Should You ‘Hide Your Trade-in’ When Buying a New Car?

Imagine this: You’re sitting in a car dealership across from the salesperson, the deal is done, and that brand-new car that you’ve been thinking about for the past few months is getting washed up and ready to be driven home. However, you pipe up in a moment of feigned clarity and tell the salesperson, “Oh wait, I want to trade in my current car.” But is it really necessary to “hide your trade” until after the deal is settled?

Why would you want to “hide your trade?”

If you have never heard of the term “hide your trade,” it refers to when a prospective car buyer hides the fact that they have a car to trade in until later on the car deal, typically after the sales price of the new car has been negotiated.

This tactic is recommended by a lot of outlets, including Cars Direct, which advise doing this so that you don’t look “too desperate” in addition to the notion that you will be able to negotiate the sales price of the new car more and get a better offer on your trade. In actuality, it doesn’t make much sense to hide your trade, since you’re going to get the same offer and deal that you would anyway have you informed the salesperson earlier.

Trading in your vehicle
How to get the best value for your trade-in car | LorenzoPatoia/Getty Images

Save time by telling the dealer about your trade-in early

The next time you buy a car and you have a car to trade-in, then I would argue that it’s worth it for you to tell the salesperson early on in the deal. After selling cars for four years, I can say for certain that it speeds up the process entirely and it makes going over all of the sales numbers easier in the end. Don’t believe me?

Then consider this: When you tell the salesperson about your trade-in early on, they will be able to have the car appraised by the used car manager (who is likely busy appraising other cars at the same time) while you’re on the test drive. And when you come back from doing the test drive and finally settle on a new car, the salesperson will have the pricing and your trade-in appraisal all at once to be able to present to you.

A salesman talking to a customer about new cars and used cars while next to Chevrolet models
A salesperson and car buyer looking at new cars | Photo by EZEQUIEL BECERRA/AFP via Getty Images

However, if you “hide your trade” and tell the salesperson, later on, thinking that you’ll get a better valuation on your car, think again. Most of the managers I’ve ever worked for appraised cars with the same attention to detail and using the same evaluations necessary in order to give the customer an accurate appraisal, so your appraisal will be the same no matter what. Also, you’ll just annoy the salesperson and all of the managers, which isn’t going to help the situation.

Salesperson showing vehicle to potential customer in dealership; Shutterstock ID 447213895; Purchase Order: -
Salesperson showing the vehicle to a potential customer in dealership | Shutterstock

How Do You Trade in a Car That’s Not Paid Off?

What’s the best way to trade in your car?

If you want to trade-in your car, then I would suggest bringing it to a third-party used car dealer like Carmax or Carvana first, if you have the time. These dealers will generally give you more money for your trade-in and then you can get a ride to the dealership to negotiate and buy the new car. However, if you decide that you want to trade in your car to a dealership that you’re buying a new car from, then it’s suggested that you at least clean it up inside and out and make sure that you have the registration for it handy since the dealer will ask you for it.

After all, you wouldn’t sell your car to a private party when it’s messy and dirty, would you? The same goes for trading your car into the dealership, clean it up, and make sure you have the necessary documents for it. Ultimately, you’ll be doing yourself a favor and by all means, remember to tell them about the trade early so you can save time and drive home (earlier) in your brand new car.