Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How to Get the Highest Resale Value for Your Car

car resale

When it’s time to turn in the old reliable runner you’ve driven for years in exchange for a nice, shiny new car, you’re going to want to get the best possible return on your investment. However, this return can’t be done retroactively. You really need to start thinking about the eventual resale value of your car before you buy it.

Buy a well-known make

First off, you need a car with recognizable marketability. If you’re looking at two similar vehicles from two different manufacturers and one is cheaper than the other, it might be a good idea to compare the resale values of the two makes. If you save something now, you might lose it all plus some more when it comes time to dispose of the car.

Don't wait too long to sell

Just about everyone knows that mileage is an important differentiator in the market, so try not to keep a vehicle too long unless you plan to run it into the ground. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Check out Toyotas and Hondas in the used car ads. They still command respectable prices even when flaunting large odometer numbers. This is perhaps less true of their upscale brethren in the Acura and Lexus camps (though they aren’t bad either), because luxury vehicles are more expensive to repair.

Check under the hood

Then there’s mechanical condition. A car that’s been serviced regularly and can demonstrate that it’s technically sound when test driven will be given priority over some rattly old wreck. In the same vein, a comprehensive record of maintenance and repair work is a great way to prove the careful and regular attention the car has enjoyed while in your possession.

Keep it clean

Never underestimate the effect of appearance. The first thing used-car lots do is spruce up the vehicle. They steam clean the engine bay, shampoo the carpets, wash and polish the paintwork, clean the seats and controls, and deodorize the interior. Nobody wants to buy a dirty, beaten up old hack, so try to keep the car’s appearance clean and shiny from the start. It’s easier than the remedial stuff you’ll need to do if it’s ratty looking at the end.

The interior is critical. Scuffed and dirty upholstery, stained carpets, sticky controls—these are a big turn off. A well maintained vehicle speaks for itself, and it helps suggest that the owner was a mature and responsible vehicle operator. The kind of person you would like to do business with.

Don't over-personalize it

There are other considerations for resale in the public marketplace. Pick a popular color. A purple car doesn’t appeal to many people. Avoid lurid aftermarket add-ons like louvers and sills and spoilers. Even aftermarket wheels can be a turnoff to someone for whom they suggest a boyracer former owner; a hooligan who liked to tear up the roads.

Finally, try to balance the deal you’re looking for. A sale to a private party is likely to net more money than you’ll get as a trade in. But the dealer may be keen to get the sale, and might throw in some options that make the deal comparable. You never know.

Bottom line: Look after your car and it will look after you (and your money).

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...

Related questions

Q: Repair transmission or buy new car

Only if the value of your car after the repairs are made will exceed the cost of the repairs plus the value without the repairs being made. A 13-year old vehicle may not be worth much and depends on resale...