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At what mileage should I sell my car?

When is the best time to sell a car?

Running a car costs money and you can only minimise that cost, not eliminate it altogether. So far so obvious, but it’s amazing how many people spend far more on their transport than is necessary; indeed, overspending is the norm.

One of the easiest ways of slashing your motoring costs is to pick the right time to sell your car, whether that’s in terms of the time of year, or the point in its life when it starts to become too costly to run economically.

Taking the first point – the best time of year – things aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be. Admittedly there’s less demand for convertibles in the winter, but modern drop-tops are so usable all year round, that values no longer fall through the floor once the temperatures drop.

Similarly, while 4x4s used to become hot property as summer turned to autumn, there’s now perennial demand for these most fashionable of cars. Meanwhile, good examples of any family hatchback or estate will readily find a buyer, regardless of the time of year.

But while the season or the weather may not affect your car’s value as much as it once did, its mileage, condition, badge or image will probably have a much bigger effect, as you can read in our blog on how depreciation works .

There is one spike that it’s best to avoid though, and that’s the new-registration points of 1 March and 1 September. At these times, huge numbers of new cars are delivered which means forecourts are awash with used models, making it that much harder for yours to stand out.

Coming of age

Most people offload their car at a certain age or mileage, regardless of whether or not it’s past its sell-by date. But that age and mileage is invariably at a point when the maximum money is lost and the car still has plenty more to give.

Most cars are sold on at 3-5 years old, and 40,000-60,000 miles. Yet a car is typically scrapped when it’s 15 years old and modern motors are designed to last 150,000 miles before any major components have to be replaced.

Putting some figures against this, in rough terms, a premium car typically loses around 30 per cent of its value within the first year, 40 per cent after two years and 50 per cent after three years. A more mainstream model will shed value at an even greater rate.

As the car gets older the rate at which it loses value slows down, to the point where it’s pretty much worthless by the time it’s 10-12 years old.

Taking a Ford Focus as an example, a mid-range model ordered new through a dealer costs around £22,000. After a year its trade-in value will have dropped to just over £11,000 and after two years it’ll be worth around £9,000. By its third birthday, it’ll be worth just £7,500 or so; around a third of its original value.

Do the same figures for an Audi A4 2.0 TDi SE estate, with a new list price of £30,000, and after a year it’s worth £20,000 as a trade-in. Two years on it’s £17,000 and after three years there’s £14,000-worth of equity in it; less than half its original value.

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After three years both cars have lost around £15,000, but the more mainstream model has shed a greater proportion of its value. The key point is that both cars have lost around £10,000 in their first year; that’s a lot of cash!

Few people sell their car after the first year though, so let’s run the figures once more, for each car when it reaches five years old. By this point the Audi’s value has shrunk to £7,000 and the Focus is worth just £3,500. After this point, both cars will continue to depreciate, but at an ever more gradual rate.

So the newer your car is when you replace it, the more money you’re losing in depreciation. Having a new car might be more important to you than saving cash, but if money is tight, holding onto it for a few more years should save you thousands.

Which brings us to the killer punch – what about reliability and durability? This is where doing your research at purchase time makes all the difference, along with how well you maintain your car. Opt for a car maker with a reputation for durability and you can expect to get a decade and well over 100,000 miles with little more than routine servicing.

So again, doing some number crunching, let’s take that Focus once more. Keep it for 12 years and 120,000 miles then sell it for £1,000, and it’s cost you £21,000. Do the same with the Audi, but sell it for £2,000, and you’re £28,000 out of pocket. Sounds like a lot of money, but…

Replace the car every three years, and using the depreciation figures above as a rough guide, four Focuses in those 12 years will set you back an eye-watering £66,000 while the depreciation of four A4s adds up to a whopping £72,000.

The difference between these two figures pays for a lot of servicing and new parts, and while you won’t be driving around in the latest model, you will be saving a huge wad of cash.

So to answer the question originally posed, at what point should you sell your car? That depends on how reliable it is, how image-conscious you are, how important saving money is, what you paid for it in the first place and a whole host of other factors.

If saving cash is the most important thing, you should keep your car until it starts to cost you lots of money in repairs – which will almost certainly take a lot longer than you expect. If you’re less bothered about saving cash, it’s time to sell when you’re ready to move on – at which point somebody else can enjoy your cast-off for a bargain price.

Richard Dredge

September 2016

How To Decide: Is Now The Best Time To Sell Your Car?

