Ten Ways to Maintain the Value of Your Car

by Kevin Mercadante

A lot of car owners become concerned with the value of their cars only when it comes time to sell them. But cars don’t lose value overnight, unless of course they undergo an accident. The value of your car can be maintained – or lost – over the many years that you own it. How you care for your car has everything to do with the price it will command when it comes time to sell it or trade it in for a new car.

Here are 10 ways to maintain the value of your car, and each is best implemented as soon as you buy it.

1. Keep the car in the garage

maintain the value of your car

Taking care of your car will help it retain value.

Have you ever noticed that in many homes a garage functions primarily as a second basement? And in households that have no basement, the garage IS the basement. What I mean by that is that the garage serves primarily as a collection point for everything except a car.

That may be good for your household storage situation, but it can the hurt value of your car.

A car that’s parked in a garage is protected from the elements. That means cold, heat, bright sunshine, wind, hail, driving rain, and snowstorms. It’s even protected from branches and other debris that may fall out of nearby trees.

If you have a garage, be sure to use it to store your car – not for other purposes.

2. Get regular tune-ups

Mechanical problems with cars tend to be progressive in nature. That means that small issues become big problems, sooner or later. Since you’re never entirely sure when you may need to sell or trade in your car, it’s best to have a car undergo regular tune ups, to avoid the kind of problems that can cut the value of your car substantially. In addition, a car that has regular tune ups tends run better and quieter – and that’s something that car buyers notice.

3. Don’t smoke in your car

Not only does cigarette smoke give the interior of a car the smell of impacted ashtray, but it can also cause interior surfaces to dull and even turn yellowish-brown. Since only 22% of the adult population smokes cigarettes, you can be certain that the cigarette smell in your car will be offensive to at least the 78% of the population that doesn’t smoke. That will cut the potential market for your car substantially – as well as the value.

4. Clean up stains on carpet and upholstery as soon as possible

Car interiors are generally designed to resist stains. However, this resistance works best when you clean spills soon after they occur. If you allow spills to stay on upholstery or carpets for weeks or months, they can go to the point of no return and become full-blown permanent stains.

This is particularly a problem if you have small children who have a preference for red colored drinks. There’s something about red dye that simply resists coming out any kind of material. Should anything red make contact with any material surfaces in your car, be sure to clean it up immediately. Those stains that you might ignore can be a value killer to a potential buyer of your car.

5. Get the oil changed regularly

Probably the single maintenance step you can perform on your car that is the most cost effective is getting regular oil changes. They’re relatively inexpensive – typically $30-$50 per change – and they can prevent major problems in the engine itself.

6. Investigate and repair any unusual engine noises

Engine noises are often the first sign of significant problems with your car. If you catch those problems early in the process, they can often be repaired at minimal cost. But let them go too far, and they can turn into major expenses. Get any unusual noises or check-engine lights checked out as soon as you notice them.

This can be even more important you’re planning to sell your car. Experienced car buyers know to listen carefully to the sound your cars engine. A smooth running engine is often evidenced by a quiet consistent sound. But knocking, clanking, or intermittent sounds can be an indication of more serious engine problems. As the long-term owner of the car, you may overlook unusual sounds – but rest assured that a buyer won’t.

7. Use Armor-all or equivalent product to protect vinyl surfaces

Vinyl surfaces in a car are prone to dulling and cracking over time. This is especially true if you live in the Sun Belt, where intense summer sunshine can wreak havoc with car surfaces, both inside and outside the vehicle.

Though damaged vinyl surfaces don’t indicate problems with the engine or the drive train in any way, they may give the impression that the car is not well-maintained.

Fortunately, there inexpensive products that you can use that will keep your vinyl surfaces fresh and new. Armor All has products for this purpose that will preserve your cars vinyl like it’s new. If you use these products at least twice a year, you’ll keep the surfaces fresh, giving a prospective buyer the impression of a well-maintained vehicle.

8. Wax your car a few times a year

You should plan to wax your car a few times per year. This will not only protect the surface, but it will also help to maintain the color of your vehicle longer. Though it’s completely superficial, the quality of the paint job on your car is the first thing that a buyer will notice about the vehicle. If the paint is dull and worn, a prospective buyer may not look any farther, even if the car is in perfect shape mechanically.

9. Drive it easy

Some people drive their cars like they’re still in high school – engaging in a rapid acceleration, sudden stops, hard turns, and crude parking jobs. As exciting as those actions may be at the time that you’re doing them, they’re taking a toll on your car, particularly if you make a habit of them over the years you own it.

Hard-driving results in accelerated wear and tear, and can lead to weird noises, as well as permanent impairment of certain parts of the car. Drive it hard if you feel you must, but understand that you’ll have to pay for it when it comes time to sell the car – if not sooner. Side benefit: driving smoothly uses less gas.

10. Keep mileage to a minimum

Everyone knows that the mileage on your car has a major effect on its value. More miles equals lower value, fewer miles result in a higher value. Simple. For this reason, you need to keep mileage to an absolute minimum. Consolidate trips, carpool where you can, set aside a few days each month to go car-less – it all adds up. Consolidating trips is also better for your engine and gas mileage, as your car performs more efficiently with a warm engine.

Mileage is all about driving habits, and if you can get into the habit of driving less, your car will ultimately be worth more.

Are there other habits and maintenance tips you can offer to help maintain the value of a car?

Published or updated July 14, 2014.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Wallet Doctor

Getting your car to regular service is important for a lot of reasons. It makes your ride safer while helping your budget. Its worth doing, even though it can be rather annoying.


2 Kevin Mercadante

A lot of times it’s tempting to put off maintenance to save money, but if you think about it, ongoing maintenance is part of the expected cost of having a car. You can either prevent a little problem now, or wait until it becomes a big problem later.


3 Alexis

I recently learned another way to save gas money and keep your car running longer;by simply warming it up. Some if not most people probably already know this simple little tool to help your car last longer, but sadly I haven’t been doing this.


4 Kevin Mercadante

Hi Alexis – I’ve heard that as a mixed bag. You should do that when it’s cold out so that the engine has a chance to warm up. But on warm days it supposedly doesn’t do much.


5 Deb @ Saving the Crumbs

Use windshield shades to keep the sun from baking the inside of the car. Also make sure there are floor mats, esp if there are kids in the car.


6 Anne @ Money Propeller

I just got one of those spot cleaner things, because the upholstery in one of our vehicles is starting to smell funky and I am soooo not okay with it.
I’m going to use this article as justification to my spouse that a garage is an absolute must in the future, when we eventually buy a house. I can’t stand how people don’t care about parking outside (mostly because I hate getting snow off of them and waiting for windshields to defrost).


7 Kevin Mercadante

Hi Deb – The windshield protector will keep your dashboard from drying and cracking. They work especially well in the Sun Belt where dashboards bake in the summer sun.


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