Now's Not the Time to Trade in Your SUV

Now that it costs $100 and change to fill its tank, ready to dump that big gas-guzzling SUV for a 30-mpg two-seat Smart minicar or a 45-mpg Toyota Prius sedan? 

Good luck.

A study by CNW Marketing Research says dealers will welcome you with open arms when you come to buy that new car, but they’ll treat your trade-in as if it has the plague because it’s going to sit on that used-car lot for an eternity — if not longer.

CNW says that, thanks to high gas prices, dealers have a 130-day supply of unsold SUVs on their used lots that were taken in trade — more than double the 57-day supply they had a year ago. A 60-day supply is considered normal.

As a result, if you bring a full-size SUV in to trade, you’ll find that it’s worth about $3,000 less now that gas is $4 a gallon than it was a year ago when fuel was at $3 a gallon, CNW says.

So, how difficult is it to get rid of a 12-13 mpg used SUV now?

CNW says it takes at least 66.4 days on the lot and a 20% discount to dispose of one this year, versus a 48-day stay and a mere 8% discount from book value a year ago.

Bob Stasek, a Wheeling, Ill., Chevrolet dealer, says the fact that big SUV values have plunged on trade-ins isn’t a surprise.

“It should be no mystery that with the price of gas, big SUVs obviously aren’t easy to sell,” he said. “Would we rather see a person trade in a Cavalier than a full-size Suburban? Absolutely. But at least I would say consumers aren’t dumping big SUVs to get out of them; we see no overwhelming bail-out.”

Stasek said some families simply need the space for people and gear that a big SUV offers, while others aren’t going to attempt trading one in now, when values are depressed in a buyers’ market.

“But they are adjusting to the gas price craziness by driving them less miles,” he said.