A woman is shown on her phone while standing next to a red vehicle.

Selling Your Car: Tomorrow, Today, or Yesterday?

Nobody likes the feeling of being too late. Clocking into work thirty minutes into your shift, missing breakfast at McDonald’s, or finding out you would have gotten far more for your vehicle trade-in a month ago. Sometimes, market trends change wildly and quickly, but that’s not always the case. If you’re wondering, “When should I sell my car?”, there’s something simple you should know: it’s impossible to predict the perfect time to sell your vehicle.

Market trends can and will change. If you’re interested in selling your vehicle and you’re worried you missed your window of opportunity, don’t fret. It isn’t too late. There are, however, some tips and tricks at your disposal to help you get the most out of your vehicle when and if you decide to sell it. With that said, just because it isn’t too late to sell a vehicle doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been more lucrative for you to have done so earlier. There are a lot of factors to consider, so I’ll get right into it.

A person is shown handing their car key to a salesman after selling their car.

Keep Up With the Times

You might’ve heard it’s best to sell your vehicle during a specific time of year, perhaps before a new flagship model releases. It’s not uncommon for something to lose its value once its successor launches. In the automotive market, this happens annually, not only due to the aforementioned depreciation but because the automotive industry never sits still. Let’s say you’re driving a vehicle such as a 2019 Nissan Rogue and are interested in the 2023 model. Trading in the 2019 model sooner rather than later will net you the most money. Not only would a vehicle released less than five years ago have lost less value due to depreciation, but it can also likely be sold as a CPO vehicle depending on that manufacturer’s standards, so you could potentially get more money for the trade-in.

Okay, so trading in sooner is better. Understandably, there’s a limit to this, as you probably won’t be looking to upgrade a vehicle you purchased the year prior unless you’re financing. More drivers are likely to drive the same vehicle for two to three years than one, and even more drivers operate their vehicles for longer than that. It’s not rocket science why this happens; people aren’t made of money. If more of us had the choice, we’d be driving something new every year, whether to secure the latest release or to simply purchase a vehicle with more power, tech, safety, and what have you. The reality is that the average driver, such as myself, won’t be driving the latest and greatest every year, even if I had decided to do just that a couple of years prior.

Now, let’s throw this out there and say that you do well enough for yourself, and you can swap out your vehicle every year with the next big release. So, when should you trade in your vehicle? In a situation where you’re generally looking to upgrade your vehicle, you should aim to sell your vehicle at least a month or two before the next model releases. For example, until a vehicle comes out, such as the 2023 Nissan Versa, the 2022 model will be the latest release until the day the next one launches.

That said, just because a 2023 model comes out tomorrow doesn’t immediately mean the 2022 model will drop significantly in price overnight. However, what it does mean is that once word gets around about incoming changes to a beloved automobile, such as a fresh array of powertrains, a new exterior, etc., drivers who are kept in the loop will know to wait for it and to trade in their vehicle at the right time. It’s also not uncommon to see an influx of listings for a particular vehicle as the next iteration gets announced. Automobiles aren’t the only product where stuff like this happens. Because automotive manufacturers are ingrained in our daily lives, and for many Americans, a vehicle is a necessity, we tend to notice these market trends a tad more than something such as our television sets.

Should I Wait?

Let’s change gears for a minute here because while I’ve primarily been focused on if it were too late to sell your vehicle, what if you were wondering about the opposite: what if I were to wait on selling my vehicle? Unlike what I discussed previously, there is far less reason to wait to sell your vehicle. While it’s true that sometimes vehicles appreciate in value, it’s normally not a night and day difference, especially if we’re talking about a handful of years. There’s a difference between driving a vintage muscle car and a Ford Fiesta. There’s a strong chance you’re not driving an antique, so waiting to trade it in for a newer model is unlikely to get you more money.

Simply put, it wouldn’t be wise to wait to sell your vehicle because there’s more of a chance your vehicle is losing value than gaining it. Again, there are a few exceptions, such as if your vehicle is the last model year released, it might be worth holding onto, because like I spoke about earlier, discontinuing a model counts as a massive shift in the market trend, creating the potential for supply and demand to dramatically change.

A close up of the mirror on a white vehicle is shown.

Where to Start

If you’ve decided you want to sell your vehicle and feel comfortable with the current market conditions and what you can expect, then there are a couple of ways you can do this. The easiest way to go about selling your vehicle to work your way up to the latest release is by taking your vehicle to a local dealership and speaking with their finance department. Often, trading in your vehicle to a dealership is the preferred method because of its simplicity, and it requires far less effort on the owner’s side to get the vehicle out of their hands and replaced with a cool wad of cash. The trade-in value you get from a dealership can be applied directly to the next vehicle you purchase, or many dealerships will give you cash to be spent elsewhere if you so choose.

Alternatively, if you decide you want to sell your vehicle privately through a platform such as Craigslist or FaceBook Marketplace, you have a bit more leniency in how you go about selling your vehicle. Most notably, if you’re selling your vehicle, you can name your price, but this requires far more planning. Market trends that other dealerships take care of for you have to be researched to ensure you have potential buyers lining up who don’t feel they’re getting ripped off. You can also use your knowledge of the market to sell your vehicle at the right time if you familiarize yourself with what to look out for with market trends. To truly get an idea of how much you should list a vehicle for, you should use a pricing tool guide such as Kelley Blue Book. Hopefully, by beginning with these steps, you should be on your way to selling your vehicle on your own terms. Whether you take this task on yourself or enlist the help of a dealership, research is crucial to maximizing your profit.