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Looking to Sell Your Used Car? Now’s the Time!

There are several different stress points involved in the new car buying process, but the hardest one to get a handle on is what to do with your current car. “I could trade it in, but I won’t get what it’s worth. And how do I even know what it’s worth? The dealers say they don’t use Blue Book prices,” or “I know I can get get more if I sell it privately, but who knows how long it will take?”

Well, the best time to minimize the angst might be right now.

Trade-in values on used cars, especially late model, fuel efficient vehicles, should peak in the next few weeks, according to the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) Used Car Guide.

“While prices for all used-vehicle segments will remain stable over the next two months, compact and mid-size cars will appreciate in value and outpace other segments because of rising gasoline prices, shortage of inventory and strong consumer demand for fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Jonathan Banks, Executive automotive analyst with NADA.

For example, best-sellers such as the 2009 Toyota Camry, 2007 Honda Civic, and 2009 Nissan Altima all saw an 11% increase in their trade-in value since January. Recent models of the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cobalt increased by 10% over the same period.

Another reason the dealers may be drooling over your trade-in is a lack of inventory. They simply don’t have enough of the used mid-size and compact fuel-sippers that the marketplace is demanding.

“The ongoing decline in the used-vehicle supply that began in 2009 has made it challenging for new-car dealers to consistently stock reliable, well-maintained used vehicles,” Banks said. “This means that dealers will be aggressive with trade-in offers for used vehicles that are in high consumer demand.”

Don’t just stroll into the dealership assuming you’ll get top dollar, though. As always,be prepared before you go. Even though the dealer may say they don’t use Blue Book values, check sites like KBB.com, Edmunds.com, and NADAGuides.com to get a sense of the marketplace. AutoBuying101’s handy Auto Selling Checklist will help you get all your ducks in a row.

But the time to act is now. The NADA Used Car Guide predicts that used car prices will start to drop in June, and the rate of decline will increase over the course of the year.