How to Get Max Value Out of Your Old Car

by Ed Attanasio - Wed, Oct 14, 2015 2:01 PM

You’ve had the same car for a few years now and you’re starting to look for a new ride. With new automotive technology emerging literally every day, a three-year-old vehicle is already outdated in many ways. So, the question posed here is this—what can I do to squeeze the maximum value out of my existing vehicle, so that when it’s time to sell it, I can make out like a champion?

Here are five simple ways to achieve this, easily, affordably and without hiring a professional, in most cases.

1) Wax It

Your paint job has faded? It happens. Don't spend a fortune getting a new one. Break out the wax and polish and start working away to add value to your car. If your car's paint has become so faded that you no longer remember what it used to look like, try opening the door and looking inside the door frame. The area inside the door frame rarely gets exposed to sunlight and harsh chemicals, so it will be close to the car's original color. Keep in mind that all the waxing and polishing in the world may never get it completely back to that original color and shine, but at least it can be slightly rejuvenated by waxing on, waxing off.

2) Shine those Wheels

Shiny wheels look new and can add to your vehicle's luster and potential value. So, take the time to get in there and clean out dirt, dust and grime from the wheels. Also, swab a tire shine product on the tire sidewalls to make them look new, too. You spent good money on those wheels, so do everything you can to at least recoup part of that investment.

3) Document Everything

Sure, you say you've had your car maintained regularly and the battery is virtually brand new, but can you prove it? This is why you should keep a folder of maintenance and repair records on your car at all times. Besides providing evidence, a well-organized folder packed with repair and maintenance records a show you really cared about your car and that’s what a potential owner wants to know. Also, get a vehicle history report from CarFax or Experian and present it with the car. Among other things, these records will show the vehicle's ownership history and hopefully reinforce your assertions about the car.

4) Do the E-Z Fixes

If your car has a burned out headlight or taillight, replace it. If, at some point in your car's life, some scoundrel popped the chrome badge off the grill, you should replace that, too, just so long as the replacement doesn't cost a lot. Also, make sure there are no warning lights -- a.k.a. "idiot lights" -- glowing on the dashboard. If the "windshield washer fluid low" warning is on, top it off. If the check engine light is on, have it checked. It could be something simple and inexpensive to fix. (If it's not, you can either have it fixed or divulge the ugly truth to potential buyers.) You may be tempted to just let the next guy worry about these things, but leaving anything unrepaired brings your care as an owner into question.

5) NEVER Sell It “As Is” 

While it probably isn't worth investing in serious body work, some simple scratches and parking lot dings can be repaired without incurring huge bills. Many minor paint scratches and scuffs can be polished out. For dents, there are reputable firms that specialize in dent removal, but be wary and don’t ever accept resort to shoddy work.

If you can so these simple things, you’ll be happy when someone makes you a nice offer for your car. Full transparency is always key, so don’t withhold important information about the mechanical aspect of the vehicle, but by making it look good, potential buyers will feel good and hopefully you’ll get what you want from the sale!

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