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When Should You Sell Your Car

When Should You Sell Your Car?

If you’re wondering when you should sell your car, there are a few factors that should impact your decision:

  • Time of Year
  • Cars Current Mileage and Age
  • Market Demand
  • Your Financial Situation

Important Stat: The average used vehicle listing price at the end of January 2024 was $25,328 – 4% lower than a year ago (Source).

FactorConsiderationsBest Time to Sell
Market Demand– Research current demand and prices for your specific make, model and year
– Consider the season – convertibles sell better in summer, SUVs/trucks in higher demand year-round
– Evaluate local market conditions in your area
– When demand and prices are high for your specific vehicle
– Spring/summer for most vehicles, especially convertibles
– When local inventory is low
Vehicle Age & Mileage– Newer vehicles with lower mileage command higher prices
– Older, high mileage vehicles may be harder to sell privately
– Most owners trade in around 5 years/75,000 miles
– Over 100,000 miles, repairs become more costly
– Under 5 years old and under 75,000 miles is optimal
– 60,000-80,000 miles is the “sweet spot” balancing use and value
– Before hitting 100,000 miles if possible
Vehicle Condition– Have vehicle professionally detailed inside and out
– Fix any mechanical issues and make repairs
– Gather all maintenance records
– Accident history and visible damage will lower value
– When in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition
– After detailing and repairs/reconditioning
– When you have full service records demonstrating good upkeep
Motivation for Selling– Determine if maximizing price or selling quickly is priority
– Getting an instant cash offer may be best if you need to sell fast
– When you have time to prep vehicle and find the right buyer
– Get offers from multiple sources to find best deal
– Sell outright if you need the money quickly
Financial Situation– Understand if you have positive equity or owe more than car is worth
– Factor in cost of your next vehicle purchase
– Avoid selling too early in your loan when you may be “upside down”
– When your car is paid off or you have positive equity
– When the sale price will cover cost of your next car
– Avoid selling if you are early in your car loan
When you should sell your car

Important: The average used car loan interest rate was over 11% in early 2024 (Source), which is important to remember because if your current loan was at a very favorable rate before the interest rates went up, it’s going to be far more expensive to finance a car in 2024 and beyond.

Relevant Articles To Read:

What’s The Best Mileage To Sell a Car?

Mileage is definitely in the top 3 categories of what determines if it’s the best time to sell a car, but which ranks the highest?

0 – 30,000 miles:

  • This very low mileage range is when cars suffer the biggest drop in value after being new.
  • Unless you want to own the absolute latest models, it’s generally not the best time to sell from a value perspective.
  • You’ll likely get the most money back by keeping the car until higher mileage.

30,000 – 60,000 miles:

  • Many experts consider this a good mileage sweet spot to sell a used car.
  • The car has gone through its initial steep depreciation but is still running well with relatively low miles.
  • The manufacturer warranties have run out, and the first major services will be due.
  • You’ve had a chance to get good use out of it without racking up extremely high mileage.

60,000 – 100,000 miles:

  • Vehicles in this higher mileage range are often still attractive to buyers if well-maintained.
  • Depreciation slows down compared to when the car was newer.
  • You’ve extracted a lot of value from the car, but it may start requiring more costly repairs soon.

100,000+ miles:

  • At this point, vehicle values tend to drop sharply in the eyes of most consumers.
  • High-mileage cars are perceived as having less life remaining and needing major repairs.
  • It becomes more difficult to get a good sale price, though a well-maintained car can still retain value.

What’s The Best Time of Year To Sell a Car

Spring (March-May)– Tax refund season, more buyers– Not the peak selling season
Summer (June-August)– Peak selling season, more demand– Higher prices due to demand
Fall (September-November)– End of model year, dealers want to clear inventory– Colder weather in some regions
Winter (December-February)– Dealers offer incentives to clear inventory– Fewer buyers, weather can be a factor
Best Time of Year To Sell a Car

The best time of year to sell a car is typically in the spring or summer months. Here’s a simple explanation:

Spring (March-May):

  • Many people receive tax refunds, giving them extra cash to purchase a vehicle.
  • The warmer weather encourages more buyers to start shopping for cars.
  • However, it’s not considered the peak selling season, so prices may not be at their highest.

Summer (June-August):

  • This is the peak selling season for cars, as more people are out shopping and looking to buy.
  • Demand is higher, which can lead to higher prices for sellers.
  • The downside is that you may face more competition from other sellers during this time.

Fall (September-November):

  • Dealers are looking to clear out inventory before the end of the model year, which can lead to better deals for buyers.
  • This can be a good time for sellers to take advantage of the increased demand from buyers looking for end-of-year deals.
  • However, colder weather in some regions can dampen buyer interest.

Winter (December-February):

  • Dealers often offer incentives and discounts to clear out remaining inventory before the new model year.
  • This can be a good time for buyers, but there are typically fewer buyers overall due to the weather and holiday season.
  • Sellers may need to be more flexible on pricing during this slower period.

Overall, the spring and summer months tend to be the best times to sell a car, as demand is higher and buyers are more active in the market. However, timing can vary based on your specific location and whats happening in the market at any given time.

The Best Age To Sell a Car

There is no one size fits all when it comes to age, but through my experience the best age to sell a car is between 3-5 years with 6-8 years coming in at a close second (Obviously depending on how many miles you drive).

Age of CarPros of SellingCons of Selling
3-5 Years– Still has decent resale value
– Avoid major repair costs
– Missed out on more years of use
6-8 Years– Maximize remaining value
– Avoid costly repairs
– Value drops significantly
9-10 Years– Get rid of car before major issues
– Minimal resale value left
– May need to replace sooner than expected
11+ Years– Extract any remaining value
– Avoid sinking more money into repairs
– Very low resale value
– Need to replace immediately
Best Age To Sell a Car

3-5 Years Old:

  • At this age, the car still has decent resale value, as it’s relatively new.
  • Selling at this point allows you to avoid potential major repair costs that often arise as cars get older.
  • The downside is that you’re missing out on several more years of use from the vehicle.

