Should I downsize my car?

    There are many reasons why you might consider downsizing your car. However, if you are planning on making a change to a smaller vehicle, you should first consider how much you’ll get from selling your current car, so you can determine what your budget is likely to be. Luckily, Motorway’s Car Value Tracker can value your car now, so you can make an informed decision. If the numbers don’t stack up, it’s probably a bad option for you.

    So, before you swap your SUV for a hatchback half its size, there are some questions you should ask yourself first. 

    Smaller cars are likely to be cheaper to run, potentially saving you money.

    Why should I downsize my car?

    Car downsizing has become more common with British drivers in recent years. With surging fuel prices and the extremes of the ‘cost-of-living crisis’ taking effect, it is typically done as a way to save money, e.g. by swapping your car for a smaller or more efficient model.

    However, car downsizing is also frequently carried out by so-called ‘empty-nesters’ who no longer require a large family car for shuttling their children around. Many people will also consider car downsizing to reduce their carbon footprint to mitigate the effects of global climate change, improve public health, and maintain biodiversity. 

    There are also more practical reasons. Often drivers who have previously upgraded to a larger car will suddenly realise that they miss some of the benefits associated with smaller vehicles – greater movability, lower running costs, cheaper maintenance, and easier parking.

    Is downsizing a car worth it?

    Whilst it’s true that smaller cars usually cost less to run than larger cars, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are guaranteed to save money if you downsize.

    Before considering downsizing, it is always worth checking how much it is likely to cost you. If the car you’re downsizing is fairly new, it’ll probably still be valuable ­– and it shouldn’t be too expensive to change. But, if you have an old car that’s not worth much, downsizing might not immediately make you as much cash.

    Bigger cars may have their benefits, but for many they won’t outweigh the higher running costs.

    Often a driver’s frustration can cloud their judgement and what seems like a good idea can become a false economy. No one wants to be in a position where they are paying out thousands on a smaller car in order to save hundreds on annual running costs. If your reasons for downsizing are purely economic, you need to ensure the numbers work for you.

    To work out the cost of changing, you should first get an understanding of your current car’s value. At Motorway, we offer a simple – and completely free – method of getting an accurate and up-to-date valuation, whatever the size and model of your car. Once you have worked out how much you will likely get for your old car, you’ll be able to figure out how much more you’ll need to pay for the new one.

    If your current car is a very old gas guzzler, then you may struggle to sell – which will make getting a newer, smaller model problematic. If these numbers work against you, it is usually best to continue with your current car for the time being. Of course, if you have to replace your current car anyway – if it’s coming to the end of its life, for example – then you may wish to pay for a more economical, smaller car anyway.

    How to downsize your car

    1. Think about your personal needs

    If you’re thinking about downsizing your car, you have probably already come to the decision that you can move to a smaller car without much disruption to your lifestyle. If you haven’t thought about this, it’s a good idea to make this the preliminary step. Spend some time reflecting on the different ways you use your car in your day-to-day life – and then work out what your priorities are.

    Do you really need a seven-seater? Or could you get away with a five-seat car? Do you need room for your children or a dog? How important is boot space to you? How do you get on in cars with limited leg room? Once you’ve developed an idea of what you’re looking for in a car, it will be a lot easier to research models that will suit your needs.

    Where you drive may also be a factor in your decision to downsize your car. Smaller cars tend to be better suited for driving and parking in urban areas.

    2. Think about your budget

    Once you’ve understood what models will suit your personal needs, you’ll want to calculate your budget. To do this, think about the different variables involved – like how much you’re willing to lay out in terms of your initial deposit and how much you intend to spend on the car overall. If you’re thinking of buying a new car, it’s essential that you think about what optional extras you want – as the cost of these can soon add up. So, if you want in-built high-tech add-ons, heated seats, or an extended warranty, ensure you factor these costs in.  

    Knowing how much you’ll get for your current car is the best way to make sound budgeting choices. Motorway offers a simple – and free – method of getting an accurate and up-to-date valuation based on live market data. This will let you know how much you can expect to add to your pot – and help you budget for your next car.

    3. Study the current market

    Once you’ve finished the number crunching, you will need to get a better understanding of the market. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for will help the process of searching for suitable cars and will mitigate against purchasing a car you’re unhappy with. Write down the main things you’re looking for and create a checklist. Then do some online research to discover the small-car models that will best suit your lifestyle and pocket.

    There are many websites that allow you to compare the performance, fuel economy, and features of several different models simultaneously – such as Whatcar and nextgreencar.

    4. Safety checks

    There is a common misconception that small cars aren’t as safe as big ones. However, this generalisation is largely inaccurate – as the safety of all makes and models differs based on the safety standards of manufacturers, rather than simply size and dimensions. Whilst it’s true that larger cars have bigger crumple zones, smaller cars can be just as safe.  

    If this is a concern – and it should be – it is, fortunately, a lot easier to check safety standards than it used to be. Once you’ve decided on the models that you might want to downsize to, simply visit the Euro NCAP website, where you can read about any model’s overall safety, the safety of their components, and the overall performance of their safety devices.

    5. Get a test drive

    Thinking about how you use your car is one thing, but when it comes to downsizing, you should actually get behind the wheel of any car you are thinking of downsizing to. Try to get a test drive before buying. Even better than that, to ensure that it’s a good match for you and your lifestyle, see if you can hire out the same model car for a week or so.

    Hiring the same model will help you test out the smaller car in everyday situations – such as travelling to work or going to the shops – and will remove any doubt that the smaller car is right for you.  

    The best way to sell your current car

    If you’re thinking about downsizing to a smaller car and want to increase your budget, at Motorway we offer a simple – and completely free – method of getting the best price when selling, whatever the model.

    Get a valuation based on current data from our nationwide used car marketplace.

    Just enter your reg on the homepage and you will be provided with an instant estimated sale price based on up-to-the-minute market data. We’ll then ask you a few easy questions about your car and guide you through the photos you need to take to complete your vehicle profile. It can be done right from your phone – in a matter of minutes.

    If you choose to enter your car into a daily sale, it will be shown to our nationwide network of more than 5,000 verified dealers looking to add to their stock of used cars. Interested dealers will then compete to buy your car, offering you their best price.

    In as little as 24 hours you will receive your best offer – and, if you choose to go ahead with the sale, your car will be collected for free by the dealer and the money will be quickly and securely transferred to your bank account.

    Need more help selling your car?

    Our guides cover all aspects of valuing and selling your car: