dealer. It may feel awkward but, like you, the dealer is hoping to get the best possible price and they know it’s part of the game. With haggling, it’s a good idea to start with a high first bid to give you a bit more wiggle room and remember you can always walk away if you think you’re getting a bad deal.

Can I part exchange or sell a car with outstanding finance?

It’s a little more complicated but yes. First, you’ll need to find out your car’s current value and how much you’ll have to pay to settle the finance agreement with the finance company. If the car’s current value is worth more than you owe on the car then you’ll be able to use the equity you have towards your new car. If you agree to a part exchange, the dealer will normally handle all the paperwork for you. Bonus.

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