What's the best mileage to sell a car?

The question of how long to keep a car before selling it partly comes down to its mileage. There are three general benchmarks to consider:

  • 30,000-40,000 miles: Most manufacturers' general warranties expire in that range, and the first major maintenance is usually due. Selling before reaching those benchmarks may get you the best price for your car.
  • 60,000-70,000 miles: Most manufacturers' powertrain warranties expire in that range, and the second major maintenance is scheduled to occur. Selling before reaching those benchmarks will get you a better price for your car than selling afterward.
  • 90,000-100,000 miles: Crossing the 100,000-mile mark is a psychological barrier. The car may be running just as well as it was at 95,000 miles, but in a buyer's mind, there's a common perception that a car's value drops once the odometer crosses over 100,000 miles.

That said, not all car mileage is equal. Highway miles create less wear-and-tear than city miles, and a well-maintained car can handle the miles better than a poorly maintained one. These variables can affect how your mileage is viewed from a valuation standpoint.

What's the best age to sell a car?

Wondering when to sell an old car? Car depreciation is the biggest factor to consider. That's how much the car's value decreases over time. According to Edmunds, there's a significant drop in the first 2-3 years, and another at the four-year mark. Selling in between those drops will generally net you the best value.

After that, the next big drop usually happens at around eight years. So selling before that anniversary would get you the next best value overall, from an age standpoint. After eight years, the depreciation drop per year tends to flatten out, so mileage becomes a much bigger factor affecting the value of your car than age after that point.

What's the best time of year to sell a car?

To answer the question of when you should sell your car during the year, consider these three factors:

  • Sell well before a new model year debuts: The moment the next year's model hits the dealership; your car becomes one year older. That usually happens in the fall, so the earlier in the year you can sell your car, the better your sale price may be.
  • Sell in spring or summer: People tend to be looking for cars to buy in the spring and early summer, when they're ready to do more pleasure driving, go on road trips, or take family vacations. It's also when tax refunds come in and well before major gift-giving seasons.
  • Consider the type of car: You're likely to get more money for a sports car, convertible, or even a high-passenger vehicle in the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, you're likely to get more money for a vehicle with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, especially in places where winter hits hard.

More tips about when to sell your car

If you're able, sell your car when you want to, not when you need to. That way, you won't be forced to accept an offer below your asking price if you don't have to. Also, while it's good to sell a car before reaching a major service milestone, it's also good to fully clean and detail your car and make any minor repairs before putting it on the market. That will enhance the perception of your car's condition and value. But don't hide any outstanding issues from a potential buyer.

If you have a loan on your car, it's best to sell when you'll get enough money to pay it off. You may need to take prepayment penalties into account when making that decision.

If you're in danger of missing payments or defaulting on a loan, selling the car to pay off as much of the loan as possible could help you avoid bad marks on your credit. Late payments and defaults can have a long-term detrimental effect on your financial options and opportunities.

Learn more about cancelling insurance after selling a car.