Increase Your Car's Resale Value

When you want to sell your car, there are ways to get the most from trade-in time. If you're planning to sell it a few years after purchase, it is in your best interest to keep its value as high as possible. After all, that means more money to put down on your next new car. There are also some wise decisions you can make when buying a new car to make sure it will still be worth its price when you resell it.


Maintaining Your Car Properly

  1. Keep the mileage down. As you probably know, mileage is really the first thing a car's value depends on. Your car might look astonishingly new, but the price will mostly be determined by how many miles it has traveled. If you're planning on selling the car after a few years, you shouldn't bring it with you on your road trip around the globe.
    • Math is not always that objective. There are some psychological barriers: the gap between 98,000 and 100,000 is wider than it looks. If you're approaching one of such round figures, it's better to keep your mileage below the limit.[1]
  2. Follow the maintenance schedule. You can find the schedule in the back of the owner's manual. Your prospective buyers wants to know that the car was properly looked after by its previous owner: make sure the car is always in good mechanical conditions.
    • Whenever there's a problem or a cosmetic issue, don't put it off: make repairs straight away.
    • If the repair involves a minor issue, consult your mechanic to check whether its costs are worth the trade-in value.
  3. Keep a logbook. Save all receipts for maintenance and repair work, no matter how minor. A documented service history underscores the fact that your car has been well taken care of. Savvy used-car buyers will be willing to pay extra for that reassurance.
    • There are websites that keep your car's history on file, like Carfax or Experian.
  4. Park it in a sheltered place. Physical protection is extremely important in maintaining your car properly. Sunlight and weather can damage your vehicle or make it age more quickly. Storing the car in a garage is by far the best option.
    • Parking your car under a tree is risky for several reasons: birds' droppings, sap and falling branches can damage the exterior.
  5. Keep it clean. The better your car appears to be kept up, the more it will be worth: most people associate cleanliness with care. The best bet is to apply a paint and fabric protection pack , which makes washing and waxing much easier. pack.
    • Put the same care in keeping the interior clean as you would for the exterior: floor mats can prevent stains and are easily washable or removable.[2]
    • Empty side and glove compartments from cups and other trash on a regular basis.
    • If you have a dog, it's not the best idea to take it around in your car. The smell and hair can be hard to remove if you want to resell it.
    • Smoking is also a no-no if you want to resell your car: it'll be very hard to get rid of the smell, no matter how much you wash it.
  6. Drive safely. Any history of collision damage can ding your car's resale value: a trained used-car appraiser can spot body work from a mile away. Although it's hard for any car to avoid an occasional dent or scratch in its lifetime, try to keep these down to a minimum.
    • If your car is in a collision, use an experienced repair shop with a good reputation and insist on using factory (also known as OEM, for Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts. Save all receipts and be upfront about any collision repair work when it comes time to sell or trade. Being evasive may lead the buyer to believe that the damage was more extensive than you are letting on.

Getting Your Car Ready for Resale

  1. Choose the right time to sell. If there isn't a huge demand for used cars or fuel prices go up, you might want to wait a little longer before putting your car on the market.
    • Your timing in choosing when to visit the used-car dealership is just as important. Avoid busy days: dealers will listen to you more carefully and probably offer you a better price.[3]
  2. Replace damaged components. Talk to your mechanic to see which repair costs outweigh the trade-in price. Some fixes won't be worth bothering, while some others can increase your car's value with little money. For example:
    • replacing lights is usually cheap, but they'll make a huge difference for your prospective buyer;
    • Repairing a cracked windshield is less expensive than what a second-hand buyer would deduct when seeing the damage, so it's well worth the price;
    • worn-out tires can also be replaced at a cost that is worth the car's selling value;
    • visible dents and scratches should be fixed before reselling. This might get pricey, but the car's exterior look has a huge impact on its value.[4]
  3. Clean it thoroughly. Needless to say, the car should look at its best both inside and outside when you trade it in. Replacing floor mats is a good idea, if they don't look like new.
    • Don't use household cleaners in your car, except the glass cleaner on windows: buy specific products.
    • Clean headlight covers with the right cleaning product: this is just a cosmetic fix, but it will make your lights look brand new even if you haven't replace them.[5]
    • If your car is worth a fair amount of money, it might be good for you to invest some in a professional detailing service ('detailing' means 'cleaning every corner to the smallest detail'). You might do your best with your sponge and vacuum, but a professionally cleaned car will always look better.
  4. Wax it. Polishing your car with wax will bring its color back to its glorious days. If you barely remember what it looked like, check the interior of your door frame and you'll get a sense of what the exterior should look like.[6]
  5. Contact several dealers to get the best offer. Talk to as many as you can and pick the one that gives you the best figure.[7] As a matter of fact, buying your car was an investment and you don't want to throw it away at the first occasion.
    • Be prepared to make a convincing case when trading in the car. You should do some homework online before to check how much your car is worth, and then argue for a higher price based on evidence. State the pros and cons of your vehicle and cite sources with current estimates of your car's value.

