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When Should You Change Your Car?

Tue, 18/04/2017
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The new number plates came out in March, and new car registrations during that month reached a record high of 562,337 – an increase of 8.4% compared to March 2016. The increase in car sales is thought to be due to the increase in vehicle excise duty, which came into force on 1st April and means that many new cars are significantly more expensive to tax, and only cars that produce no CO2 emissions will be free of tax.

The increase in car tax prices may mean that the best time to buy a brand new car has already passed us by, but when is the best time to get rid of your car? The age of your car, its condition and even the weather can all dictate when it makes the most sense to change your car, and when you’ll get the best price for your old one. Here are seven questions you could ask yourself to help you decide whether it’s the right time for you to get rid of your car.

1. How old is your car?

The value of a car tends to depreciate most within the first nine months, but the newer the car is, the more it is worth. If you’re thinking about selling your car, you might not want to wait too long as the longer you leave it the less money it will sell for.

Even the most well-maintained older cars begin to show signs of wear, and they are often lacking safety equipment and advancements that appear on newer models. Better handling, better brakes, side airbags, and more high tech features such as lane departure warning systems can all make modern cars much safer to drive than their older counterparts.

Older cars are less reliable, and it is suggested that when cars reach five years old they have the highest failure rate of their lifetime. This means they will require bigger and more expensive repairs, which leads us to the next thing you should consider:

2. What condition is your car in?

You’ll know it’s time to get rid of your car when repairs are beginning to cost more than the car is worth. You will also need to think about future repairs – any repairs you make now will keep your car running for a while, but how long will it be before the next expensive failure? Even if it costs you more to buy a new car, you could be saving money in the long run by investing in a newer, more up to date model that is going to cost you less in repairs.

If you have maintained your car well over the years, you may find you have slowed down its depreciation. A good way to find out whether your car is turning into a money pit is to ask a trusted mechanic to take a look at it and advise you on any repairs that are likely to crop up in the near future. 

3. What is your car’s fuel efficiency like?

The older your car is, the less likely it is to be fuel-efficient. Newer cars are more advanced and have better fuel consumption. So while it may seem cheaper to stick with your old car rather than fork out for a new one, you may find that a new, more fuel-efficient car could save you money in the long run. It is worth crunching the numbers to figure out how much you will be spending (and saving) in petrol. Factor in the initial outlay for the vehicle, as well as car tax and insurance, so that you’re building up a complete picture of how much your new car will cost to buy and to run compared to your current one.

4. Have your circumstances changed?

The most obvious time to buy a new car is when your personal circumstances have changed. If your car is no longer suitable, for example because you are starting a family and need a bigger car, this may take precedence over all other factors. You may also find that while it used to be important for you to have the newest, highest spec car but now this is less important for you, or a change to your finances has made it difficult to justify this cost.

5. What time of year is it?

March and September, when the new registration plates are released, are not necessarily the best months for you to sell your car. Around this time many people are buying brand new cars, which leads to an influx of used cars on the market. There is a lower demand for used cars, and this means that prices will be lower and you may not get as much money for your car as you would during other times of the year. If you are selling privately, it may be worth selling slightly earlier to avoid this increase in competition.

6. What’s the weather like?

Even the weather could potentially affect whether or not you’ll get a good price for your car if you decide to sell it. For example, if you have a convertible or sports car this will naturally be easier to sell in the summer compared to the winter, when nobody wants to drive with the top down. You could also get a higher price for your classic or roadster in the summer.

Conversely, other cars don’t do quite so well in the summer, particularly in the school holidays. Many people will be spending their time and money on holidays rather than on looking for a new car.

Just as the price of sports cars increases in the summer, the cost of 4x4s and crossovers increases in the winter. However, December is a difficult time to sell a car due to the expense and distraction of Christmas.

7. What’s in the news?

Sometimes the automotive market is affected by things you may not expect it to be, such as what’s going on in the news. Big events such as the Olympics and the World Cup can distract people from making large purchases, so when these events take place you might want to wait until they are over before putting your car on the market.

Politics can also affect car sales – for example, if the Chancellor announces changes to fuel prices during annual budget, this may make people think twice about what type of car they buy in terms of fuel-efficiency. Major events such as the EU referendum also affect car sales, with many retailers reporting a dip in sales around that time.

There are many factors which dictate whether your car will be easy to sell, how much it will sell for, and whether you should get rid of it at all. The best thing you can do before you put the ad in your car window is research the market. Are similar cars being sold at the moment, and how much are they selling for? How much life is your car likely to have left in it, and how much might it cost you in repairs if you don’t trade it in? Once you have the answers to these questions, you will be able to make an informed decision about whether you can hold onto your car for a while longer, or if it’s safer to buy a new one.

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