Car Selling Tips

Used Car Prices Are Surging: Should You Trade Yours In?

What are the hottest and hardest-to-get vehicles right now? No, not the newest trucks or off-roaders, but used cars and pickups. Their prices have been at record-high prices for almost a year, and many experts are saying it could potentially take another year before they start going back down to their usual levels of price and supply.

It’s possible you’ve got something in your driveway that may be worth almost as much, or maybe even more than you paid for it, so should you cash in? We’ve got some tips to help you decide.

What’s Up With These High Prices?

The problem was created by a few factors, all related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Car sales fell when pandemic restrictions began, reducing the number that would return to the market as pre-owned. As vehicle production dropped, automakers ordered fewer microchips; and instead, the supply went to the freshly soaring work-from-home demand for electronics.

There weren’t enough microchips to go around when the auto assembly lines started up again, and the semiconductor chip shortage is still limiting new-car production – so buyers who can’t get a new vehicle are shopping on used car lots. The pandemic also cut travel, and car-rental companies reduced their fleets to save money. People are renting again and these rental companies are panic-buying to restock, even taking used cars when new ones aren’t available. All of this means fewer used cars overall, and they’re worth a lot more right now. It’s a classic scenario of low supply and high demand that’s driving up prices.

What Prices Are Highest?

While the prices for all vehicles are up overall, what’s normally hottest on the new-car lot is also being snapped up quickly on the pre-owned side, too. That means pickup trucks, SUVs, and even commercial vehicles like vans and heavy-duty trucks. Dealers can’t get enough stock, so they want your vehicles and might be willing to pay top dollar for them. If you don’t need the capacity of your bigger vehicle, it might be wise to think about trading it for a smaller car and pocketing the difference.

More Than Just Cash

Beyond just getting a cheque, you could use these historically high prices to improve your finances. If you’re underwater on a desirable model – meaning you owe more money on it than it’s worth – or making high monthly payments, look into trading it for a less-expensive model to bring down your debt. Or if you have a second car that seldom gets driven, you can sell that to help pay down the debt on your first one.

Where Should I Offer It?

As always, the general rule is that you’ll get more money when selling privately, because a dealer is buying to resell and has to make a profit on it. However, it might be worth it to you to go the dealer route anyway. They know the current situation and might be less likely to haggle than a private buyer will. Plus, you’ll save yourself time and aggravation, because you don’t have to advertise the vehicle, and then show it to interested buyers – as well as deal with tire-kickers.

One option is to use AutoTrader’s convenient Instant Cash Offer feature that gives you a quick value on your vehicle based on real-time data. You then take it to a participating dealership to verify its condition and you can walk out that same day, cash in hand.

What Could Go Wrong?

Your vehicle is worth a lot because no one can easily get a new or used one – and it could be difficult and expensive to get a replacement vehicle for yourself. Before you sell, be sure you can buy a replacement and that the price difference is enough to make it worth your while.

The Ball’s in Your Court

This is where you’re going to make the most of your negotiating skills so you can get top dollar for your vehicle. See what similar models are going for in your area – new as well as used, to give you a base line. If you’re considering selling to a dealership, talk to a few to see who’s going to give you the best possible price. Whether it’s a straight sale or you’re trading in, go for the best bid. Your old vehicle will be on the lot the next day for even more.

Make It Amazing

Just as real estate agents “stage” houses, getting your vehicle looking top-notch will help you get top dollar for it. Clean the upholstery, carpets, the dash, and windows. If you’re not up for doing a deep clean yourself, take it to a detailer.

Wash and wax it; clean the wheels and tires; and touch up any stone chips. If you’re including winter wheels and tires, give them a quick tidy-up too. Gather everything that should go with it, including maintenance records, owner’s manual, spare keys, wheel locks, and so on.

Should You Wait for Your Vehicle to Go Even Higher?

If there was a crystal ball to predict the markets, everyone would be a billionaire. We don’t have one, so we can’t tell if your vehicle’s value has yet to top out. But we will suggest you to keep an eye on the industry. No one’s sure when the microchip issue will be over – we’ve heard everything from later in 2021, right through to getting better in 2023.

Despite the shortage of new vehicles, sales are rising. It’ll be a while before they’re brought back as pre-owned, but every new car means a buyer who doesn’t have to pick off the used-car lot. And as the next model year comes into the showroom, your ride is now a year older, decreasing its value. If you wait too long, these historic used-car prices could possibly pass you by.