Family of three sitting and smiling in gray car.

Uncertain times often create big questions about money, especially when making big financial decisions – like “Should I sell my car?” Here’s the good news: You now stand to make more money than ever off your car. Between March 2020 and November 2021, used car prices went up 147%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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That said, if selling your old car puts you in the competitive market for a new car, you’ll risk winding up at the same end of the negotiating table as other potential buyers.

This guide is meant to help you determine if the benefits of selling your car outweigh the risks in the current market.

Understanding The Context Of The COVID-19 Pandemic

While we don’t have the same hindsight as historians, we can point to a few reasons the current used car market has shifted so dramatically during the pandemic.

For one, a lot of people decided that driving their own vehicle would help reduce their risk of catching COVID, which increased demand for cars across the board.

Then, COVID disrupted the global microchip supply chain and created a shortage. Since microchips are essential in car manufacturing, the shortage led automakers to ration their vehicle production in favor of makes and models that made the most profit (read: the more expensive cars). As the production of affordable vehicles came to a halt, more and more car buyers looked to the used market.

While the microchip industry slowly recovers, automakers and dealerships are still selling new cars – but not as many and at much higher prices with fewer incentives.

And it looks like this trend is here to stay. In May 2021, the largest automaker in the United States, General Motors, shared its plans to leverage consumer demand by maintaining low production at higher profit margins.

But what do these changes in the car market mean if you are deciding whether or not to sell? We have some ideas that may help you.

How Much Can I Sell My Car For?

It’s worth doing the research to find out how much your car is worth, regardless of your financial position. The hot market, the condition of your vehicle and its Kelley Blue Book value are all important in helping you decide how much you should sell your car for.

You can also browse the web to check prices of used cars for sale in your area. Be sure to filter your search for the model year, mileage range and vehicle condition that’s as close to your car as possible.

Not sure about the best place to sell your car yet? Read on.

Should You Trade In Your Car Or Sell It For Cash?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to trade-ins vs. private sales. But you can compare the pros and cons and decide for yourself if it’s better to trade in or sell your car privately.

Trade-In: Pros And Cons

The number one benefit of trading in your car to a dealership is the convenience, especially when compared to selling privately. You won’t have to worry about marketing your car for sale or filling out the DMV paperwork to transfer ownership. If you’re still making payments on your car, trading in a car with a loan is the easiest and fastest way to bypass lengthy communication with your lender.

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That said, the exchange for convenience could be a lower offer than you would get selling privately. That’s because dealerships need to buy the car from you for less than they think they can sell it for on the lot to ensure a profit. Dealerships also need to account for any cleaning, maintenance and advertising costs. Still, used car sellers have more negotiating power than ever before, and you may get dealers to drop some fees or up their offer.

Private Sale: Pros And Cons

On the opposite side of the coin, the biggest pro to selling your car privately is that it is often the most profitable way to go, though the biggest con is that it will cost you more time and energy. After you craft an advertisement for your car, you need to be prepared to field questions from prospective buyers, schedule test drives and decide on a safe meeting spot.

It is also important to pay attention to safety in private selling situations. You will often be dealing with strangers and want to avoid any scamming situations. Meet in a public space that is well lit, and bring a buddy if you can or at least let a few trusted people know where you are. Also confirm the payment has cleared before you turn over the keys. Make sure you have done your homework to find out what your car is worth and what your car.

Whether you sell your car to a dealer for a trade or sell it yourself, you could get higher offers today – maybe many thousands of dollars more – than you could have just a couple of years ago.

Reasons Not To Sell Your Car

One of your reasons for selling might be to relieve financial stress. If that’s the case, selling your car will offer an infusion of cash, no doubt. But there may be reasons to hold on to your car a little longer while you explore ways to ease those money worries. Let’s take a quick look at a couple.

Your Auto Loan Is Upside Down

If you owe more on your vehicle than it’s worth, your loan is considered upside down, also referred to as having “negative equity” in your car. If this is your situation, it’s a great idea to take another look at the terms of your auto loan. First, see how the interest rate on your existing loan compares to loan rates today. It’s possible that rates are lower now than when you first took out the loan. Then, check your credit score to see if it has changed since then.

If interest rates are lower and your credit score is higher, consider refinancing your car loan for a lower interest rate or longer loan term to reduce your car payment. Be careful to compare the total interest paid over time to avoid the trap of a lower monthly payment, but higher total loan amount.

