Although many assets appreciate in value as they age, a car is not one of them. Edmunds estimates that new cars lose as much as 20% of their value as soon as they are driven off the lot. But you can improve your car's resale value and hold on to it longer by keeping it in good condition and allocating expenditures wisely. Read on for 10 ways to keep your car in peak condition - and preserve more of its value for when you want to sell it.
Spend Wisely on Extras
Some people are drawn to expensive stereo equipment or navigation, while others prefer safety equipment or a sporty but expensive spoiler. However, adding expensive equipment to a car does not necessarily increase its value.
Many vehicle owners think they will be able to recoup the cost of after-market products they have installed at resale time, only to be disappointed when a prospective buyer isn't willing to pay for the after-market accessories, so be wary of installing products you like, but that others may not.
Consider practical products, such as iPod connectors. Similarly, a bed liner for a truck may be worthwhile because it helps protect the bed against dings and scratches, which can help preserve the car's value.
Do Regular Maintenance and Check-Ups
Every vehicle manufacturer recommends regular maintenance; the schedule depends on driving conditions and other factors. Manufacturers used to suggest changing your oil every 3,000 miles, but now some of them have increased their recommended intervals to 5,000 or even 10,000 miles, depending on driving patterns and conditions. Some car manufacturers recommend better-grade oils, such as 5W-20 instead of the usual 5W-30. Use the oil suggested by the manufacturers - don't skimp on this one. If you do, your warranty may be voided because you did not follow the manufacturer's recommendations for a new car. Regular, on-time maintenance will help keep your vehicle in good health and your money in your pocket over the long run.
Tire pressure is another important maintenance item. If neglected, low tire pressure can affect tire performance and safety. According to fueleconomy.gov, properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by about 3%. Keep tires properly inflated according to manufacturer recommendations. Don't always go with 32/32 front and back; every vehicle is different, so check your manufacturer's manuals.
Other regular servicing recommendations by vehicle manufacturers, such as changing air filters around every 15,000-20,000 miles and changing various other recommended fluids at set intervals (20,000, 40,000, 60,000, etc.) also affect the performance - and lifespan - of the car. Sometimes dealers offer special pricing on these services.
Always Keep Records
Document all repairs and maintenance with receipts, and save them in a special folder. When you go to sell your car, these can be used to show the prospective buyer that you have maintained your vehicle.
Check Your VIN Report
A vehicle identification number (VIN) report is like a car's credit report. It is the first document a prospective buyer often pulls, before even looking at the car. The report usually discloses the full history of a vehicle from the day it lands on a dealer's dock up to current ownership and includes changes of ownership, accidents, servicing, etc. Many dealers update this report automatically when they service a vehicle. That's one reason to use the dealership for servicing, even though it might cost more compared to the local repair shop.
By checking the report every so often, you will know whether it shows all the activities or if any incorrect information has been added. If you see anything suspicious, instruct the insurance company that reported the incorrect information to the VIN-report preparer to correct the error.
Keep Mileage Under Control
An important determinant of a vehicle's value is the amount of mileage it has for its age; insurance companies also take mileage into account when setting premiums. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, annual mileage of roughly 13,500 a year is considered average. If you drive more than that it will detract from your car's value; if you drive less than the average, your car is likely to depreciate at a slower rate.
Whether human or machine, first impressions are lasting. An ugly, ill-kept car does not reflect well on its owner, and experts believe that just by cleaning your car, you can add hundreds of dollars to its value when you sell. That doesn't mean you have to use cleaning brushes every week and spend hours scrubbing and waxing. Just clean it periodically.
If you don't have the time to clean your car, use a car wash. For more extensive adjustments to your car's appearance, you can detail it yourself or take it to a detail shop. Use a coat of wax to protect your vehicle's paint surface from nature's elements.
Keep It Clean
Even if you wash and detail your car frequently, it won't matter much if you treat it like a cafeteria or designated smoking area. Avoid eating and drinking inside your car, even on long road trips. Don't smoke and don't allow anyone else to smoke in your car. Spills, cigarette smoke and stains can ruin the inside appearance and smell of your car and lower its resale value.
Protect Its Appearance
Even the color of a vehicle can impact its resale value, so it is essential to keep your vehicle parked in a shaded place and to store it properly. If you live in an extremely cold or warm environment and you have the option to store your car inside, you should do so. Excessive sun can fade the outer surfaces of your car, including paint, trim and moldings. Additionally, extremely cold temperatures and environmental conditions can wreak havoc on your car's internal engine components. By storing your car inside in a climate-controlled environment, you can help avoid costly and unnecessary repairs in the future.
Also try to avoid conditions that can damage the exterior finish of your car. Paint chips, gouges or fading can all decrease a car's value. If your vehicle's paint is less than ideal, consider having it painted prior to resale time and be sure to have a reputable paint expert or body shop perform the work. A nice-looking exterior finish can increase a car's curb appeal and ultimately its value.
Although dents, scratches and other kinds of damage are sometimes unavoidable, it is important to remember that visible imperfections will impact resale value. Dent repair, a "light touch" procedure, can get rid of dents without sandblasting and expensive painting.
Other problems many vehicle owners face are rusting and unsightly stone chips. Repairing those chips with an inexpensive touch-up stick can dramatically improve your car's appearance.
Fix Small Problems Promptly
Many drivers tend to neglect small problems as long as the car still runs. Unfortunately, these are often warning signs of a more serious problem. Taking care of problems in a timely manner, whether mechanical or cosmetic, can often save money and help you avoid frustration. If you live in a cold climate with harsh winters, be sure to wash your vehicle often to remove salt deposits that can eventually lead to rust. Whenever possible, have your car undercoated to avoid salt deposits from building up on the frame and the underside of the quarter panels and fenders.
Treat Your Car With Respect
Prevent excessive wear and tear by avoiding extreme start-and-stop driving, over-towing (or towing more weight than is recommended in your owner's manual), excessive speeding or driving your vehicle in areas with poor road conditions.
Accidents, no matter how slight, can negatively impact a vehicle's value and jeopardize personal safety. No matter how short the trip, avoid excessive speeds and erratic or irresponsible driving and always pay attention to the roadway and weather conditions.
The Bottom Line
Whether you want your current car to last longer or you're looking to get the most value at resale, make sure you get the most bang for your buck by staying on top of maintenance and cosmetic issues. By following these simple steps, you can increase your car's value and get the most money when it comes time to sell.