Getting an almost-new, gently-used car in trade for your old one is exciting. Getting something fresh for something really used always sounds like a good deal, and It typically is. What happens, though, to the old car you traded in? Where does it go? What does the used car dealership do with it, and can you trade back if you decide you do not like this new car or feel that maybe you made a mistake? (Buyer's remorse is common, especially for big-ticket purchases.) Here are three things that happen to the car you traded in after you trade it in and whether or not you can get it back after the fact.
The Car Undergoes a Rigorous Safety Check
The whole point to a safety check is to determine if the vehicle can be fixed up and resold. The dealership wants to know if they can resell your traded-in vehicle to make a little money. If there is too much wrong with it to make it a safe vehicle, then the car may be sent to a salvage yard or recycled and sold off for parts through various connections that the dealership has.
The Car Undergoes a Rigorous Functionality Check
Along with the safety check, the vehicle also has to go through dozens of functionality tests. The dealership wants to know if the vehicle will run smoothly, if everything operates accordingly, what does not run (e.g. air conditioning and heat are two things that frequently do not work on most trade-in vehicles), and what is worth fixing versus what the car does not really need to have fixed prior to reselling the vehicle as-is. For example, the government does require dealerships to repair and replace braking systems and brakes in trade-in vehicles, but does not require dealerships to repair/replace air conditioning systems since owners can just roll down car windows on hot days.
Body Work May Be Done
If the car you traded in is safe and functioning for the most part but the body is an eyesore, some dealerships may opt to do a little bodywork just to make the vehicle "pretty." If the dealership does not have to put a lot of time and money into parts replacement and parts repair, then it can put money into some of the bodywork, such as sanding and repainting. You might not recognize it when they finish it.
Can You Get It Back?
In most cases, you are stuck with the vehicle you got in trade for your old one. You cannot get your old vehicle back unless there is a clause in the contract that allows you to do so. Sometimes, if the new vehicle has mechanical issues, you may be able to get your old vehicle back.