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If a trade-in evaluation and inspection are done at the dealership, the customer should participate, Jones says.

Easing the Pain of Car Dealership Trade-Ins

“When the family member began crying, I was blown away,” says Matt Jones of TrueCar.

The person cried at a car dealership during a trade-in.

As he recalls witnessing that emotional moment, Matt Jones says it underlines how attached people can become to their car – and why dealership personnel should empathize accordingly.

“When the family member began crying, I was blown away that someone felt that way about trading in a vehicle,” says Jones (below, left), who worked in auto retailing at the time. He’s now director-industry communications for TrueCar, an online automotive marketplace.

Such displays of feelings aren’t regular occurrences at dealerships, but plenty of owners show fondness toward their car, according to a TrueCar survey. Among its findings:

  • One in four people shed tears “when saying goodbye to their vehicle.” Jones says.
  • Two-thirds of people consider their car as “a friend.”
  • Sixty percent think of their autos as an extension of their home and part of the family.
  • Thirty-five percent give them names.

“To us in auto retailing, we see a trade-in vehicle as a commodity, but shoppers are not us,” Jones says. “We are full-time sellers. They are part-time car shoppers. It is important to remember that when we are relaying the value of a trade-in.”

He speaks at a session during Cherokee Media Group’s Used Car Week, an online conference.

In other surveys, many consumers cite the trade-in process as a pain point.

Sometimes the angst comes from those emotional farewells. On another level, it often stems from disagreement over a trade-in’s value. (Customers may think it’s worth more than what the dealer offers.)

Matt Jones.jpgJones tells of ways to make the trade-in process less stressful, whether it is done in person or online with tools such as TrueCar’s Accu-Trade.

He says a digital valuation form should ask various details about the potential trade-in. That includes mileage, of course, but also the vehicle identification number (VIN), options, measured tire tread (a decent tread can add $400 to the valuation), vehicle condition right down to the wheel rims (deduct points for damaged ones) and color (take off about $475 for an offbeat hue).  

When customers go through that Q&A, “they understand the trade-in process better,” Jones says, adding that 83% of people who start TrueCar’s questionnaire complete it.

“That says something: People who complete it are totally invested in trading in their car.” That makes them potentially hot prospects for a car purchase.

If a trade-in evaluation and inspection are done at the dealership rather than online, the customer should participate, Jones says.

“Do it with them so they see and understand how it is done. That way, they understand the value. They understand the ‘why.’”

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