Vehicles, especially those less than a year and half old, often depreciate at a faster rate than their owners have made payments on the loan. This could mean it’s cheaper in the long run to wait until a later stage to trade in. Picture: SUPPLIED
Vehicles, especially those less than a year and half old, often depreciate at a faster rate than their owners have made payments on the loan. This could mean it’s cheaper in the long run to wait until a later stage to trade in. Picture: SUPPLIED

Many SA motorists who are feeling the burden of inflation, soaring fuel prices, the recent repo rate hike and 2018’s  VAT increase are now considering moving to more cost-effective cars.

A simple switch from an expensive gas guzzler to an affordable runabout might seem like a wise move, but the transition alone can be costly and there’s certainly an optimum time to trade in a car which motorists should bear in mind.

Lower monthly repayments and fuel bills will ease the pressure on household finances, but significant losses can be made by trading a car at the wrong time.

The best time to trade in a vehicle is when the trade-in value is in line with the settlement amount owed to the bank it’s financed with. This is called the breakeven point, and trading in before this time could see a consumer paying in just to get out of the finance contract. In other words, if your car’s trade-in value is R200,000 but you owe the bank R250,000, you’ll be required to come up with R50,000 just to make a move into a more affordable car.

Vehicles, especially those which are less than a year and a half old, often depreciate at a faster rate than their owners have made payments on the loan,” says Ghana Msibi, WesBank Executive Head of Sales and Marketing. “For many consumers this could mean it’s cheaper, in the long run, to wait until a later stage to trade in.”

WesBank’s data shows the majority of vehicle finance contracts are in place for six years (72 months). In these cases, a breakeven point would normally arrive at between 24 and 36 months, depending on the size of the deposit at time of sale.

The breakeven point in an ownership cycle varies on a case-by-case basis and is affected by factors such as missed payments, extra payments, the size of a deposit and depreciation of respective vehicles. It’s possible to bring the breakeven point forward by putting down larger deposits or financing over shorter loan periods.

The new-vehicle market in SA is very competitive and many manufacturers offer incentives to help buyers settle outstanding balances. These trade-in assistance programmes can make up for some shortfall for motorists who have not quite reached their breakeven point, essentially buying them some time in the ownership cycle.