Keys and an orange lotusCredit: "Keys and an orange lotus" by Christina via Flickr.

When you're in the market for a new vehicle, a great place to go would be an auto dealership where you can choose from any number of makes, models and features; finance your options and trade in your current car to put towards a down payment.

Getting the highest return on your trade-in, however, will take a little work -- more so than simply driving it onto the lot ready to make a deal. If you want to get the best deal on your car's trade-in value, use these simple tips to increase your odds.

Be prepared

Before stepping foot on the lot, do your homework to find out how much your car is really worth. Visit the Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds website, follow a simple guide by entering all of the specifics of your vehicle, then print the results and bring them with you

When you finally decide to discuss a trade, having these notes handy will prove that you understand your car's worth and will give the inspector little room to push much lower (provided the information you used about your vehicle is accurate).

Make repairs

If an inspector feels that your car is in top working order, he will be able to get it on the lot quicker and therefore will be willing to pay more for it. For this reason, it's important to have your engine checked out prior to any trade-in negotiations. Any rattling or other mechanical (and aesthetic) problems should be fixed, provided that it doesn't exceed your budget. 

Give it a good cleaning

People are naturally attracted to shiny things, and your car is no different. To get the highest trade-in value for it, make sure that it is thoroughly cleaned both inside and out. This, too, shows the inspector that your car will require little work to get it ready to sell. If he has to scrape stickers off of the back window, though, you'll probably be paying for it with your trade-in.

Prove your car's maintenance history

Memo pockets 02Credit: "Memo pockets 02" by Paul Worthington via Flickr.People like to know about accidents and other disasters, but they also want to know about how well other parts have been maintained. If a car was driven well for years but hasn't had sufficient oil changes, for example, the lifespan of the car will still be in jeopardy.

If you can show records of all repairs you've done to your vehicle -- oil changes, tire rotations and all -- then you can prove that your car has been carefully maintained. 

Don't get ahead of yourself

You may have realized a long time ago that the best way to afford a new car is to trade in your current one, but your salesperson doesn't have to know that -- at least not yet.

Even if you know you want to trade in your car, don't let the dealer know until you've already established a fair price for your new vehicle. Keeping your current car out of the equation until the end will keep it from being factored into your trade-in value.

Once you've agreed on a price for your new car, pull out the research you've conducted, then begin that negotiation process. 

Stay calm

Auto inspectors have a few tricks they use to make you think your car isn't worth as much as it really is. One such trick is to conduct the inspection in front of you, taking special care to point out each minor flaw thus tricking you into thinking your car isn't worth as much as you thought it would be.

Don't sweat it, though. That ding in your door isn't worth $1,000 so don't let them make you think that it is.

Don't be afraid to say "No"

Anna DisagreesCredit: "Anna Disagrees" by Thatcher Clay via Flickr.Despite the time you've invested in finding the right car, negotiating a reasonable price, then offering up your current car as a trade-in; if the offer doesn't set well with you, don't be afraid to walk away. Yes, they will probably start low at first, but if they continue to do so without offering a sufficient explanation as to why the price is too low, simply decline the offer.

At this point, they may come back with a higher offer to get you to make the purchase, but if not, don't worry. There are plenty of other automotive dealerships that would love to have your business.

Yes, the car buying process is a long one, but if you do it right, you can come out with a great new car at the lowest price. 

Though choosing to trade in your car at the dealership rather than sell it wholesale won't net as great of a return, the hassle you can save by letting a dealership take over the sale could outweigh the extra financial gain.   

If you decide to trade in your vehicle at the dealership for your next one, use these simple tips to getting the most out of your trade-in.   

Your next car is waiting for you. Using the right tools can help you get it quicker.