Knowing when to sell your car isn't necessarily easy. Sell it too soon and you could be forgoing months or even years of a potentially happy union. Hold onto it for too long, however, and it could cost you more than planned in terms of depreciation, unexpected bills, or a lack of suitability for changing needs.
With that in mind, we've compiled five easy signs that all indicate the time might well have come to sell your car.
Five Clear Signs it's Time to Sell Your Car
- 1. When it No Longer Meets Your Needs
- 2. When it's at its Most Valuable
- 3. When it Costs More to Keep Running Than It's Worth
- 4. When it's Too Expensive to Drive
- 5. When it Feels Unsafe
1. When it No Longer Meets Your Needs
Life changes. Landing a new job, moving, starting a family, watching kids leave the nest—events like these determine how you'll use your car, and in time inform when to sell your car.
Buying that four-wheel-drive truck made sense when you were living with New England winters, but now that you've moved to Arizona, you might want to look for something more fuel-efficient, or perhaps something with a convertible top. Or you might love that two-door sports car, but with a kid on the way, it's time to start looking for a minivan with more room.
2. When it's at its Most Valuable
One of the five signs it's time to sell your car concerns resale value. It's wise to sell your used car when it's at its most valuable. Here are some factors affecting the selling price of your used vehicle:
Demand plays a massive role in the resale value of your used car, and market trends can affect demand in powerful ways. For example, if there are supply issues that cause new and used car inventory to be low, demand for used cars may skyrocket. Depending on the year and model, the value of your car may be higher than you think. If demand for used cars is high, it may be an excellent time to sell your vehicle.
Your vehicle's condition affects its price on the used car market. If you want to sell your vehicle with the least hassle (and for the most money), do it when everything is in good working condition. Selling a car that needs major repairs, whether mechanical or cosmetic, can be difficult. When potential buyers discover the vehicle needs work, they will likely ask to deduct the cost of repairs from the asking price—or they'll walk away from the deal.
Selling before the odometer hits the 60-to-70,000-mile mark is a good idea since that's often when expensive fixes become necessary. Sell a car before this mileage marker, and you can ask for a higher price.
If your current vehicle has already passed 70,000 miles, it will still be easier to find a buyer if you list now before it reaches 100,000 miles. Though the condition of your car might not change at that mileage marker, shoppers may think differently about the same used vehicle once it passes six figures' worth of miles, even if it's a Toyota, Honda, or other notoriously long-lived make.
3. When it Costs More to Keep Running than it's Worth
Ideally, you'd sell your car when it's running well. But what if your vehicle is already costing you a lot of money in repair costs? Getting a $2,000 repair estimate for a car worth $2,000 means it's time to sell, but it won't always be that obvious. Estimating the value of your vehicle and comparing that value with the cost of keeping your car on the road will take some research and math, but that effort will save you time and money in the end.
First, determine how much the vehicle is worth. Next, ask your trusted mechanic about upcoming maintenance costs. These may include significant repairs needed to keep your car on the road, repairs coming in the next year that aren't necessary right now, and considerable maintenance due in the next year based on mileage.
Finally, compare the vehicle's worth to how much it costs to keep it running. If costs exceed the value of the car itself, it's time to sell.
4. When it's Too Expensive to Drive
A car typically has two expenses you'll face consistently: fuel and insurance. Those expenses vary based on the model of your vehicle. For example, a small hybrid may use less gas than a full-size SUV. And you may face higher insurance premiums with a luxury car than a budget-friendly hatchback.
You may have reached a point with your car where fuel or insurance costs are too steep for you to handle. Maybe higher gas prices have left you wanting to switch from a gas-guzzler to something more fuel-efficient. Or maybe your financial situation has changed and you want to save money by getting a car with lower insurance costs.
If your car's expenses for gas or insurance are burdensome, it may be an excellent time to switch vehicles.
5. When it Feels Unsafe
One of the five signs it's time to sell your car concerns safety. Your car may start every time you turn the key, but maybe stopping with those worn-out brakes feels less certain. Or perhaps the engine is purring, but there's so much rust you worry about parts falling off every time you drive.
Also, your vehicle's safety features can tell you whether it's time to buy a new car. For example, many modern vehicles come with advanced driver-assistance features that can help prevent accidents. Getting a newer model might make sense if your car lacks these features.
The old "safety first" rule applies here. If your car's safety is in question, that's a sure sign the time has come to part ways.
If any of the above criteria apply to you, take it as a sign that the time has come to sell your car. And if you're wondering how to do that, check out our guide to the best ways to sell your car.
- Should You Sell Your Car Yourself?
- What to Fix Before Trading In a Car
- Why Cars For Sale By Owner Cost Less Than Cars From Dealerships