Know When to Trade In or Sell Your Car

By Angela Monroe - August 4, 2020

Know When to Trade In or Sell Your Car

Knowing when to trade in a car is part of owning a car. There always comes a time when you have to choose: keep it, sell it or trade it in?

It can be a tough call – many drivers get attached to their car and fear the hassle and expense of parting ways with it.

In this article, we go over when to trade in a car so you can make the right decision.


Service a car

This goes hand-in-hand with your wallet. If the vehicle you’re thinking about trading in is costing (and threatening to cost) you more and more, it’s time to move on. For example, if at your last service, you found out that ‘you’ll have to get the timing done next service’ or ‘you need a new water pump’, it’s time to upgrade.

Driving in The Past:

Old car

If your vehicle is lacking modern technology like a reverse camera, adaptive cruise control, auto-emergency braking and lane departure warning, consider trading it in. Often, the auto market dictates when to trade in a car as more technology becomes the norm.

Bear in mind that not only driver-assist and safety features are something to think about. Modern vehicles are designed and manufactured with a new technology that helps in reliability and fuel economy.

Fortunately, budget-friendly ways to upgrade your car are available if you decide not to part ways with your car.

Your Lifestyle Doesn’t Match Anymore:

overloaded car

Just like choosing an ideal car for a road trip when on holiday, choosing an ideal car for a lifestyle makes sense too. Commonly, drivers who’ve bought a small or sports car in their early twenties find themselves needing something bigger. Downsizing after the kids have left home is another common situation. If you find your car continuously proving itself to not meet your driving needs, it’s time to trade it in.

Condition Makes a Huge Difference:

car wheels with soap

Obviously ‘good condition’ is a huge selling point. But to what extent? On a common vehicle, the condition can swing up to a third of the price. On more desirable or rare vehicles, good-condition examples can double their average-condition counterparts.

If you’re not sure of the actual condition of your car, consider paying a professional to inspect it. You’ll get a factual report of exactly what is damaged, what needs replacing and even price estimates.

Tip: Paint is usually noticed first when looking at cars. Clearcoat scratches are light-coloured marks more noticeable on darker paint colours. They are the easiest to fix and can sometimes and accurately be put in the ‘that’ll buff out’ basket. Splash some water over the scratch, if it disappears when wet and comes visible again when dry – it’s likely a clear coat scratch.

Decide ‘when’:

choice signs posts

If your car is costing too much to service, has outdated features, too big or small and you don’t like the condition – you’ve found the answer to ‘when’. The next step is giving your car a new home without finding yourself out of pocket or searching for months for that ‘perfect buyer’. Know the pros and cons of used vehicles if you’re planning to upgrade to a non-new example.

Dealing with Dealers:


To stay in business, car dealers need to make money. They naturally want to acquire vehicles for as little money as possible. Keep this in mind when negotiating.

The main pro of trading in your car and purchasing a new one through a dealer is the one-stop-shop benefit. Hand over the keys, get the trade-in price off the new car, pay the remaining balance – drive away.

The con is low trade-in value. As mentioned, dealers want the lowest price possible. Be prepared to have every scratch, wear and tear mark and fault used against you. Dealers know the tricks of the trade (in).

Selling a Car Privately:

notepad and laptop

Unless the buyer is someone you know, you’ll have to meet with strangers you’ve met online. Carsales and GumTree are two of the more popular platforms in Australia and after a quick search, you can get an idea of the price range you’ll be looking at when selling. If you’re patient and fancy your negotiating skills, you’ll likely get a higher price than taking the trade-in option – additionally, you’ll receive cash.

Creating an ad is easy and often free with basic packages and exposure. Make sure to take high-quality photos of your car and be honest in the description.

Tip: Photos sell cars online. Make sure to upload clear images that show as much as possible. Take a look at some professional, new car advertisements online to get some ideas about photos and descriptions.

Prepare Your Car For Sale:

car wash

The better the condition of your car, the more you’ll get for it. Buyers will also have less to argue you down on. Start by spring cleaning your car and replacing anything that needs it. Wiper blades and filters for example. If you can, do some simple maintenance and get things in top shape. 

Buyers will give your car a thorough look over and shakedown to make sure they’re getting a good deal. A poorly maintained vehicle without a service history can scare buyers away.

The Final Thought:

notepad and pencils

Like many things in life, the more you pay – the more convenience you get. If you prefer the ease and relative hassle-free approach of a dealer, this is worth exploring. On the other hand, if you’re happy to negotiate with strangers, wait for a good deal and advertise online – you can be rewarded with a higher budget on your next car.

The best of both worlds: This is where finance can help. Buying a new car on finance allows you to upgrade while keeping your old car until you find a good sale online. Then use that money to pay off a large chunk of the loan.

Angela Monroe
Angela Monroe is the Community Manager at The Positive Group, specialising in giving people the information that they need when they need it, and putting you on the path to a fair financial future. She has 8 years of experience in helping Australians find the right finance solutions, and regularly contributes articles to empower Australians with the knowledge they need to become financially healthy.


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