Timing, as any comedian will tell you, is everything. What goes for comedy also goes for car sales, as there are always peaks and troughs in the car buying and selling year. Picking your moment is critical, both when buying and selling, so as to maximise your value for money. So if you find yourself asking when should I sell a used car, read on!
Bear in mind that, on average, you’ll own something like eight or nine cars in your lifetime so you’ve only got a limited number of times to get this right. Assuming that you’re not selling for what you might call a ‘distress’ reason — emigration, loss of a job or some other emergency need for money — it’s always a good idea to wait for the best time of year to sell a car before posting that classified ad, or bringing your car in for a trade-in.
The Irish market has two distinct peaks of new car sales, in January and in June, and those peaks stretch out a little into February and March, and into July. This is a good time of year to avoid selling your car, as dealerships will be up to their necks in trade-ins and so they’ll be less interested in taking your trade-in. It’ll also affect your value if you’re selling the car privately, as there will almost certainly be plenty of other versions of your car available on dealer forecourts.
The best times?
So the best times to sell a used car are at the far ends of those peaks, at a time when dealers have fewer trade-ins and customers are shopping around that bit more carefully.
It depends on your car, too. If you’re off-loading a small, affordable car it’s best to try your luck in June, July, and August as those are the months where passing rates for driving licences are at their highest, and younger drivers are keen to get a foot on the car buying ladder with their pink licence hot in their hands.
Coming up to Christmas is a good time, too as more well-off families are often on the lookout for a good second-hand buy to be a present for their teenage offspring.
Factors in play
The age of your car also plays into this. Any car that’s between 12 and 18 months old is going through its worst period of depreciation (at least under normal market conditions) so this is a bad age at which to sell. Depreciation flattens out after this so you’re more likely to get a similar value for a car between 18 months and three years old, assuming you’ve kept it in good condition.
The type of car you’re selling is also critical. Saloons, hatchbacks, and SUVs will be in demand year-round, but specialist vehicles have their specific seasons — convertibles sell better in summer, four-wheel drive cars sell better in winter.
It’s worth keeping an eye on the motoring pages and magazines too, to see when new models of popular cars are arriving. If you own the outgoing model, the arrival of the new one (and consequent trade-ins of your old version) could drive down its value, so keep an eye on what’s happening in the wider motoring world to see when might be a bad time to strike.
If you’re trading-in, it’s even worth taking care over the time of day you go to a dealership. Avoiding peak hours — lunchtimes, Saturday mornings, late afternoons — is a good idea as you’re more likely to get better attention from the sales staff, and if it’s quieter in the dealership you can spend more time driving the bargain you want.
Of course, all of this adds up to a fairly complicated equation of timings. It is worth taking some time to figure it all out, though, as the difference between the right time of year (or week) and the wrong one can be several hundred Euro. As ever, do your sums, do your research and you’ll make the most out of your car. Hopefully we've helped to explain the question of when to sell a used car, but if you have any questions, just let us know!