It’s a frustrating situation to be in: You listed your vehicle for sale several weeks, or maybe even several months ago, and you still haven’t been able to sell it. Maybe you haven’t gotten a lot of interest. Maybe you’ve gotten interest, but no one’s really followed through on coming to look at it. Or maybe (and perhaps most irritating of all), you’ve shown it to a lot of people, but no one’s made any offers or the offers you’ve received have been much lower than you’re hoping to get. Now you’ve wasted plenty of your valuable time showing it, with no results. It can be maddening!
You might be asking yourself if you should lower the price in order to get it sold, or if you should hold out for higher offers. The answer to this question is different for every seller, situation, and vehicle.
While you should be mindful of depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and other costs of ownership, our goal here at Gauge is to help you get the most for your vehicle, whether that means waiting for the right buyer/price or selling quicker at a potentially lower price than you’d wanted or planned for.
Based on our extensive experience buying and selling used vehicles, here are the top seven scenarios where waiting to sell your vehicle might be worthwhile.
1. Your vehicle is more than 7 years old.
We’re all familiar with the fact that a brand new vehicle loses value the moment you drive it off the dealership lot. But not everyone has looked into the data and what that means for their specific vehicle. Most of the depreciation on a vehicle occurs within the first seven years of ownership. This depreciation calculator is a great tool to use. If you’re already past the point where the depreciation curve has slowed (usually between 5-7 years of ownership, depending on the vehicle), it may be worth it to hold out for a higher offer. The important factors to consider in this case would be your monthly cost of ownership (monthly payment, insurance, and maintenance), since depreciation will no longer be quite so much of a concern.
2. Your vehicle is a truck.
Trucks tend to depreciate at a much lower rate than do other body styles, losing around 35% of their value in the first five years of ownership (compared to a 49% average depreciation for other types of vehicles). Thus, if you own a truck, it might make sense to hold out if no one has offered your fair market value yet. There is a caveat to keep in mind here, though: Slower depreciation means that prospective buyers will also be looking at newer trucks with lower mileage, since those trucks will only be slightly more expensive. If your truck is priced too high, most buyers will opt to pay a little bit more for the newer one, instead.
3. Your vehicle is rare, uncommon, or has a hard-to-find feature.
This scenario can apply for specific trim levels that are hard to come by, like a special edition, or specific features on the vehicle that are difficult to find, like third-row seating or a manual transmission on certain models. There are two sides to this coin, though. If there isn’t a lot of market data available for your vehicle, buyers might offer less than you think the vehicle is worth. But the right buyer — the one who really wants this specific vehicle — will potentially be willing to pay a higher price for it. Do some research to understand how hard it is to find a vehicle like yours and whether it might be worth more to a prospective buyer (they’ll usually tell you!). Alternatively, the rarity of your vehicle can also mean you’ll be waiting a really long time to find the right buyer, so if you do have someone interested, it might be worth it to work out a deal with them rather than holding out.
4. Your vehicle is worth less than $5,000.
If your vehicle is on the lower end of the price spectrum, it likely isn’t depreciating quickly, even if it’s newer than five years old.
5. You're selling a sports car or a two-wheel-drive vehicle in an area with cold weather.
It’s typically much more difficult to sell a sports car during or just before winter, especially if you live in a location where it snows or gets very cold. Because of that, it might make sense for you to wait until springtime to sell your vehicle so that you’re able to get more interested buyers making offers. However, if you can tap into a market with warmer weather, you could potentially sell it much faster and not have to hold on to the vehicle through the winter.
6. You have title in hand.
Since you don’t have to worry about making a several hundred dollar car payment each month, you can likely be a little more patient when selling your vehicle. However, even without a monthly car payment and interest, you still have to factor in depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and any other monthly costs you might have (like parking if you live in a city), so make sure to do the math as you consider holding out for a slightly higher price. This usually amounts to $250-$600 per month depending on your vehicle.
7. You're in the first ⅔ of your lease term.
If you’re leasing your vehicle, the buyout amount and market value typically don’t converge until the end of the lease, so it can be very difficult to sell for a price that makes sense until you’re in the last third of your lease term. For example, the price to buy out your lease might be $30,000, but potential buyers are only willing to pay around $27,000. There are websites like swapalease.com where you might be able to find someone to transfer your lease to; otherwise, it might make sense to keep making payments until you’re closer to the end of your lease.
If you’re not in one of these situations, it probably makes sense to get a few offers and then take the highest one, even if it’s not what you had hoped for when you initially put your vehicle on the market.
No matter your situation, some important things to consider are:
What is my monthly cost of waiting? This includes things like depreciation, your car payment, insurance, and maintenance, and can also include registration and emissions if those things are coming due.
What other vehicles are potential buyers considering? If your vehicle is relatively new, they’re probably comparing them to new or certified pre-owned vehicles from a dealership. If there are other vehicles similar to yours for sale by owner or at a nearby dealership, make sure that you’re priced relative to them to get enough interest, and remember that each vehicle actually sells for less than the asking or list price.
How much time am I willing to spend? It takes a lot of time to answer texts and calls and show your vehicle to prospective buyers, so be sure to factor that in as well.
We hope this helps you evaluate your specific situation and if you have any questions or want some advice, we’re always happy to let you know what we’re seeing in the market!