Do those letters and e-mails from dealers saying they really want your trade-in actually mean anything? Do dealers really want your trade-in? Are they going to pay top dollar for your vehicle because they have some customer who desperately wants it?

I’ll give you the short answer: no.

I’ll also give you a slightly taller answer: NO.

Let me tell you how things work in the dealership world. When you’re coming down to the end of the month, or the quarter, or the year, you’re desperate for sales. You might be behind on your targets. You might find your targets impossible to reach, like Maserati, who is now offering so many factory incentives that you can buy a Ghibli for the same price as an Ethan Allen flower pot.

So what you do is, you come up with promotions like these mailers.

These mailers always say roughly the same thing: We have very few used cars. We need more used cars. Come on down and sell us your used car. We want it. We know what you have. We need one just like it. It would make our inventory whole. It would make us so happy to have your used car. Happy like a seal eating a fish. Don’t you want to make us happy? Arr arr arr arr (seal noises). 

Well, here’s the situation, they sent this mailer to 10 million other human beings in addition to yourself. And they don’t actually care about your trade-in.

What they want you to do is, they want you to come on down to the dealership and trade in your old car on a new one. They might not even keep your old car. They might wholesale it to Justin the Wholesale Guy who comes around every Thursday at three with Dunkin’ Donuts. The truth is, they’re just trying to sell some more new cars, b

ut the way they get you is, these letters make it seem like they don’t just want to sell some new cars. It seems like they actually want what you have. So you get all excited, and, you bring your letter on down to the dealership, and they give you $500 above the Kelly Blue Book trade-in value for your car. That’s how bad they want it! They’ll give you an extra $500!!! And you go home telling your friends that you barely lost any money on your old car, because the dealer wanted it so badly, and now you have a brand-new one. 

What they don’t tell you is, they would’ve taken that $500 off the price of the new car you’re buying if you had simply negotiated well enough. 

Now, I admit that in some situations, things are a little different. Most notably, they actually call customers to lie to them, rather than simply sending them an e-mail or a letter.Here i

s how they did it, they hired a temp, they gave her a list of every customer they’ve had since the Excel came out, and now she is calling them one by one. After you, it was Phil Roberts, who bought a new Sonata in 1994 and died of a meth overdose in 1997. They got Phil’s widow, Frances, whose job is to post those spam ads on Jalopnik about how her cousin’s sister’s racquetball partner made $86 last night working from home. “Well, what are you driving?” the temp asks her. “We probably want that, too.”

If you don’t believe me,  I suggest going down to the dealer and trying to get a really good offer on your Veloster without trading it in on anything. I suspect they won’t give you $500 over anything, except maybe the trade-in value of John Owenson’s ’94 Sonata.