9 Simple Ways to Maximize Your Car's Resale Value (That You Should Start Doing Right Now)

Car ownership can be expensive, so try these simple solutions that could help you potentially get the most out of your car when you’re ready to sell.

For sale sign on windshield of car
Updated May 28, 2024
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Car ownership can be a major investment for most people. After all, there are few things you buy that are more expensive than your home and your car.

But car ownership comes with a price, especially if you’re hoping to get some money back from your investment when you sell it. In fact, a car can depreciate around 20% in the first year that you own it, so it can be important to do what you can now to maximize your resale value. 

If you're in the market for a new car, consider these legit ways to earn extra money to help offset the costs. Another way to offset the costs are to shop around for the best auto insurance policy.

Here are a few ideas to care for your car now to give your resale value a boost later.

Keep it clean

Nejron Photo/Adobe Man worker washing car's alloy wheels on a car wash

This may sound a bit basic, but keeping your car clean now can help you when you’re ready to sell it. Make sure you have the exterior washed on a regular basis, particularly after a hard winter. If you live somewhere that uses salt on the roads, you may want to get that residue washed off before it starts to eat away at the metal.

You also might want to have the car’s interior cleaned by a professional detailer occasionally to get any crumbs, dirt, and other crustiness out of the car rather than letting it linger.

Stay on schedule for maintenance

ronstik/Adobe  mechanic checking the engine

Regular maintenance on a vehicle may cost a little bit of money now, but it can save you from some big headaches later. Remember to have your oil changed on a regular basis, get other fluids checked, rotate your tires, and have a professional check your brakes for any wear and tear.

Check your owner’s manual for a list of maintenance you should schedule as well as the optimal time to have the work done. And make sure you include paperwork from all of the work you have completed, which could come in handy when you try to sell the car.

Minimize aftermarket additions

goce risteski/Adobe custom car interior with audio system and lcd display

You may have wanted that powerful sound system, sunroof, window tint, or body kit, but it might not be appealing to buyers. It also could reduce the car’s trade-in value if it’s been changed too much when comparing new versus used cars.

Instead, reduce the number of add-ons you put on the car, particularly if you plan to use it as a trade-in at some point. You could also help your budget by picking only one or two that may be of particular interest to you.

Don’t smoke

thodonal/Adobe smoking inside the car

Smells inside the car could quickly sink a sale. One of the worst offenders is the smell of smoke, which can saturate interior padding, fabric, and even some of the plastics inside your vehicle.

Most buyers don’t want to deal with that kind of smell. You also may not want to deal with trying to get rid of it before a sale because cleaning that up could be quite difficult.

Ease up on eating inside

Drobot Dean/Adobe Couple eating inside the car

Another thing that can cause distinct odors to linger in your car is food. It may be easy to have a quick bite on the road, but that could also mean the smell of french fries could overwhelm the car’s interior.

If you regularly eat in your car, you also may have to deal with stains and dirt on your car’s seats and mats as well as any sticky sodas that spill.

Walk when you can

Halfpoint/Adobe walking in the street

One of the first things a potential buyer may ask you about is the mileage on the car. The lower the mileage, the less likely it is that the car will have extra wear and tear from driving here, there, and everywhere. Driving less also lowers the chance you’ll get in an accident or be in need of a major service repair.

That isn’t to say that you should walk your 15-mile commute to work. But perhaps put on some sneakers for a quick stop at the grocery store a mile from home or a trip to your local coffee shop. It could save you gas money and help you sell your car for a few dollars more.

Buy something popular

HBS/Adobe sales manager helping young couple to choose a new car

If you know you plan to sell your car at some point, do some research on the most desirable makes and models on the resale market. That could help you narrow down your choices, and you can pick a particular vehicle knowing that it will be easy to sell when you’re ready to part with it.

And while you may not know what gas prices will be in a few years, you may want to lean toward a more fuel-efficient model. It might be more appealing to buyers when you’re ready to get rid of it, and it can save you some money in fuel costs while you own it.

Be a safe driver

lzf/Adobe Woman driver buckle up the seat belt before driving car

Driving safely can save you money in repairs as well as save you money when you sell your vehicle. Most new owners may weed out cars that have been in an accident or may have needed repairs to bodywork or mechanical issues.

Pro tip: Some of the best car insurance companies could give you a discount for being a safe driver. Check with your insurance provider to see if they have a safe-driver program and what you may need to qualify.

Get it fixed

twinsterphoto/Adobe Mechanic in blue uniform lying down and working under car

Any issues you may have with your vehicle should be addressed by you, the owner, before you put it on the market. Now would be a good time to fix those lingering issues that you’ve put up with but may put off a buyer.

You also might want to replace the tires and brake pads if they are worn. And if you’re close to a maintenance milestone, think about having that work done before you sell rather than trying to find a buyer who is willing to take on that extra cost at the beginning of their ownership.

Pro tip: Tight on cash to pay for necessary car repairs. Here's how you can boost your bank account right away.

Bottom line

oneinchpunch/Adobe car sales

If you do a few things here or there while you own your car, you may be able to get more money out of it when you’re ready to resell it to the next buyer.

Keep a checklist handy to remember when to do scheduled maintenance, hold on to any paperwork for work done on your vehicle, and try to keep it as close to its factory settings as possible. These simple tricks could pay off when you’re ready to move on.

Remember, shopping around for the best auto insurance policy can add savings to your pocket that you can put towards maximizing your car's value.

  • You could save up to $600 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.