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Trading In A Nonrunning Car Online

engine in a car with problems

Trading in a car with problems is a little more complicated than trying to trade in a functioning, used vehicle.

Your options for buyers are limited, the issues you need to disclose are different and your buyers are far more likely to want to closely inspect your vehicle.

Here at CarBrain, we aim to help you figure out what exactly you can do to trade in your car with mechanical problems.

If you are looking to find out how much you can get for a car with body damage or any other issues, then visit our instant value calculator and find out exactly what your car is worth.

To find out how you can maximize trading in a car that has problems or whether or not you should repair a car before trading it in, continue reading below. 

If you're looking to trade in your car, you have several options. You can trade it in with a dealership, sell it to a junkyard, or sell it to a private buyer. However, keep in mind that dealerships may offer a lower trade-in value for a car with problems. On the other hand, private buyers may require more effort to vet and may not be interested in a non-running car.

If you have a car with a loan, trading it in can be a bit more complicated. You may need to pay off the remaining balance on the loan before trading it in. However, some dealerships like CarMax may offer to pay off the loan for you and deduct the balance from the trade-in value. It's best to research your options and understand the terms and conditions before making a decision.

Options To Trade In Vehicles Near You

You have a few places you can turn to if you need to trade in a nonrunning car online. Although they each come with their pros and cons, it is up to you to weigh out your options.

You can trade in a car with problems by:

  • Sell it to CarBrain! — We specialize in helping individuals like you trade in their less than perfect cars online, no matter what the problem is.

    You can get an offer from us in 90 seconds with free towing included!

  • Trade it in with a dealership — Dealerships may be willing to make an offer if you want to trade in a car with problems. However, keep in mind that they do not specialize in cars with issues.

    That means the offer you might get from a dealership will factor the fact that the dealership must go out of their way to process your car after purchasing it. It might be better to look elsewhere.

  • Sell it to a junkyard — Depending on what condition your car is in, junkyards and scrapyards could be a potential option. If your car has serious damage, or is very old, it might be at the end of its life.

    It's important to keep in mind that many junkyards are only paying for the scrap metal and parts that could be recycled from your vehicle. If you think it still has some years of use in it, this might not be your best option either.

  • Selling to a private buyer — Hobbyists and car enthusiasts may be interested in using your vehicle for its parts, or in working on it as a project vehicle. You could get some potential buyers if you post it on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.

    The downside of this option is you have to vet each potential buyer individually, and they may come by, kick the tires and even test the car before finally deciding they're not interested.

It's important to weigh out your options before making a decision about where to sell or trade in your car with issues.

Is It Illegal To Trade In A Car With Problems?

It’s not illegal to trade a vehicle that needs repairs into a dealership.

Like selling a car, however, you must make the dealership aware of the car’s problems. Failure to do so is typically illegal and can result in legal issues for you.

Most dealerships will accept trade-ins of cars that need work like:

  • Blown Engine

  • Broken Transmission

  • Dead Battery

  • Check Engine Light

  • Bad or Broken Brakes

  • Faulty Electrical Systems

  • Body Damage

  • Fuel System Issues

Dealerships will accept trade-in vehicles with any of these issues and more. That said, the knowledge that something is wrong with the vehicle will absolutely result in a low trade-in value for a car in poor condition.

Do Dealerships Accept Trade-In Cars With Problems?

Will car dealers accept any trade-in? Well, dealerships do accept trade-in cars with problems, but it’s important to understand that dealerships do not specialize in having cars with problems on their lot.

A car that doesn’t run is worth significantly less than a running vehicle — it typically loses up to 50 percent of its value, and sometimes more.

How your car visibly looks can make a big difference on your trade-in valuation as well. Scratches and dents, perhaps accident damage — you need to know what to expect for a damaged car trade-in value.

Should You Repair A Car Before Trading It In?

man contemplating how to prepare car for trade in

For most dealers, trade-ins need to be reconditioned anyway. As long as the damage isn’t extensive like missing bumpers and shredded fenders, you can trade in a car with body damage and not worry about completing repairs.

However, because body repairs are expensive, trading in a damaged car won’t be kind on your trade value.

