Timing Is Everything When It Comes To Vehicle Trade-In Values

Purchasing a new car from a dealer
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A Despreporno Show listener called asking about buying a new vehicle in September after the new models are out. He was thinking specifically about a 2017 model after the 2018 models came out. Generally, I would agree with that strategy, but there was a wrinkle; he had a 2016 model to trade.

Many people dont realize that your vehicles anniversary and birthday are different. I will explain the difference but more importantly, how it affects you and your pocketbook.

Anniversary VS Birthday

The anniversary part is simple. Just like all anniversaries, it is the month and day the car became yours, that magic moment when you were handed the keys. Odds are, you wont have the same car anniversary as your friends and relatives, so it will be a unique date to you.

However, everybody shares his or her cars birthday. In fact, I am thinking it should be a national holiday! Seriously, in August, every car in America will have a birthday and turn a year older, and it has nothing to do when it was purchased or acquired.

August Marks Model-Year Turnover

For as long as I have been in the auto industry, mid-August is the model-year changeover. It is true that every single car in America turns a year older all at the same time. As an example, today a 2015 model car is two years old because as of now, it is still considered to be model-year 2017, but in mid-August, that 2015 car will suddenly become three years old. Again, when it was bought is not relevant.


As you might suspect, when your car does become a year older, it depreciates and loses value. In about six weeks, auction values will fall, the online sites values will drop, and dealers will lower prices on the cars on their lots for sale. By the middle of September, the used car market will have adjusted itself down to account for every car being a year older.

If you happen to be in the market now for a new car and have a late-model trade-in, it can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars to wait until the fall season to buy. I talk to people about this time every year who wait, and they just cant understand why their vehicle is worth so much less in late August than it was in late July. Unless you have inside information like this, it would be hard to comprehend the big drop in value that occurs virtually overnight.


A lot of people, too, are used to buying a new vehicle in the fall due to larger incentives on new vehicles, but I can tell you now, that may not be the case. Incentives are larger already this year than in the past five years, so they may not increase in September, even on the 2017s.

The caller with the 2016 will most likely lose more in the value of his trade-in than he will gain in incentives on the new vehicle. With that said, if your vehicle is five years old or more, the drop in values starting in August is minimal.

Bottom Line

Timing is everything when making a major purchase and these factors should be considered when you are thinking about a new vehicle.

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