When Should I Trade in My Car?


Folks swear up and down that there is a “best time” for everything. That there is a specific time that you can get a cheaper plane ticket, a better hotel rate, better produce deals, or a better car price. It’s easy to be naturally skeptical of these claims – and you’re right to. These specific times are almost never correct.

 

That being said, particularly for vehicles, there is a grain of truth in the idea. Whether you’re buying a new or used vehicle, or trading in or selling a vehicle, there are certain times that will be better than others. The best time to do these things isn’t a set date, or a specific day of the week – it’s when specific circumstances align. So when should you trade in a vehicle to get the best bang for your trade?


When to Trade In Your Car | Team Toyota of Glen Mills in Glen Mills, PA | Side profile of a black color Toyota camry  

Is There a Best Time to Trade in a Car?


Even for your specific vehicle, there may be a different time than another vehicle. But there is definitely a best time to trade in your vehicle, a time when you will get the best value for it. It’s a combination of a few factors:

 

  • Age: Vehicles depreciate over time, and vehicles depreciate quickly. If your car is only a year or two old, the depreciation has been deep so far. You need to sit on it a little longer – let the depreciation even out to improve trade value. But don’t wait too long. There are definitive drops around the end-of-warranty years. These are usually three, seven, and ten years after purchase. Each milestone reduces what is covered on the vehicle, which in turn reduces the value. Each year also means the tech in the vehicle is another year out of date – you need to trade your vehicle in before the tech inside is obsolete.
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  • Mileage: Like with age, higher miles can eventually reduce trade-in value. The average passenger vehicle racks up around 12,000 miles per year. If your vehicle is under that average, it may be a good time to trade it in – the dealer knows that buyers will jump on these vehicles before they go for the ones with higher-than-average mileage.
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  • Wear and Tear: If your vehicle is starting to cost you more in repairs and maintenance, averaged out over a period of 2-3 years, it’s time to trade it in. Compare your maintenance costs with the payments for a new or used vehicle.
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  • Supply and Demand: Keep an eye out on the local demand. If the dealer has 19 used Honda Pilots on their lot, and you’re trying to trade in a Honda Pilot, that dealer is not going to be in a hurry to give you the best price. But if they don’t have any on the lot, they may be looking for them, knowing they have potential buyers. Take advantage of this!
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  • Break-Even: Some people say that trading in a vehicle you still owe on is a bad idea. But if you time it right, it can be a great idea! If you are carrying a loan on your vehicle, and demand has risen to the point where your trade value is near or even above the current loan
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  • Feeding the Beast: As gas prices rise, the cost to fill a tank goes up. Maybe you don’t need quite the vehicle you’ve bought. If you can move to a vehicle with better gas mileage, it is a good time to trade your vehicle in.
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    When some or all of these align, you’ve found the best time to trade in your vehicle.

     


    When Is a Bad Time to Trade in My Car?


    So if there’s a “best time” to trade in your car, there’s the other side of the coin – the bad times to trade in your car. These include when:

     

  • You’re upside-down in the vehicle and owe far more on the loan than the trade value of your vehicle
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  • You are under a loan with a prepayment penalty. The trade-in pays off the loan – which means you will face a prepayment penalty if one is included in your loan.
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  • Your financial situation for getting a new vehicle is ONLY tenable by trading in your current vehicle. It should be to help bump the cost down to help, not make-or-break it.
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    If any of these apply, you need to re-evaluate if trading in your vehicle right now is a good idea or not.

     

    How Do I Maximize My Trade-In?


    Let’s be honest – you will never get as much for your vehicle as a trade-in than as a private sale.

     

    But that’s just in terms of pure cash. There’s quite a bit more that goes into the equation. If you want to conduct a private sale you have to list your vehicle, likely across multiple platforms. You’ll need to prep it, get pictures, do a write-up, field e-mails and phone calls, deal with low-ball offers and looky-loos, set up test drives, negotiate, and deal with paperwork. What price do you put on simplicity and not getting a headache from managing all of this?

     

    If you’d rather skip all that and just try to get the most trade-in value for your vehicle, there are a few things you can do to get every last cent possible.

     

  • Find the Trade-In Price: Check out resources including Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. See if online retailers including CarMax, Carvana, or Vroom will provide quotes. Compare similar vehicles through sites like Cars.com and AutoTrader – but keep in mind these are what your vehicle is selling for, and a dealer won’t offer quite that much. They want to make a profit after all. All of these estimates combined will provide you a reasonable picture of what your car may be worth.
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  • Clean Up Your Vehicle: One of the big differences between getting top trade-in and mid-range trade-in is how the vehicle looks and how much the dealer is going to have to put into cleaning and reconditioning it.
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  • Get Your Records in Order: Make sure you have all the appropriate maintenance and recall notes, and have them sorted so your potential partner can easily check them out to make sure you’re up on all maintenance.
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  • Shop It Around: Don’t just take the first quote that sounds close to what you want. Check out a few dealers to see who can give you the highest straight-up price for the vehicle. There could be hundreds, or even thousands of dollars difference between dealers.
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  • Get It in Writing: If it’s not in writing, it may not be honored if you leave and return. Ask the dealer you are working with to agree to it in writing.
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    There is a best time to trade in a vehicle – and you can benefit from it! So figure out the best time that works for you and your vehicle, and make sure you get the most out of your car, truck or SUV towards your next one!

     

    You can see how much your trade-in is worth right now! Contact our staff at Team Toyota of Glen Mills when you’re ready to take a test drive!