You might not be able to trade in a car that has mechanical problems, has been deemed salvage, or is an insurance write-off. Dealership customers aren’t buying junk cars, so the dealerships themselves aren’t looking to purchase cars that have been damaged.

On the other hand, it can cost quite a lot to repair a damaged car, particularly if it has mechanical issues. In most cases, it does not make sense to try to repair a car before trading it in.


Our expert evaluators can help you get an accurate estimate for your car's value, FAST!

How Do I Prepare My Car To Be Traded In?

Getting your car repaired before trading it in may not be worth it at all. There are, however, things you can do prior to the trade-in that will help maximize the value of your vehicle.

The preparations are inexpensive repairs and can increase your car’s overall appeal and, therefore, its chances of fetching a better price.

Even in the presence of bigger issues like a dead engine, faulty electrical system, or a broken transmission, superficial fixes when trading in a car with cosmetic damage can help you grab a bigger prize at the dealership.

Inexpensive Trade-In Preparation:

  • Charge your headlight bulbs.

  • Clean the car’s interior.

  • Buff out any scratches to the body.

  • Wash and wax the exterior.

  • Top off all of the fluids.

Taking the time out to do these little things can be the difference between a few hundred dollars on your car’s trade-in value. The additional effort can immediately benefit you, so it is worth doing.

But if you have a car with major interior damage, a shiny cleanup job won’t cut it. So what should you do with a damaged car if trading in a car that needs repair isn't ideal? Can you trade in a car that won’t start, or is your only option to hit up junkyards?

In conclusion, trading in a car with problems can be more complicated than trading in a functioning, used vehicle. However, by understanding your options and doing your research, you can maximize your car trade-in value and find the best deal for your car.

Get The Trade-In Value Of Your Car With Issues Now

collect your check with carbrain

Instead of trading your car to the dealership for a fraction of what it’s worth, you can trade the car for cash with a damaged car buyer.

With CarBrain, you’ll get a fair offer for your car in as-is condition. It’s less stressful than trading it in to the dealership and it’s fast.

Step 1:

Get your free quote using our website. Simply enter some basic information about your car and you’ll receive a free and guaranteed quote within 90 seconds.

The cost of towing is on us, so you’ll never have to worry about hidden or additional fees taking away from what you make from your car.

Step 2:

Schedule your pickup within 24-48 hours! If you’re happy with your quote, you’ll be ready to schedule your free pickup.

One of our trusted drivers will come to you on your schedule.  Towing is always on us.

Step 3:

Completing your sale is easy. After a quick inspection and transferring your title, you’ll receive the amount you were quoted, no haggling or fuss.

It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s free to use CarBrain!

Need answers? Get FREE advice from our client care experts NOW!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Trade In A Car That Has Issues?

Yes, you can trade in a car with issues. Keep in mind that most dealerships won't specialize in less-than-perfect vehicles, and a vehicle with issues may not be in high demand.

Can You Trade In A Car With The Check Engine Light On?

It is possible to trade in a vehicle with the check engine light on. However, many dealerships will insist on trying to determine why the engine light is on before they make an offer on the car. If they discover a serious issue with the engine, you could receive much less for your vehicle than you were hoping for.

Can You Trade In A Hail-Damaged Car?

Yes! If you have a hail-damaged car, you can trade it in as long as you can find a dealership willing to accept a damaged vehicle. Most hail damage is cosmetic, so it won't necessarily affect the performance of the vehicle.

However, if dealerships do give you a hard time about the damage to your car, you can always use a service like CarBrain. We purchase less-than-perfect cars in any condition, even if they have severe hail damage.

Is It Illegal To Trade In A Car With Problems?

It is not illegal to trade in a car with problems. However, when you trade in the vehicle you must fully describe what the problems are with the car.

Will A Dealership Buy A Car That Doesn’t Run?

Yes, it's possible, but the likelihood depends on why the car can't run and the dealership's individual policies. You can request quotes, but chances are a less-than-perfect car buyer like CarBrain will be able to make a better offer on your vehicle than a dealership would have.

Should I Repair My Car Before Trading It In?

In most cases, it does not make financial sense to fix your car before selling it or trading it in. The cost of repairing is almost guaranteed to exceed the value you'll get from selling the car post-repairs. Instead, find a buyer who can accept it in its current condition and save the money you would have spent repairing it.

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