10 Tips to Maximize the Resale Value of Your Car

In January, I wrote a guest post for AskPatty.com, the premier website of automotive advice for women. (Shameless plug: if you’re a woman and need car advice, familiarize yourself with this excellent website!) At the end of 2009, I was thrilled to connect with AskPatty.com’s CEO, Jody DeVere, through Twitter. She graciously invited me to write a guest blog for her site. The advice-giver that I am, I chose to tell women how to care for their cars mechanically and aesthetically before planning to sell. Although the original blog was posted on AskPatty.com at the beginning of the year (I never shared it on Be Car Chic), I thought a refresher for my readers would be helpful.10 Tips to Maximize the Resale Value of Your CarWhile the new car market took a big hit at the end of 2008 that continued well into 2009, used car values continued to climb. Used car dealers and private owners selling their vehicles may have benefited from this particular perk, but analysts expect to see used car prices level off in 2010. If you are interested in selling your vehicle to a private party, you may want to act soon. The following are suggestions on how to get the most out of your car while you’re driving it and when it’s time to pass it on to a new owner.

  1. Conduct scheduled maintenance. Every car comes with an owner’s manual that includes instructions on suggested vehicle maintenance. These services include oil and filter changes, tire rotation, fluid changes, and much more. Stick with the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance for your vehicle.
  2. Compile your vehicle’s service history. Keep all records no matter how minor the service. Having a complete history of your car’s maintenance provides tremendous incentive to a potential buyer.
  3. Check regularly for dings. Light dings may only require a simple pop to make them come out, but often a door or a grocery cart can slam into your car with so much force that it bends the sheet metal and scrapes off the paint. Those incidents should be taken care of immediately because the metal can be prone to rusting if left for too long.
  4. Keep your car garaged – or close to it. Not everyone has a garage, but that doesn’t mean you can’t protect your car’s exterior. Avoid parking under trees, especially in the spring and fall seasons. Sap, berries, leaves, nuts, and gifts from birdies can be nearly impossible to wash off of your car and can even ruin the clear coat if neglected.
  5. A clean car is a happy car. Hand wash and wax your car regularly. If you must take it to the car wash, brushless is better. Vacuum the interior, dust the dashboard, and clean the windows (especially if you have pets and kids riding with you). These measures will not only attract potential buyers when the time’s right, but they will also keep you proud of driving your car until the day you turn over the title.
  6. Resist eating and drinking inside. Protect your car’s interior by saying “no” to syrupy and sticky drinks and that crock pot full of chili (unless you absolutely have to!). Remaining firm against food and drink in your car will prolong the life of its interior, and your meticulous car will impress any potential buyer.
  7. Drive with caution. Traffic accidents can tremendously decrease the value of your vehicle. Remember to drive safely – this includes when talking on your cell phone and remembering not to text while driving. Pay attention to the drivers around you, and use your turn signals when turning and changing lanes.
  8. Keep the miles down. Drivers typically rack up somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 miles on their vehicles per year. Although driving 10,000 miles annually may not be a possibility for everyone, the closer you are to that average for each year you have owned your car, the more value that will be added to it.
  9. Consider “For Sale by Owner.” Selling your car to a private party can pay off big time, especially right now while used car prices are still holding. With a little research and using free online resources like Craigslist you could save thousands over trading your vehicle in at the dealership.
  10. Price your car right. When you’re ready to sell your used car, check out sites like Edmunds or Kelley Blue Book for private party value. Be honest when evaluating the condition of your car. If you’ve followed these steps, then you’re likely to rate your car as “excellent!” Planning to trade it in? Run the numbers just in case – that way you ensure will get the maximum value for your car from the dealer.

Although taking good care of your car as these tips suggest requires months and years of care and attention, don’t feel discouraged if you haven’t been taking these precautions. It’s never too late to start. Plus, you’ll know better how to care for the next vehicle you own.

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Matthew C. Keegan at 11:48 PM

    Regarding #4, consider investing in a quality car cover, one that filters out sunlight and is custom fitted to your make/model. Keep it on your car if you plan on being parked several days without needing to use it. Otherwise, taking it on or off frequently gets old pretty fast.

  2. MWB at 6:20 PM

    Great point Matthew! I had a cover for my Jeep Grand Cherokee that came in very handy when I was using the Metro to get to/from work. Unfortunately, some apartment complexes and counties don't allow people to cover their cars if they can't see their parking sticker, etc. So I had to leave it off for good. Bummer for sure.