How to Tell When It Is Time to Sell Your Car

time to sell your car

There are many ways to tell when it is time to sell your car – costly repair bills and maintenance costs, safety issues, outdated features and many more


Parting is such sweet sorrow, as Juliet said to Romeo. The same can be true for you and your car. People get really attached to their vehicles over time. Have you ever named your car? Lots of people have done that. This is understandable – after all, you probably spend time in your beloved car just about every day, right? A vehicle becomes like an extension of your personality. This close relationship you have with your vehicle can make it difficult to know when it’s time to sell your car.
If your car is beginning to show its age, it’s tempting to just keep driving it one more year to avoid the cost of obtaining a new vehicle. But what you’re really doing is tempting fate. Each additional mile that appears on your odometer puts you that much closer to potentially costly maintenance and repairs. Eventually you reach the point where you realize continuing to put more and more money into your car to keep it running just doesn’t make sense, even though you love your car. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of knowing when it’s time to sell your car. Vehicles last a lot longer these days than they used to. Most people expect to go way past 100,000 miles without major problems.
Still, when you start to have that nagging feeling that you’re constantly paying to fix one problem after another, then the time has come to figure out what your options are for selling your car.

What is Your Car Worth?

Parting with your beloved car is a process that begins with figuring out what it’s worth. Luckily, there are great online tools available to help you with this. Most people pay a visit to Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds. Both sites walk you through a process where you enter in information about your car, including the year, make, model, odometer reading, trim options, and condition. If you know there are repairs that need to made, you’ll want to take those into consideration as well. Kelley Blue Book will provide you with three different numbers for the value of your car. One number is what you can expect to receive for trade-in value from a dealership. This is always the lower of the numbers, and it’s important to be aware of it before you go to a dealership so you’re not completely blindsided by such a low offer. Too many people seem to think they’re going to get something close to what they paid for a car, but that’s almost never the case because of how rapidly vehicles depreciate. Another of the numbers will be an estimate of what you might receive if you sell it privately. While this number is typically the highest of the numbers, it doesn’t reflect the stress and hassles of a private sale. KBB also gives you a third number, which is the price you’d be likely to find on this vehicle at a dealership. This will be the highest of the numbers because a dealership needs to sell the car for a profit. You can also use Driveo’s Common Sense Method for Vehicle Valuation to find out exactly what your car is worth step-by-step.

your car for sale

How Much It will Cost You to Keep Your Car on the Road?

If your car has many miles on it, you need to take stock of the kinds of costly repairs that tend to start showing up in high-mileage vehicles. You might be due (or overdue) for replacing multiple fluids, tires, brakes, maybe even a timing belt and/or water pump or parts of your suspension. You can look in your owner’s manual to see which of these big-ticket maintenance and repairs are on the horizon. If you don’t have your owner’s manual, most are available online these days if you do some quick Google searching. Then you can take your car to your trusted mechanic and ask for an estimate on what these various repairs and service items will cost. What you don’t want to do is ignore them and find yourself broken down and needing a tow on top of the price of repairs. Have your mechanic answer the following questions in detail:
1. What are the big repairs I need to keep my vehicle on the road and what will they cost?
2. What repairs are needed but can be put off for the better part of a year?
3. What is the cost of major maintenance needed in the next 12 months based on how many miles I tend to drive?

Also be sure your mechanic looks for signs that are indications of bigger problems, such as blue smoke from the tailpipe, which often indicates you’re burning oil and might find yourself needing an engine replacement. Is there any slipping (revving) as the car shifts from gear to gear? This can be an indication of upcoming transmission failure.

Get Out Your Calculator

With all this information, you can now add up the costs of all the different repairs and maintenance needed in the next 12 months and compare it to the trade-in value you’d get for your car at a dealership. If the total repairs and maintenance exceed the trade-in value of your car, then it makes sense from a financial perspective to sell your car and find another.

Take a Look at Your Past Repair Bills

If the above calculation suggests hanging onto your car for another year, you should still take the extra step of running a worst-case scenario. Even your trusted mechanic can’t predict the future. If you just barely make the grade for keeping your car from the above process but know that your make and model of car is notorious for certain issues in your current or upcoming mileage range, this additional information should be considered. Consumer Reports and other websites have lots of information about the reliability of vehicles, often providing lists of problems that persistently show up as your mileage increases. Go through your past repair bills and add them all up from the previous year – it’s not a bad idea to add that number into your total cost to keep your car on the road. Again, if the final number exceeds the trade-in value, then it’s time to sell your car.

your car for sale

Trust Your Instincts

You drive your car every day, so you probably have an intuitive sense of how it’s doing mechanically. If your calculations from above don’t give you a clear answer because the final two numbers are very close together, consider what your gut tells you. If your intuition says it’s time to sell your car, go with it.
Another way to analyze your situation is with the rule of thumb that the total monthly cost (including loan payment, insurance, gas, service, and repairs) of owning and driving a car should not exceed more than 10% of your gross monthly income. If you gross $4,000 a month, then you shouldn’t be spending more than $400 a month on everything related to having your car.

If after reading this short article you are still asking yourself when it is time to sell your car, get more info in our step-by-step guide on how to tell when it is time to sell my car.

It’s not easy parting with a car you love, but this is one time when your head needs to make the decision, not your heart. Once you’ve gotten a different car, you might very well wonder why you waited so long. If the time has come for you to sell your car and you’re in the San Diego area, take a look at Driveo. We hand out cash for cars every day in a fair and transparent process that puts more cash in your pocket to get your next vehicle. Start the process online to get a near-instant quote today and sell your car hassle-free!

Categories