Breaking up is hard to do, even when it comes to your relationship with your car.

Sure, getting into a new vehicle is exciting. You'll learn about the new features that your old car doesn't have and find out just how nicely a more modern car will treat you. And there's the smell -- that new-car smell is tough to beat. So why is it sometimes so hard to move on?

Selling your car to make space for a new one is the hard part, a new survey by AutoTrader.com reports. The reason is our relationships with our cars are surprisingly similar to our relationships with friends, according to life coach and relationship expert Dr. Michelle Callahan.

"A car can become a significant emotional investment," said Callahan. "It's there ... for major milestones in [drivers'] lives like weddings, new babies and graduations and it's literally the 'vehicle' that makes being physically present in these moments possible."

According to the survey, more than 70 percent of respondents feel "very attached" or "somewhat attached" to their cars. About one-third even describe their vehicle as an "old friend," and more than a quarter say they feel sad when they think about parting ways with it.

Friends may last forever, but cars don't. Trusty as that old vehicle has been, there comes a time for replacement. Here's a guide to moving on, selling your car and finding a new friend without too much emotional heartbreak.

Look Back With Photos

With digital cameras built into every smartphone and photo sharing on social media, the traditional photo album is now reserved for once-in-a-lifetime events such as weddings. But you can make a digital photo album quickly and easily, and you'll have a great time digging around and finding scenes featuring your old pal.

Pick ones that make you smile or reminisce and add them to a new album. Whenever you're missing your old car, you can take a look back at some of the fun times you had together. And don't worry -- your new car will never be jealous of your sentimentality.

Take Your Favorite Ride

Do you and your automotive companion have a favorite drive route or destination? Plan one last hurrah on the open road. Make it big. Top off the tank, pack a lunch and bring your favorite music.

It may not be just like it was when your relationship was new. You're both more mature now -- perhaps not quite as adventurous as you once were. But looking back, you'll be glad you hit the road again with your old buddy. Plus, the trip may just not be the same in your new car. Together, you and your new car will find new roads to share.

Clean Out Your Junk

People may carry emotional baggage from one relationship to another, but cars can carry physical baggage instead. Don't burden your old friend's next partner with your junk. Clean out your car before selling it. Or better yet, purge your vehicle a few weeks before you're ready to move on.

Without all of your things inside, you'll begin to gently break your emotional attachment to this machine that's no longer exactly what you need. And its new owner will thank you. He will have the privilege of adding personal items to the glove compartment and door pockets without first sorting through years of expired registration cards and old mint candies bleeding through their wrappers.

Don't toss your maintenance records, though. Place those in a file folder for the next owner.

Give It a Personal Touch

Wash your old car by hand. Grab a bucket and a soft terry towel or sponge. Lovingly scrub your car from top to bottom. The process is therapy for you, and the side effect is a sharp looking car that will more easily find a mate once you've moved on.

Washing your car by hand is one of the best ways to inspect your vehicle. It gives you an up-close look and feel of most of the car's visible parts, a chance to see little imperfections that aren't normally noticeable. If you've had your car for a long time, each of those details will tell a story.

Take your time. Think about where you and your car have been and how those experiences show on the vehicle. Then look forward to your first hand wash of your new car -- a clean slate ready for new adventures.

Tell Your Friends and Family

Chances are your car does more than just transport you around. You've probably carried dozens of friends and family members over years of ownership, and each journey has become part of your car's history. Let your friends and family know you're moving on before you do it.

They will share their stories, compliment your old pal and wish you luck in your new relationship. And if you happened to have bought or inherited your car from friends or family members, they'll be glad to have a chance to say goodbye, too.

Leave It in Good Hands

More than one-third of respondents to AutoTrader.com's survey said that they'd like to see their old car "go to a good home." After years of taking care of your car, the thought of it being abused by an uncaring new owner is certainly disheartening. For that reason, you may choose selling it on your own over trading it in for a new one.

A private sale through a site like AutoTrader.com allows you to consider the individuals interested in purchasing your car, not just the cash they're offering for it.

You also can sell your car to a friend or family member who you trust will care for it. That has its own risks, though; it may not be the clean break you need. You certainly don't want to have any hard feelings if its new owner treats it with less respect than you did.

It's not weird to love your car. In fact, it is in many ways a sign of how excellent -- and indispensable -- automobiles have become. But chances are that you'll soon love your new car as much as you did your old one. It's just taking that first step that's so hard. Go with these tips to ease your transition and you'll be happily motoring along in your new car without even thinking of your last one.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

Related Articles & Car Reviews

Find Cars for sale near you:

Research by Vehicle Type

  • Convertible
  • Coupe
  • Hatchback
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
  • Sedan
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Van/Minivan
  • Wagon

Shopping Tools

Loading Ajax Content Loading Ajax Content