Posted by Evelyn Bai, Tim Sorey on September 12, 2017
While most people cannot imagine living without a car, buying a car is generally a losing proposition. Unless you’re investing in that rare classic automobile that you can sell for a hefty profit at the Barrett-Jackson auction, it’s an asset that loses value rather rapidly. However, there are things you can do to increase the amount of money you walk away with when it’s time to get rid of your vehicle, whether you’re turning your leased car in at the end of the term, trading up, or dealing with a private party. Let’s cut to the chase:
If you’re returning a leased car or trading one in, the less amount of work the dealer has to do to re-sell your car, the better. With the glut of cars on the market from lease returns, you want your car to stand out for maximum impact and money back to you.
Today’s cars are built better and have a longer lifespan than they had even 20 years ago; therefore, people are keeping cars longer. While an older car may be in good shape mechanically, the additional wear and tear can really take its toll, and there may be issues that need attending to. Small repairs can definitely improve your car’s resale value.
It’s important to get and keep your car in tip-top condition for maximum selling price. Benjamin Franklin famously said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that saying could not be more true as it applies to car maintenance, for safety, performance, and cosmetic reasons. Follow your car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule (which may vary depending on driving conditions and other factors), and keep good records. Proof of a well-maintained car speaks volumes to a potential buyer, whether it be wholesale or retail.
After maintenance and mechanical issues have been tackled, a good spit and polish is always an excellent idea.
Annual mileage of roughly 13,500 a year is considered average, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The higher the mileage, the lower the trade-in value; conversely, if you drive less than the average, your car is likely to depreciate at a slower rate.
Don't underestimate the importance of carpooling, and combine trips whenever possible. Some employers subsidize the cost of commuting by train if that is an option where you live, and telecommuting is more popular than ever. Evaluate the miles you've driven at the end of each year and see if there are ways you can drive less.
If your car is in excellent condition, make sure you communicate that to your potential buyer. Major pluses worth mentioning:
If you have already made your car exactly the way you wanted it for yourself and can’t think of anything to add, great! If not, you may consider adding a thing or two to get it past “base car” status.
Kelley Blue Book is considered the gold standard for determining a car’s retail value (keep in mind that a car dealer will likely not get close to this price while haggling with you!). Consider KBB’s rating scale when advertising your car if you are placing an ad to sell privately:
While you should get a car that suits your needs and makes you drive happy, there are some cars that are more popular and have a higher resale value than others. When buying or leasing a new car, there are options you can add at purchase that increase a car’s value (like leather upholstery, a sunroof, HID/LED lights, and Bluetooth connectivity -- a newer option that is quickly becoming very popular) and are usually more conveniently added by the dealer at time of purchase than after the fact.
Even a car’s color can be a factor: Did you know that the most popular car colors for all vehicle categories are silver (23% of purchases), white (15%), and black (12%)? Choosing one of these neutral colors would appeal to the largest number of potential buyers down the road. The hot pink paint job your teenage daughter is begging for could come back to bite you come sale time, so choose wisely.
Second to buying a home, a car is one of the most expensive purchases most people make; therefore, everyone should buy and sell cars skillfully to maximize their investment. Make sure you get the most bang for your buck by keeping your car in peak condition. By keeping these simple steps in mind, you can preserve more of your car's value and get the most money when it comes time to sell.