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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 it work?

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 it work?

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
10 OCTOBER 2022
5 min read
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What does part exchange mean?

When you part exchange your car, you trade it in to buy a new or used car from a dealer. The value of your car is deducted from the price of the one you’re buying. This can save you money, as well as the hassle of selling or auctioning your old car.

What are the advantages of part exchange?

Part exchanging your vehicle means you can avoid the stress of advertising it, organising viewings and test drives with timewasters, and haggling with potential buyers. And you won’t have to deal with buyers coming back to you because something’s gone wrong with the car.

What are the pitfalls of part-exchanging my car?

The main problem with part exchange is that you’re unlikely to get as much as you would if you sold the car privately. This is because you won’t be setting the price yourself. But you can still negotiate the price with the dealer, and you’ll be better placed to do this if you go in prepared.

How to get ready for part exchange

Before you approach a dealer about part exchanging your car, you’ll need an idea of how much it’s worth. Your car’s value will depend on its age, condition, mileage, specifications, as well as any modifications.

How do I find out how much my car is worth?

Online tools like Auto Trader will help you get an idea of how much your car is worth. Remember, the online resale value isn’t necessarily what a dealer will pay for it, as they’ll be looking to maximise their profit, but knowing your car’s value will help you negotiate. Auto Trader can also give you an instant offer on your car, which you could use towards the purchase of your next vehicle.

It’s good to have a baseline figure in your head of how much you’ll accept. If the dealer’s offer is too low, it might mean you can’t afford the new car. So know the point at which you’ll decide to go elsewhere or sell privately.

Where can I part exchange my car?

Most dealers will offer an option to part exchange, but you should do some research on which dealers offer the best deals. If you’re having your car serviced at a local dealership, it’s worth seeing if they can offer you a good price. With franchised dealers, it’s easier to buy another car of the same make, and their familiarity with the brand makes it easy for them to appraise your car.

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

To get the best deal, it’s important to make sure your car – and its paperwork – are in tip-top condition.

Author image Rory Reid

What our expert says...

"Dealers will routinely offer you less than your car’s market value, so only accept such offers if the deal works for you and you’re keen on a quick sale. You might be better off using sites such as Auto Trader to advertise your car for sale, get a guaranteed part-exchange price or even an instant offer you could use towards the purchase of your next car "

- Rory Reid, Car and technology expert

How to make sure your car looks its best

Sort out any minor repairs before you visit the dealer – they’ll spot even the smallest scratch and may use it to drive down the price. Top up your oil, pump up your tyres, and make sure your car is clean and tidy inside and out. If your car needs any mechanical work, get a quote from your local mechanic to see if it’s worth having it fixed before you head to the dealer.

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

Make sure you have your documents in order

You’ll need:

Be honest about any issues you’ve had with the car. It’s easy for dealers and private buyers to check your car’s MOT history online. They’ll be able to see your mileage, and how the car has fared in past MOT tests, so it’s not worth trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

Should I part exchange my car?

Ultimately, it’s up to you. If you’re determined to get the highest price, you may be better off selling your car privately, – although that will likely take a little longer. Research similar models and see how much they’re selling for. You can then compare this with part-exchange prices before making your decision.

If you’re eager to buy your new car and would rather wait to get a good price on your old one, 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 car you have, there may be times of the year when it’s more attractive to dealers and private buyers. For example, a convertible may be less popular in the cold winter months, but a sturdy 4x4 may be a hot commodity.

It’s all about supply and demand. Used car prices have been rising since 2021 and there’s been huge growth in the used electric car market.

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

You may be better off part exchanging your car if it has mechanical issues or cosmetic damage. You’ll need to weigh up the repair costs against the increased sale value to see if it’s worth the effort and expense. A good mechanic should be able to tell 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 price and knows it’s part of the game. Remember, the asking price of the new car could come down and the part-exchange value could go up. With haggling, it’s a good idea to start high so you have 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. You’ll need to find out your car’s current value and how much you need to pay the finance company. If the car is worth more than you owe, you can put the equity towards your new car. And if you agree to a part exchange, the dealer will normally handle the paperwork for you. Bonus.

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