Getting rid of an old car is something more and more Americans find difficult to do. The average age of American vehicles has been on the rise for years, peaking at 11.9 years in 2020; a one month increase over 2019. Experts believe this is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As new models roll off assembly lines with more robust electronics, luxuriant features, and onboard technology suites, the cost of new vehicles continues to rise. This, coupled with an economic downturn and higher quality vehicle construction, means many Americans are holding onto old vehicles for longer.
Whether you are weighing if a costly repair is worth undertaking or you're looking to trade in your ride while its value is still high, it can be difficult to know when the best time is to trade in your old car for a new one. Below are some telltale signs and things to keep in mind as you consider pulling the trigger on a new car or truck.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT VEHICLE WORTH?
Using sites like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds will help you get a realistic idea of what your current vehicle is worth. Having this knowledge in your pocket is important for a few reasons. First, your current vehicle's value can often be the deciding factor on an expensive repair. There is no use sinking good money into repairs for a vehicle that's not worth what you're spending to repair it. You may be better off investing the money you'll spend on repairs into a more reliable ride. Second, understanding the value of your current vehicle can help you get the best deal on a trade in or sale as you upgrade to a newer model.
HOW OFTEN ARE YOU PAYING FOR REPAIRS?
Even small repairs can add up over time. We always recommend, regardless of your vehicle's age, tracking repair types and invoicing. This can help you easily identify your vehicle's repair trends as well as understanding what you're spending on repairs vs. your vehicle's overall value. Once small repairs start occurring more frequently or begin to exceed the value of the vehicle itself, that’s a good indicator that it may be time to start looking for a new ride.
SHAKES AND NOISES STARTING TO WORRY YOU?
It’s never a good sign when a vehicle starts making grinding, squealing, or any number of other noises. These sounds, particularly in an older vehicle, can often be early indicators of expensive repairs around the corner. Pay careful attention to your vehicle’s driving characteristics as well. If you feel a big repair coming on, it may be better to trade your car or truck in now before you get stuck with an expensive repair.
IS YOUR VEHICLE IN GOOD CONDITION?
Vehicles in good or excellent condition are always worth more, so if you are looking to get as much as possible for a trade or private sale, then it's always best to keep it in good condition. Washing your vehicle regularly and keeping it up to date on maintenance will ensure it's in the best condition possible when it comes time to upgrade.
HOW MANY MILES ARE ON YOUR VEHICLE?
In order to get the most for a trade in or sale, you'll find the 30-70,000 mile range ensures you get great usage out of the vehicle while selling it at its most valuable. By this point (typically 2-3 years in a vehicle's lifecycle), the vehicle has already experienced its steepest decline in original value (30-50%) and won't hit another one until 100,000 miles. Similarly, if your car is about to hit 100,000 miles, it might be time to upgrade. Vehicles, even well-maintained ones in excellent condition, experience a drop in value after 100,000 miles.
While these times are filled with uncertainty, if you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, there are plenty of deals to be found, particularly if you have a vehicle you are ready to trade in. Manufacturers, dealerships, and financiers are eager for your business and with interest rates at historic lows, you’re sure to find a deal that gets you behind the wheel of the vehicle you want to drive. If you are buying used, don’t forget that your AAA Tire & Auto Repair locations will inspect any vehicle you’re thinking about buying, giving you a more complete picture so nothing catches you by surprise.