6-8 Years Old:

  • This is often considered the “sweet spot” for maximizing the remaining value of the car before it drops significantly.
  • Major repairs and maintenance costs start to become more likely at this age.
  • Selling at this point can help you avoid costly repairs and get a reasonable return on your investment.

9-10 Years Old:

  • At this age, the car’s value has dropped substantially, and major issues may start to arise.
  • Selling now allows you to get rid of the car before potentially sinking more money into repairs.
  • However, the resale value will be minimal, and you may need to replace the car sooner than expected.

11+ Years Old:

  • Cars this old typically have very low resale value, as they’re nearing the end of their useful life.
  • Selling at this point allows you to extract any remaining value from the car and avoid sinking more money into repairs.
  • The downside is that you’ll need to replace the car immediately, as it’s likely not worth keeping on the road much longer.

Ultimately, the best age to sell a car depends on your specific situation, the condition of the vehicle, and your willingness to take on potential repair costs. However, the 3-5 year or 6-8 year mark tends to be the sweet spot for many car owners, balancing resale value with avoiding major repair expenses.

When Selling Your Car Makes Financial Sense

As a former dealer, I can tell you that there are many reasons people sell cars, besides just because the market conditions are good.

Can’t afford paymentsIf you’re struggling to make car payments, selling to pay off the loan can prevent default and repossession
Repair costs exceed valueWhen facing repairs that cost more than the car’s worth, selling can be a better financial move
Car no longer meets needsLife changes like a growing family or job relocation may necessitate selling your current vehicle
Equity better used elsewhereIf you need cash for other major expenses, selling your car can provide the funds
When Selling Your Car Makes Financial Sense

Before selling your car, remember to plan for alternative transportation and set a minimum acceptable price based on your car’s market value and your financial goals.

Autohitch was set up to help people get accurate trade-in and retail prices on used cars, so if you need help, let us know!

When Trading In A Car Makes More Sense

If you’ve decided it’s time to sell your car, you might be asking if you should trade it in or sell it privately.

For most of the clients I dealt with at my dealership, trade ins provided people with two important benefits:

  • Less Hassle
  • Sales Tax Savings

Trade In Fact: Trading in offers sales tax savings in most states, as you only pay tax on the difference between the trade-in value and new car price.

So, do I recommend you trade in your car right now? No. From what I have seen, dealers are intentionally not taking on more supply because the Days-To-Turn rate (Rate at which a dealer buys and then sells a car) is at a 5 year low.

What this means for you is that they aren’t as eager to take your trade as they are to sell a car and the value you get is likely to be lower than in recent years.

If you absolutely must trade, look at dealers such as Carvana or Carmax that either have a big online operation or massive inventory requirements.

Is it a Good Time to Sell a Used Car Right Now?

As of right now when this article is written, it is still a great time to sell a used car in the United States.

Prices decliningWholesale used vehicle prices down 2.2% in February 2024 compared to previous month
Still above pre-pandemic levelsManheim Used Vehicle Value Index up 32% in February 2024 vs. February 2020
Increased new car supplyEasing chip shortage allowing automakers to ramp up production
Current Used Car Market Conditions

While used car prices are gradually normalizing, they remain higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seasonal factors like tax refunds and weather can also influence demand and prices.

Vehicle Depreciation and Your Car’s Value

On average, cars lose about 60% of their value within the first five years[4][8]. However, depreciation rates vary by make and model. Some vehicles, like Jeep Wranglers and Toyota Tacomas, tend to hold their value better over time[20].

Vehicle AgeAverage Value Lost
1 year20-30%
2-5 years15-18% per year
How vehicle depreciation affects car prices

If you own a newer car, selling earlier in the year can help you recoup more of your initial investment before further depreciation occurs.

Expert tip: It’s generally best to sell before hitting 60,000-70,000 miles and/or the 5-year mark, when more expensive repairs often become necessary. However, well-maintained cars can last much longer.

If you have one of the more popular used cars on the list below, you probably have a little more leeway on when you should sell your car. That’s because high demand vehicles dont experience the same dramatic price fluctuations other cars do.

Some of the most popular used vehicles in the U.S. include:

  1. Ford F-150
  2. Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  3. Chevrolet Equinox
  4. Ram 1500
  5. Honda Civic
  6. Toyota Camry
  7. Toyota RAV4
  8. Toyota Corolla
  9. Ford Explorer
  10. Nissan Rogue

A few key points about this list:

  • Trucks and SUVs/crossovers dominate, taking 8 of the top 10 spots, reflecting consumer preferences for larger vehicles.
  • The Ford F-150 remains the single most popular used vehicle, topping the lists across multiple data sources.
  • The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Ram 1500 round out the top 3 most in-demand used trucks.
  • The Chevrolet Equinox was the #3 overall most popular used vehicle in 2023, even outranking the Ram pickup truck.
  • Among cars, the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla were the most sought-after used models.
  • The Toyota RAV4 and Ford Explorer were other highly popular used SUV choices.
  • The Nissan Rogue compact SUV rounds out the top 10, though it fell a few spots from 2022.

Making the Decision to Sell Now or Wait

Ultimately, unless you are selling a car that isn’t your primary vehicle, the right time to sell your car depends on your individual circumstances and goals rather than just current market conditions. If you need to free up cash or switch to a different vehicle, selling now makes more sense, even if prices have still come down from 2023.

Sources For This Article

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Picture of Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.


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