Car value really only tends to matter to people when they are buying or selling a car. Unfortunately, that is a mistake. If you don’t take steps to maintain your car’s engine and appearance from day one, you may put a lot of unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle that will negatively impact its value when you eventually want to sell it.
1) Detail yearly
Have you ever wondered why some cars always look like they are brand new, even if you know the owner has had it for years? Well, it is all about an owner who loves their car and likely gets yearly auto detailing.
A good detailing job, even once a year, will make your car look and feel as if it is brand new. Detailers will wash and shampoo your interior cloth, clean your leather, dust, and vacuum out all those tiny spaces you never seem to be able to reach, and if you’re lucky, they will add that secret formula of “new car smell.”
Most cars still look pretty good after a year of use. It is not until 2, 3, or 4 years later that those stains begin to set in, the crumbs between the seats become part of the fabric, and the fabric forms a footprint in the place you like to rest your feet on the floorboard. A yearly detail not only freshens up your car, but keeps you conscious of how nice it is to drive a new car and you will naturally have more of an inclination to take care of it. From a buyer’s perspective, the nicer your car looks, the more it looks like the owner took care of it. Hence, it is much more valuable than buying a possible lemon.
2) Change your oil
Outside of keeping your vehicle looking nice on the exterior is the importance of keeping it running smoothly the entire time you own the car. One of the best ways to keep your car running smoothly is to get regular oil changes.
Oil works as a lubricant to keep the metal parts of your engine running smooth and efficiently. Without changing your oil and the oil filter regularly, those parts need to labor more to run, and will eventually be running with a lot of friction on them. This can result in either damaged components, or your engine locking up. Neither of which is cheap to fix.
Changing your oil is also one of the few things almost every vehicle owner knows is important. So, when you go to sell your car, be ready for the question, “Did you perform regular oil changes?” and then expect, the words, “Prove it!” A new buyer is not trying to be a jerk. They are just aware that if your vehicle did not receive regular oil changes there is a high potential for unexpected repairs in the future. Hence, the value of your car is worth less than the car of the person who regularly changed their oil.
3) Perform manufacturer’s service suggestions
Along with oil changes, manufacturers have a list of suggested maintenance at mile-intervals. Your local auto shop or repairman should be keeping you updated on when these maintenance checks should occur. If they don’t, you can find them in your car’s owner manual.
By keeping your car regularly serviced you are making sure that future owners will not have any unexpected surprises, and if they do they were not due to your negligence. This peace of mind generally gives knowing buyers a feeling of security. This includes changing your tires and brakes when needed. In fact, one of the biggest concerns buyers will have is the quality of your tires and brakes. For one, they are easy to visually inspect, and two, they are imperative to the safety of vehicle occupants. In addition, they have an overall effect on the quality of your vehicle and how it performs. Think in terms of gas mileage, and driving in slippery or wet conditions.
Overall maintenance of your car adds to the overall value, and more often than not gives you leverage over hagglers.
4) Keep all of your service records
For anyone who has ever invested in wine, you will know that the provenance of a fine wine is as important as the year, variety, vineyard, and winery. The same holds true for a car’s value. The make and model are of course important, as is the mileage. But, just as important is the provenance of the vehicle in regards to you and how you have taken care of it.
It’s useful to have all of your work completed with the same mechanic who keeps track of all of your vehicle records. However, it is equally important to hold onto all records concerning your car’s maintenance. You want to keep track of everything from detailing and oil changes, to tire replacement and major auto work. Even tracking your carwashes shows prospective buyers that you were detailed with the care of your car.
This provenance of records is highly respected, as most vehicle owners are not nearly so diligent in maintaining their cars.
5) Maintain the exterior
Many detailing companies will include exterior detailing such as washing and waxing your car as part of their service. However, the exterior of a car needs more care than a yearly detail job. And depending on where you live will depend on the type of care you want to give your exterior. For example, washing your car outside in an extremely hot and dry climate can damage some vehicles’ exterior paint or cause permanent water marks. While in colder climates prone to snow and ice, you will want to take precautions against rust caused by road salt.
However, regular washing and waxing of your vehicle is important to keeping the exterior fresh and clean. Remember, the outside of your car is the first impression you will be giving to future buyers. Small exterior problems can easily downgrade the value of a car more than a nice shiny car can improve the value.
6) Use floor mats
Floor mats are great and most makes and models come with, or have an option of custom-made rugs. People hate seeing stains in cars. Even if you have your car detailed and a stain is permanently in place, buyers will use that as a reason to say you cleaned your car to hide the fact that you’re a slob. It may not be true, but unfortunately that is what happens.
Floor mats are made for heavy use areas of your car, are removable for easy cleanup, and can be replaced if the damage is too extensive, such as rips, tears, and heavy stains. If you do want to add a little more value to your car, you can purchase all new floor mats just before selling, which will highlight the cleanliness.
While light stains can detract from the value of your car, brand new or clean floor mats can add value.
7) Cover the back seat
Let’s talk kids. Kids can destroy a car. They somehow spill their sippy cups, knock over cans of soda, drop French fries, Teddy Grahams, and everything else in the deepest visible cracks in the seats. Let’s not forget about markers, crayons, and mommy’s make-up, which they somehow snuck away in their pocket.
Back seats can destroy the value of your car if you don’t keep up with them. One of the best ways to manage back seat spills, abrasions, and marks is to buy seat covers. Many vehicles have optional covers that are custom made. You can also purchase covers from retail stores like Target and Walmart. If all else fails, a full or queen size sheet will do the trick.
While car seat covers are not as attractive as you drive your vehicle, the protection they provide can be worth several hundred dollars or more when you need to sell your car.
8) Change your lights and keep them clean
Strangely enough, car lights play a factor on the perception of your car’s value. As consumers we tend to look at the shiniest, brightest, and cleanest items as the best. That’s why most cars have a glossy sheen, or cleaned tires are sprayed with a glossy finish.
The same holds true for your head lamps. Keeping the light covers clean is a matter of purchasing specialized cleaner for car headlights. However, a bottle of window cleaner will do the trick as well. Cleaning your light covers regularly, say every other month, will keep you from having to put a lot of elbow grease into getting off all those bugs, as well as the fog that builds over time.
In addition to keeping the light covers clean you will want to make sure that when you replace your bulbs, you replace both of them rather than each one as they burn out. This will provide your vehicle with consistent lights, and less likelihood that one goes out just before you sell your car.
9) Fix minor dents and chips
Often when people get minor dents and scratches in their cars they don’t think much about repairing it, as the cost doesn’t seem to justify the need. This even goes for small chips in your windshield. While insignificant scratches and dents may not seem like a problem, they can cause two major problems.
First is that often these minor scratches, chips and dents can lead to more significant damage, such as a sudden major crack in your windshield, or rust forming under your car’s paint, which depending on severity, can be a big problem.
Second, depending on the number of scratches, dents, and chips, a potential car buyer may ask the question, “If the owner didn’t bother to take care of these, what else haven’t they done?” If your car is in good condition, but has a few of these minor problems, this may prompt buyers to try to lowball the value, or walk away entirely so they don’t have to deal with the consequences.