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Should I sell my car? How to know when it's time

Deciding whether it's time for a new car can be exciting, but also confusing. Here are some things to consider to decide if it's the right time to switch

How do I know it’s time to sell my car?

Are you up for a new car? Is it time for something new? Deciding when it's the right time to change your car is always a tricky calculation, with lots of things to take into consideration. But there are a few solid pointers that will tell you when it's time to sell your motor.

Your car is always breaking down

Might seem obvious, but still worth a mention…if your car is getting on a bit and is frequently breaking down, and you’re spending a lot of time and money getting it fixed, it's time for a change. 

But even if it isn’t as unreliable as that, taking stock of what you spend on repairing, maintaining and servicing your car can be sign that it’s no longer economical to own. 

The first thing to do is work out how much your car is worth. Get an online appraisal from our faff-free car valuation tool to see what your make and model – and same year and mileage – sells for.

Then you need to speak to a mechanic you trust about any upcoming costs that your car is likely to incur. This could include any significant repairs needed right now, plus anything that perhaps isn’t necessary to fix immediately, but will need seeing to in the next year or so. Also, factor in anything that will need replacing at the next service. 

If you compare and find that the cost of repairs is significantly higher than the vehicle’s value, it’s definitely time to sell.

Another way of working out if your car might cost more to fix than it’s worth is to check an online reliability index, which lists cars by the risk of things going wrong with them – and the average cost of fixing them.

It suggests that when a car is five years old, it is more likely to go wrong than at any other age, while the mileage at which you need to be concerned about things going wrong is around 60,000 miles. 

Your car is costing you a lot to run

As cars get older – especially if they’re not regularly maintained and serviced – they become less efficient, so you’ll be spending more on fuel and possibly other ‘consumables’ such as oil.

But with new air quality rules and clean air zones being introduced, it could also mean that you have to pay to drive in certain areas, as your car is too old to conform with the new regulations. If you’re commuting or driving into these areas on a daily basis, the fees will soon add up.

Your car doesn’t meet your needs

Our lives change – and our cars often need to change with them. If you’re about to start a family, for example, a small city car or something without rear doors is likely to be too impractical for your new needs.

By the same token, if you’ve recently become an ‘empty nester’ and your kids have grown up and left home, you’re probably not going to need a people carrier or seven-seater. Downsizing will probably save a you a lot on running costs, so a change will do you good (it might even be time for that convertible you’ve always wanted).

And if you’ve just moved house, a car better suited to your new environment is a good idea. If you’re moving to the city, something small (or even electric) might work better than a big SUV. If you’ve moved to the country, the opposite might be true.

Your car doesn’t feel safe

Older cars aren’t built as solidly as modern cars, plus they don’t have all the latest driver assistance features, so you might start to feel vulnerable in traffic. And if your brakes are perhaps starting to feel their age, taking longer to stop your car, or rust spots that make the car feel less than solid, you know it’s time to upgrade.

Your car isn’t environmentally friendly 

Your car not being able to meet new clean air rules isn’t the only sign that your car isn’t exactly the greenest thing you can drive.

Car manufacturers have managed to reduce the levels of tailpipe emissions – and improve fuel economy – by a significant amount of the last decade or two, so the newer your car, the cleaner it is likely to be.

A good sign that your car could be greener is how much car tax you pay. Car tax (officially known as Vehicle Excise Duty, or VED) is based on your car’s CO2 emissions, so if it’s in one of the higher bands, you can definitely do better with a newer car.

It's the right time of year to sell

If you’ve decided to sell your car, you then need to work out the best time to do it. Trying to offload a convertible in winter won’t bring you the best price, while 4x4s are less in demand in the summer. 

It's also worth remembering that new car sales are at their highest at the registration plate change in March and September – which means lots of cars are being part-exchanged and then go on the used car market. Avoid these months if you want to maximise how much money you sell your car for.

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