Don’t sweat the small stuff is pretty good advice when it comes to taking care of your car. Generally speaking.
Making sure your car runs properly and has no major body damage are the most essential things when it comes to getting the full trade-in or resale value.
But some details do matter. Modifications made to your vehicle, shortcuts taken, and upkeep done or avoided can determine how well your car fares when it comes time to sell.
While most vehicle details have the potential to drag your car’s value down, a few do have the potential to positively impact its sales price. Below we’ll cover things that lower your car resale value and things that increase your car’s resale value.
Vehicle Detail 1: Bumper Stickers
Value decrease: $100s (potentially)
Bumper stickers seem like a great idea. Something easily removable to decorate your car and then take off when it comes time to sell.
But there’s a reason people put bumper stickers on their car windows instead of their bumpers.
Even carefully removed bumper stickers can leave traces behind – namely mismatched paint.
The best paint job can’t stop the effects of the sun’s UVs or chemicals in the air, so car paint does fade over time. Though, this fading may not be noticeable.
Until, that is, you take off a bumper sticker and expose the space that was protected from the sunlight underneath.
Now, you have mismatched paint. And most buyers are going to want to get that fixed. Which means they’ll want a touch-up or full paint job knocked off the price of the car.
And car paint jobs are expensive.
So, your proud vehicular display that tells everyone you’re a Yankees fan may cost you several hundred dollars in the end.
Vehicle Detail 2: Mismatched Tires
Value decrease: $100s (tires + labor)
Did you have a blowout? Or a flat? Or some other incident that required you to replace a single tire? Hope you replaced it with the same brand.
A private buyer may not notice or be that concerned about whether all four tires on a car match. But a dealership will. And it’s gonna cost ya.
You might get lucky, and the dealership might have a tire just the right size and just the right brand on-hand and charge you accordingly.
Or they might ding you for the cost of replacing all four tires to ones that match.
Vehicle Detail 3: Headlights and Other Bulbs
Value decrease: $20+ (parts + labor) for a general bulb (overhead, door, mirror); $50+ for a headlight
Burned out light bulbs in your vehicle are an easy fix. They’re even easier for the dealership where you trade your car in to fix them, since they likely have the bulbs on hand. So, you might think, why bother?
It’s a fair enough question. If you get the price of the bulbs taken off your valuation, it won’t be much. You will be charged considerably more by a dealer than it would cost you to replace the bulbs yourself, though.
And private buyers are notoriously dependent upon the appearance of a vehicle (and a short test drive) to judge a vehicle’s worth. Working bulbs will ensure you get a better offer.
Vehicle Detail 4: Engine Bay
Value increase: $100s (potentially)
Experts disagree on whether a shiny engine bay actually translates into a better-running car. But there is no doubt that a clean engine enhances a vehicle’s curb appeal.
Clean cars get valuations hundreds of dollars higher than their dirty counterparts. And a clean engine bay can aid in a clean appearance.
Vehicle Detail 5: Modifications
Value increase/decrease: It depends.
Think that bangin’ car stereo is an investment? Think again.
Many modifications that drivers believe can only add value to their vehicles actually decrease cars’ resale values for a couple of main reasons.
One, it increases insurance costs. This is a biggie. No one wants to pay a higher premium for a modification they didn’t really want or need in the first place.
Bodywork modifications, such as spoilers or wheel arches, almost always increase auto insurance costs by 10% or more.
Two, they are undesirable to a majority of buyers.
Just because you like those racing seats doesn’t mean everyone does. Modifications can sometimes reduce car resale value simply because most people want a standard car.
If you can find a buyer with the same tastes as you, you may actually get a higher valuation due to your mods. But most buyers will be looking for the basics and will move on if they have to pay more for modifications they don’t want.
That said, there are a few modifications that almost always increase the value of a vehicle:
- Leather seats
- Infotainment systems
- Corrections (like replacing the air conditioner in a car model with known air conditioner issues)
When it comes to car upgrades, research before you modify.
Vehicle Detail 6: Fuel prices
Value increase/decrease: $100s to $1000s
One factor you have absolutely no control over that effects the value of your car is the price of fuel.
As fuel prices rise, so do the resale values of fuel-efficient vehicles and electrics, while the resale values of gas-guzzlers take a nosedive.
Higher fuel prices also increase the market share of new vehicles (which are generally more fuel-efficient), reducing the demand for your used vehicle and pushing its value even further south.
While there’s nothing you can do about fuel prices, being aware of their effect on the value of your vehicle can help you determine the best time to trade-in or sell.
Maintaining the resale value of your vehicle generally just means keeping it clean and functional. But, by sweating a few of the smaller details, you can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars back to your car’s valuation.