This Is Why You Could Get an Amazing Deal on a Gently Used Car This Summer

If you’re in the market for a different car this summer, the outlook is sunny.

If you need to trade in a vehicle to make that switch, things could get a little cloudier, but we’ll get into that in a minute.

Vehicles were flying out the door at dealerships due to the booming economy over the last few years. Unfortunately for car dealers, all those new cars they leased are now flooding the lightly used car market, which could make this summer the best time to buy a car we’ve seen in years.

Here’s what you need to know to take advantage of the hot summer car market.

Sedans and Subcompacts Are the Way to Go

When gas was upward of $4 per gallon, people were dropping their SUVs and pickup trucks like crazy. That’s not the case anymore. With gas prices down, SUVs, crossovers and pickups are all the rage.

This has led to sedans and subcompacts overflowing dealer lots, and dealers want to get rid of them. Badly.

Research the market and see if there is a car that looks right for you. If your budget can handle it, the best deals are on those lightly used end-of-lease vehicles that are returning to dealerships. In other words, the best values are on 2- to 3-year-old vehicles with very low miles. You might be able to get a used car with fewer than 20,000 miles on it for dramatically less than you’d pay for a new one. There are good deals on older vehicles this summer too, but the best bang for your buck is with a newer used car.

Skip the Trade-In and Sell it Yourself

The flip side of this summer’s buyer’s market is that dealers don’t really want your old car. If you try to trade it in, you may get a fraction of what it’s worth. Instead, look up your vehicle’s make, model, year and mileage on websites like to see what similar cars are going for.

For instance, my 1998 Lumina shows a $300 to $600 estimated trade-in value on Kelly Blue Book. On Autotrader, I can find similar cars going for $2,000 or more. Even if I sell it for less than what others are selling for, I’ll still come out ahead compared to the trade-in value.

Here’s the caveat: If you have an SUV, crossover or pickup to trade in, you may still get a good offer. Those vehicles are a hot commodity right now, and dealers are much more willing to shell out decent coin to get them.

The Buyer’s Market Will Continue (for Now)

If you’re ready for a different vehicle right now, there are some great deals out there. But if you’re not quite ready yet, don’t sweat it; sources like Morgan Stanley believe used car prices will crash in the next couple years.

As always, go in with a plan, know what you’re willing to pay and negotiate a better price. This summer, you hold all the cards.

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.