By: Sarah E. Sanuth, an insider in the automotive industry  with many years of experience in the car dealership and repair business

There comes a time that we all ask ourselves whether or not we should sell the vehicle we have. Have we had it long enough? When will it start to give me problems or even possibly leave me stranded? Is the mileage too high?

Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to this question, as there are always exceptions to the rule.

Two things are for sure. If the vehicle is pre-1996 and/or over 200,000 miles; it needs to go. Vehicles that typically fit into this criterion are long over-due. Age is a big factor regardless of the mileage driven because environmental factors are starting to take its toll. Items such as salt and water start to eat into the frame and cause frame or component rot, which you may not always see. Higher mileage, such as 200,000, also receives similar effects, regardless of age because of the time it sees driving. Transmission and other important parts of the vehicles will start to fail, making for a hefty repair.

With those two items aside, the 7 year mark (when a vehicle has reached the age of 7) is when you should be at least thinking about selling it to purchase a new one.

Many financial institutions will not finance a new vehicle for more than 7 years. This is because when the vehicle has reached the age of 7, frame and component rot tends to creep in. If they know the vehicle is going to start to fail on a level that could hinder its operation or “fitness for a particular purpose,” the borrower might give up on the payments altogether, “It doesn’t work anymore, why should I have to pay for it.”

There are financial institutions that will finance a used car, however these companies have stringent guidelines on how long and what year models; this is for the same reasons as above.

Of course, if you have a vehicle that is older than this, and aren’t seeing the effects of age; you just may have lucked out. But keep in mind that this is not something you can avoid. Steel rots after time, and there is nothing that can change it; it can only be prolonged.

Each vehicle will rot or fail at different times. We all drive over different roads and are exposed to different environmental factors.

Keeping the undercarriage of your vehicle clean on a regular basis will slow the process down, especially if you live in a region where there is heavy salt usage on the roads, such as in winter. (I have seen a 2003 vehicle is the Northeast in which the alternator disintegrated during a transmission repair because of heavy salt use.)

Once your vehicle starts to creep on the 7 year mark, you should make an effort to carefully inspect certain areas of your vehicle. This will help determine whether or not you should sell it and purchase a new one.


Open each door of the vehicle and check the bottom-most part of the door (where it would meet the bottom part of the door jamb of the door frame.) Check for water damage. Even though doors appear to be sealed, water will get in overtime and causes the bottom of the door to rot. Check all doors, including any hatch or trunk lids.

If you do start to notice rot in this area, drill a small hole at the bottom of each door so that water can escape before it causes more damage. This will buy you some time.

This area can be fixed, but is still only prolonging the inevitable. The most comprehensive way to stop this is to purchase a new door, which in turn will equal obtaining a new paint job, which can get expensive.


Check for any holes or large rust spots (you may see large flaking rust spots) on the frame. Frame damage is very expensive to repair. Cars typically need to be coated on the undercarriage at least once every year to prevent this damage, but it is not standard practice and many people don’t know that it is part of preventative maintenance.

Newer cars tend to rot faster than some of the older models. This is for reasons of quality. As time has gone on, car manufacturers have been looking for ways to produce the same product with less overhead. The steel that these vehicles are made of isn’t as thick, which means it needs less time to rot.

Regardless of whether or not your vehicle is old, there are signs that signal problems ahead. Any time you have reoccurring mechanical failures, you should start to consider selling it. One small thing after another is only a signal that something bigger may be coming.

When you’re ready to sell your car, see tips for increasing the value of your used car before selling it.

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