Boosting your car's value before trading it in
When it comes time to trade in your vehicle to purchase another one, it's rarely a good idea to simply start it up and take it to the dealership. Dings, dents, scratches, stained seats, and a variety of other issues can all drastically reduce the amount of money a dealer is willing to credit you for the vehicle.
While you might be reticent to spend money on a vehicle you'll soon be giving up, it can often be a good way to increase its trade-in value. Cleaning the vehicle and making a few simple repairs can be useful as well, but it's also very important to regularly take care of the vehicle.
Every vehicle has a recommended maintenance schedule in the owner's manual. Changing the oil, topping off the fluids, and other steps will all help to keep the vehicle running well. Garden State Honda, a dealership in Clifton, N.J., says you should have your vehicle serviced at the recommended intervals to complete the recommended maintenance and identify any potential problems.
Regularly clean the interior to protect the upholstery from wear and tear. Protective measures such as floor mats, seat covers, and fabric guards can all keep the interior in good condition and help the vehicle retain more value.
The exterior should also be washed and waxed at least periodically. Vigaianand Thirnageswaram, writing for the financial site Investopedia, says it is especially important to get regular washes during the winter to remove salt, which can cause rust to form on the frame and undercarriage. While modern vehicles are often built to withstand this corrosion, you might consider a protective undercoating to further guard against damage.
Your vehicle will retain more value if you can keep its mileage down. This might be easier said than done, especially if you have a lengthy commute. But if you can combine trips for errands, explore other transportation options for longer trips, or otherwise keep a lower figure on the odometer, you'll slow the depreciation of your vehicle's value.
Try to avoid bad habits that will leave unpleasant stains or smells in the vehicle. Eating and smoking while driving will have a particularly pronounced effect on the vehicle's interior.
Be careful about adding aftermarket items to your vehicle. These features may increase your enjoyment of the vehicle, but won't necessarily increase its value. The items can even make it harder to find a buyer, since drivers might not be interested in them. Some practical items such as truck bed liners can be more attractive, however, and can also help protect the vehicle from damage.
Don't throw away the bills from the mechanic. These records can help prove that you've been keeping up with maintenance. It's also useful to periodically run a check on your vehicle identification number to see if it is associated with any incorrect information.
If you need to catch up on maintenance before trading in your vehicle, see if the work will be worth it. Port Charlotte Volkswagen, a Florida dealership, says you'll need to weigh the cost of the repair against the value it will add to your vehicle.
Of course, you'll also need to be aware that any obvious deficiencies can drop the amount you'll receive at trade-in. Some examples include worn tires, cracks or chips in the glass, or obvious dents and scratches.
Repairs for many of these issues can be fairly inexpensive. Doug DeMuro, writing for Autotrader, says repair companies are often able to fix small dents for $50 or less. Scratches can sometimes be buffed out without much trouble, although they sometimes require repainting as well.
It may seem counterproductive to get a new set of tires for a vehicle you'll be trading in, but a dealer can easily use tires with low tread depth to reduce the amount you'll receive at trade-in. Buying an inexpensive new set of tires, or even a lightly worn set of used tires, can help improve the vehicle's value.
A crack or chip in a window or windshield is a very obvious flaw. The auto value resource Kelley Blue Book says the cost to repair this issue will likely be less than the amount dealers will knock off the trade-in value due to the problem.
If a headlight or taillight has burned out, get a new bulb and replace it. You can easily do this on your own at a minimal cost, saving you the amount the dealer would otherwise deduct from the trade-in value.
Brake repairs are generally more worthwhile for luxury vehicles than non-luxury vehicles. Port Charlotte Volkswagen says this work will typically exceed the increase in value in the latter segment, but is often at least $100 less than the bump in value for a luxury vehicle.
After driving a vehicle for a few years, it's easy to get used to a few flaws. DeMuro says it's important to have these addressed before you visit the dealership. A non-functioning key fob might be a small inconvenience you've learned to live with, but the dealer will see it as a deficiency that brings the vehicle's value down.
If your vehicle is covered with a layer of grime and full of junk when you bring it to the dealership, it naturally won't present too well. Take the time to give it a thorough cleaning before you trade it in.
A professional detailing job can also be worth the cost. Margarette Burnette, writing for the financial site Bankrate, says this process might cost about $50, but increase the value of the vehicle by a few hundred dollars.
Don't make your vehicle too immaculate, though. DeMuro says that if your vehicle has been completely cleared of personal items, it gives the impression that you're eager to get rid of it and find a new vehicle. This, in turn, puts you in a weaker negotiating position when determining the value of the vehicle with the dealer. Keep a few personal items in the vehicle to avoid this mistake.
Before visiting a dealership, get a sense of how much your vehicle is worth. Burnette says there are several resources available online to determine the approximate value of your vehicle based on its age, mileage, and other factors.
You can also search the inventory of local dealerships or pay a visit to the lot to see what comparable used vehicles are selling for. Don't be surprised if the prices differ from the value you've determined; several factors, ranging from the popularity of certain models in a region to the condition of the vehicle, will affect how much it is worth.
Drivers of fairly new vehicles may be surprised to find that it has a rather low trade-in value. Not only do vehicles depreciate considerably in their first few years, but they'll also have to compete against newer model years of the same make and model.
Try to visit multiple dealerships to get a few different quotes for trade-in. Sometimes a dealer's offer is influenced by something as simple as the fact that they already have a nearly identical model on their used vehicle lot. By visiting more than one dealership, you may be able to get a considerably higher offer on trade-in.
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