Buying a Car that Will Hold Its Value

  1. Buy a new car with good resale value. A car's brand plays a major role in it based on many factors, including desirability and reliability. Consult a good used car pricing site to research the resale history of the models in which you are interested. If you do your research well, the car can retain up to 60 percent of its resale value after three years.
    • Some Japanese makes, such as Toyota, Honda, Subaru, Hyundai and Mazda always hold their value well. In the United States, imports generally hold their value better than American cars.
    • In the luxury market share, Lexus, Acura, Mercedes and Audi are the makes that usually have better trade-in value. Generally speaking, the value of luxury cars tends to decrease less with time.[8]
  2. Opt for a longer warranty period. Selling a used car with a live warranty can greatly boost its value. A factory warranty is usually valued more highly than an extended one from your local dealer.
    • Although warranties once covered up to three years or 100,000 miles, it is now possible to purchase cars with factory warranties of up to seven years.[9]
  3. Choose automatic transmission. Because of the decreased demand in manual transmission, a car with no stick is more likely to resell at a higher price. It might be worth spending more on this if you're planning to sell your car after a few years: you'll probably recoup the cost.[10]
  4. Buy a car with an all-wheel drive. Except for sports cars, where a rear-wheel-drive is generally preferred, four-wheel drives are worth much more at resale time.
    • Climate is also a factor in this. If you're reselling the car in regions with harsh weather conditions and snow, a four-wheel drive is a must-have feature.
  5. Go for a plain color. Let's face it: bright paints, also known as 'hero colors', are not as popular as black, white, grey and metallic finishes. They also age much faster.
    • For some sport cars and specific makes, like Falcons and Commodores, brash colors are part of the car's unique selling points. In this case, it's unlikely that the resale value will be affected.[11]
  6. Add a navigation system. Although you can get an inexpensive phone app to direct you to your final destination, navigators are always appreciated as an in-car technology, and they're now considerably cheaper than they used to be.
    • There's no point in wasting money on technologies worth a fortune. Buyers of used cars are not usually on the lookout for the latest gizmo. An inexpensive navigation system is enough to recoup the costs.
  7. Resist the urge to customize. Spending unnecessary money on add-ons can actually backfire. The point of aftermarket options is to personalize the car to your taste, not everyone else's. Your prospective second-hand buyer might have very different ideas on what a car should or shouldn't have.[12][13]
    • For example, expensive stereos are among the most expensive aftermarket options which aren't worth their price. If you like a top-quality listening experience, go ahead and spend your money, but don't expect it to pay off once you resell!
    • Performance modifications are also looked down on at trade-in time: second-hand buyers are looking for a safe and well-maintained car, not a fast-and-furious showpiece.
    • There are exceptions to this rule. Some add-ons that enhance a car's resale value are alloy wheels, sunroofs and intelligent keys (with which you can start a car without physically turning a switch, or automatically configure seats' and mirrors' position based on your preference).[14]


  • If you do have your car customized, stick to non-intrusive upgrades such as new wheels or an upgraded stereo that won't require extensive re-wiring or cutting up the dashboard. Save the old parts so you have the option of returning your car to its original condition before selling.

Related Articles