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Your car is the second largest investment in your life (coming in right after your home). Yes, it’s an investment, not a commodity. In order to maximize that investment, you need to make sure you keep its value high. While there’s nothing you can do about market depreciation (the process that starts as soon as you drive that new car off the lot), there are several things you can do to ensure that you get the maximum value for your car if you sell it or trade it in down the road. Here’s what you need to know.
Your car’s exterior is responsible for the first impression made on a potential buyer or salesperson at a car lot. It doesn’t matter if the Blue Book value for your car is $20,000, if the exterior is in bad shape, you’ll get a pittance in a sale or trade in. To keep your car’s exterior in great shape, follow these simple tips:
- Wash your car regularly, using a soft cloth and specially formulated car wash (not dish soap)
- Dry your car using a chamois – don’t let it air dry
- Wax your car at least twice per year, or more frequently if conditions require it
- Do not park under trees for extended periods of time as this can foster mold and mildew growth
- Do not park in direct sun for extended periods of time as this will lead to paint oxidation
- Use a car cover if your vehicle will be sitting in one spot for any length of time (not for daily driven cars)
- Park your car inside the garage (yes, that means stop using the garage as a storage area)
- Replace cracked/damaged headlight, taillight and side marker lenses as soon as possible
- Clean your tires and wheels with every wash – use a specific tire and wheel cleaner but don’t use a wire brush on your wheels (it will scratch the surface)
- If you touch up scratches and dings on the exterior, use an exact paint color match from your dealership
Your car’s interior is just as important as the exterior. While the exterior makes the first impression with a buyer, the interior drives that impression home. If it’s in rough shape, you can expect to see less money, even if the exterior is pristine. Follow these simple tips to keep the inside of your car in excellent condition:
- Don’t smoke in your car – the odor lingers for a very long time and nicotine coats/stains all interior surfaces
- Don’t eat or drink in your car – food odors can linger longer than cigarette smoke, and leftover food and drink can lead to mold, as well as attract pests
- Don’t leave mail, food wrappers, water bottles or any other trash in your car – garbage of any kind will attract pests
- Vacuum the interior frequently (combine with washing) – make sure to vacuum all the floor mats, as well as the seats
- Regularly dust and wipe down all interior surfaces (door panels, dash, radio/HVAC controls, etc.)
- Clean the seats on a regular basis, using the correct cleaning solution (leather cleaner for leather, upholstery cleaner for cloth)
- Treat stains immediately
- Keep pets out of your car (claws can damage all interior surfaces, and pet hair is notoriously difficult to get out)
- Use a sunshade when parking in direct sunlight to protect your dash and steering wheel
- Protect your dashboard by applying a protectant/cleaner/conditioner regularly
If you follow these simple, easy tips, you’ll be able to keep both the interior and exterior of your car in good condition and maximize its value.
Don Elfrink is our resident auto expert and the owner and operator of AutoMatStore.com, a company selling auto mats throughout the nation. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive production site. AutoMatStore focuses on logo, carpeted, molded and all weather floor mats.