auto

7 reasons NOT to trade in a gas guzzler

Highlights
  • Most drivers will lose money on a trade aimed strictly at gas efficiency.
  • Break-even on such a trade could take up to 48 years.
  • SUV trade values are at an all time low, while hybrids are  at all-time highs. 

When gas prices breached $4 a gallon, consumers scrambled to unload their gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles. With gas well below $3 a gallon, you may still be inclined to swap that Yukon for a Prius, but whether it's a good idea is far from a no-brainer.

In fact, for most consumers, whether you'll save money by dumping a gas guzzler in favor of any high-efficiency vehicle, hybrid or not, depends on a variety of factors, including the age of your current vehicle, what you owe on it, your commute and your family size. Most consumers will lose money on a trade designed strictly to upgrade gas efficiency, so it makes sense to hold onto just about any type of SUV barring other reasons for a trade in.

"Whether you should trade in a gas guzzler or not depends on what overall benefits you'll get from the trade," says Jack Nerad, executive market analyst with Kelly Blue Book and KBB.com. "You have to ask if the vehicle you are thinking about trading the SUV in for will do what you need it to do. If you regularly transport more than two people at a time, a smaller car may not meet your needs. In most cases, an economy car will not save you enough in fuel costs to offset the loss you would take on trading in your larger car."

Several Web sites offer trade-in calculators that can help you determine if it is worthwhile to trade in your car purely based on the fuel savings. These include Edmunds.com, Political Calculations.com and Kelly Blue Book Green, all of which provide some interesting food for thought.

If you are coming to the end of your vehicle's useful life and need a new or newer car anyway, considering a more fuel-efficient vehicle makes much more sense, Nerad notes. This is because you need a new or newer car, your current car is probably not worth much at all and your overall needs may be changing. For example, if your kids are in school now and you are carpooling more, a larger car makes sense. If your kids are out of the house and in college, on the other hand, a smaller car makes more sense given your situation.

With that in mind, here are seven reasons it might not be worth it to trade in your gas-guzzler:

 

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