Ask LH: Should I Be Honest With Dealers When Trading In My Car?

Dear Lifehacker, The air conditioning on my car recently broke down, and the quote for replacing it is around $3000. So I am considering trading in my broken car and getting a new one. The car still drives fine and the A/C button still lights up, but no cold air comes out. If I am trading in my car, do I have to tell the dealer about the broken air conditioner? Is it a case of “only tell them if they ask” or do I have to tell them from the start? Thanks, Cold Comfort

Dear CC,

They say honesty is the best policy, but it’s Evil Week here at Lifehacker, so screw that. While it’s probably not a good idea to flat-out lie, we’d go with the “only tell if they ask” approach.

If the issue isn’t recorded in your log book, there’s obviously nothing to gain by volunteering information that will reduce the value of your car. If they ask broad questions like “is there anything else I should know about?” just reply “not that I can think of.”

Of course, there’s a pretty good chance that the dealer will find out about the issue before the sale is completed. If so, they’re unlikely to give you much grief for “lying” about it (they still want your business, after all). Just be aware that if the car is old and has lots of mileage, you’re probably going to get a very low offer regardless.

You can usually get more money by selling privately, although in this case it’s definitely better to be honest. That said, there’s nothing wrong with embellishing the truth a little. Tarmac Rally champion Samantha Stevens offers the following advice on creative car listings:

Above all else, it’s important to be honest in your car listing, but you can also have a bit of fun and appeal to the buyer’s sense of humour. There was a guy who sold a Subaru Brumby and he basically made a very funny listing, like, he said the bumper bar was made by Thor and weird stuff like that. He ended up getting massive money for this awful old car and something like 300,000 hits for his listing.

You can read more of Samantha’s car-selling tips here

[referenced url=”” thumb=”” title=”Ask LH: How Can I Determine The Real Value Of My Car?” excerpt=”Dear Lifehacker, I’m hardly a savvy sales person, and I need to sell my car. I know how much I paid for it and how long I’ve had it, but I don’t know how to translate that into a selling price. How can I figure out how much my car is worth? Thanks, Sticker Shock”]


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