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You Can’t Afford The Gas

The pandemic’s effect on car owners extends to the rising gas prices we’re experiencing all around the country. If you want your next vehicle to be more fuel efficient, you’re not alone. A Consumer Reports survey found that, of over a dozen different attributes, fuel economy came in as the attribute owners wanted to improve in their current vehicle. Only 6% of respondents said that fuel economy was not very important or not at all important in their next vehicle purchase.

If you are one of the 6%, be sure to compare the cost of the best gas mileage cars available on the used car market with the profit you expect to make off your old car. Remember to compare the additional costs of car insurance and maintenance. You’ll also want to figure out how much you will save in gas compared to the cost of owning the more efficient car overall. Hopefully, that will help you decide if selling your car and buying one that saves on gas is the right investment.

The Bottom Line: You Should Sell If You’re Trading Up

With automakers leaning toward producing less combined with the continued demand for used vehicles, it looks like your car will likely hold its value at least through 2022. Regardless, you should have a firm grasp on how much your car is worth before deciding if you should sell it.

At what mileage should I sell my car?

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How Much Mileage is Too Much? When to Sell a Car

When selling a used car or used truck, it’s important to consider not only the condition of the vehicle, but also the mileage. Determining a fair price to sell a used SUV, truck or sedan depends on many factors – and the mileage is one of the most important components of the vehicle that used car dealerships and private parties consider.

How much mileage is too much mileage? If you’re considering selling a used car for cash, allow us to help you see the thresholds that impact selling a used truck, car or SUV.

Selling a Car With 0 to 30,000 Miles

On average, most drivers keep their vehicles until it has at least 10,000 miles. There are many reasons why. For example, they may have run up the miles quickly or want to drive a newer model that just hit the market. Unfortunately, selling a used car with less than 30,000 miles may not fare well for car owners financially. Most vehicles lose the biggest drop in value when owned for more than a year. In fact, car values often drop significantly within the first 36,000 miles until the manufacturer warranty has expired.

If you’re considering selling a used car with less than 30,000 miles, it’s best to sell a used SUV, car or truck with the lowest possible mileage to get more bang for your buck. This applies especially if you choose to trade in a used car at a used car dealership.

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Selling a Car With 30,000 to 60,000 Miles

If you’re used car for sale is running smoothly and features an engine that continues to perform like a champ, this may be a good time to sell. It’s likely that by this mileage you’ve had to take the used truck for sale in for service, which may bode well with potential buyers or dealerships. Used cars for sale with 60,000 to 100,000 miles are often very attractive to buyers because they are still running strong and may be an upgrade from a vehicle the buyer is already driving.

Selling a used car with 60,000 to 100,0000 miles is also beneficial for the seller. You’ve had a chance to drive this vehicle during its best years and have probably not had to endure costly repairs. This timeframe is also financially beneficial because vehicles rarely drop in value from 60,000 to 100,000 miles, unlike when they reach over 100,000 miles.

Selling a Used Car With 100,000 or More Miles

When selling a used car with more than 100,000 miles, it’s important to be aware that this is when vehicle values take their sharpest drop. In the eyes of car buyers, the vehicle has less value and may need extensive repairs soon. When searching for used cars for sale, many buyers also filter out vehicles that have 100,000 or more miles, which may limit your visibility when advertising to sell a used SUV, truck or car.

It is still possible to sell a vehicle with more than 100,000 miles and the vehicle may run perfectly; however, there are some obstacles to overcome when it comes to how car buyers perceive what are deemed high-mileage used cars for sale.

Don’t Trade It In

One of the best alternatives to selling a used car with high mileage is to NOT trade it in at a car dealership. Instead, consider the benefits of working with Don’t Trade It In. We are a nationwide, premier car-buying firm who prides itself on providing consumers with fair values for their used cars for sale. And, we can provide you with cash upfront to pay off your existing car loan.

Whether you have a used truck for sale, a used Jeep for sale or a used minivan for sale, simply log onto our website, upload photos and vehicle information on our online form and our team will promptly get back to you with a fair-value offer for your used car for sale. We get it. It’s tempting to trade in a car at a local dealership, but in the long run, you’re probably going to lose more of your hard-earned cash. Let Don’t Trade It® In indulge you with a fair value for your used car for sale that allows you to upgrade to a premium model, pay off some bills or take that vacation you’ve dreamed of taking.

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