Vince Evans was a light mechanic and used car auctioneer until he went back to his old love, writing. Rather than shouting at North Easterners about them, he prefers to write about New Jersey used cars.
It’s an unfortunate truth that a new car starts losing its value the second you drive it off the lot, and maybe even as soon as you sign the papers. This is frustrating for owners who will eventually want, or need, to sell the vehicle down the road and will end up getting only a fraction of the cars original worth in return. There are some important steps to take if you don’t want your vehicle to depreciate quickly or significantly.
Buy a Car That Retains its Value
You’re probably thinking “well no duh,” but this step is often overlooked when buying a new car. Look at the Kelly Blue Book value of your favorite makes and models and see which ones command a higher price percentage to their original price after they’re used. Some makes and models can get up to 65% of their original price, four years later, while others only get 20%. That’s a huge difference and one worth paying attention to in the buying process.
It’s also important to note that “classic colors” like black, white, and silver sell better, and unique paint jobs or bright colors can devalue to the car. I personally am not a fan of this trend, and you can read more about my opinion when it comes to car color at this post: The Most Popular Car Colors Are…Awful.
After the Purchase
No matter what vehicle you end up with, there are some steps you can take across the board that will help you get a better price when you go to sell or trade in the vehicle.
- Seat Covers: Purchasing seat covers right away will help protect the material, especially if they’re leather, and also helps to keep your car cleaner.
- Feet Pads: Upgrading the foot pads from fabric to a more robust rubber mat also helps to keep your car cleaner and protects the fabric. This is doubly important if you live in an area where you’ll be tracking in gravel or other rough materials.
- Don’t Smoke: Cigarette smoke smell is borderline impossible to remove from a car interior and is an instant turn off to buyers. Refrain from smoking in the car (no, cracking the window doesn’t count).
- Park with Care: If you can, always park under a covering to keep your car out of the elements. Sun can crack vinyl, tree sap can build up on the roof, hail and other items can fall on the car causing damage, and a host of other things can happen. If you have to street park your car (like I do) consider parking on a quieter side street with less traffic to lower the risk of your car getting hit, even if it means a farther walk. Also be mindful of cars you’re parking next to in parking lots. Large SUVs or trucks have a wide turn radius, respect it and give them room to move and give your neighbors room to open their doors without dinging yours.
- Regular Maintenance: The most important step is making sure your car is in good repair. Follow a regular maintenance schedule with oil changes and other fluid checks. If something sounds or feels wrong, have a trusted mechanic take a look ASAP before a small problem becomes a big one. Most importantly, keep track of everything you do so you can back up your claims that the car was maintained well and with care. I suggest having a file designated for receipts and other documents – this helps to negotiate a fair price, especially if your trading in or leasing a car with a dealer.
Even with all of your care, there are circumstances that are out of your control when it comes to maintaining your cars value. If your car’s year becomes known to have issues or a lot of recalls, is widely used in rental companies, simply doesn’t age well, or a host of other factors, influence how much you’ll be able to sell the car for. However, keeping care of the car will always let you get a higher price than the same make, model, and year that didn’t take precautions.