Like the song says, Breaking up is hard to do—even if the relationship you’re ending is the one between you and your car. You may share many memories, but sentimentality is not a good enough reason to keep an old vehicle. So, when do you know it’s time to move on and start shopping for a new set of wheels?
Life changes. Landing a new job, moving, starting a family, watching kids leaving the nest—events like these determine how you’ll use your car. Buying that 4-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—that might also have 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 something with a little (or a lot) more room.
If you want to sell your vehicle with the least amount of 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 just walk away from the deal.
Mileage milestones can also make an impact on the selling price. Selling before the 60-to-70,000-mile mark is a good idea, since that’s often when warranties expire and when expensive fixes start becoming necessary. Sell a car before this mileage marker and you can ask for a higher price. If you’ve already passed 70,000 miles, it will still be easier to find a buyer if you list your car before the vehicle reaches 100,000 miles. The condition of your car might not change at that mileage marker, but shoppers may think differently once it passes six figures’ worth of miles.
Ideally, you’d sell your car when it’s running well. But what if your car is already in need of a little TLC? 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 your vehicle’s worth 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 costs—significant repairs needed to keep your car on the road now, repairs they see coming in the next year that aren’t necessary right now, and major maintenance due in the next year based on mileage. Now, compare the vehicle’s worth to the cost to keep it running. If it’s going to cost more than it’s worth, it’s time to sell.
Mechanics and past bills can help us estimate future financial costs for a vehicle, but how much is your mental health worth? Waking up with a pit in your stomach because you’re worried your car won’t start will certainly take a toll. It’s the same story with the anxiety that comes every time it rains or snows because you know how poorly your car handles in those conditions.
If you’re having daily stress about your vehicle’s reliability, it’s probably time to move on to something that will get you from point A to point B without giving you an ulcer on the way.
Your car starts every time you turn the key, but stopping with those worn-out brakes feels less certain. Maybe the engine is purring, but there’s so much rust you worry about parts falling off every time you drive. Maybe you feel safe enough in the car, but you feel nervous when your kids, or your mother, or a friend needs a ride.
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 you’re looking to move on from a vehicle before its lease term is up, you don’t have to break the lease (and pay the subsequent fees) to do it. You can return the leased vehicle to a dealership, sell it privately, or transfer the lease to a third party.
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