10 Surprising Things That Can Hurt Your Car’s Value

Are you making mistakes that could hurt your car’s value when it’s time to sell?
Last updated July 5, 2022 | By Jenny Cohen | Edited By Michele Zipp
handsome salesman at car dealership selling vehicles

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Cars are not only an expensive purchase for many of us — but choosing the right car can also be personal and exciting. You might choose a car based on the model or color, its horsepower, or how many miles it gets per gallon. When you resell, however, a potential buyer is not only looking at all those things, but also how well the car held up under your ownership, both aesthetically and mechanically.

Tip: You don't need to wait until you're ready to buy a new car to save on car insurance.

The choices you made while owning your car will likely be scrutinized when you’re ready to sell your car. Here are 10 things that you may want to avoid so you don’t hurt your car’s value.

Vague maintenance history

standret/Adobe picture showing muscular car service worker repairing vehicle

One of the most important things you can do to retain value in your car is maintain it. This could include regular oil changes, fluid checks, tire rotations, brake pad replacement, or fixing any potential issues that may arise during your car ownership. Without these regular checks and changes, your car could suffer damage and knock miles or years off of it’s lifespan.

Check your owner’s manual to find out when the manufacturer of your vehicle recommends regular maintenance. Keep any records of this maintenance as part of your paperwork for the car when you’re ready to sell it to show its worth.

Bumper stickers

Wirestock/Adobe local surfer's car with bumper stickers

Bumper stickers may be fun and a reflection of who you are and what you like, but they also can hurt your car’s resale value. Potential buyers likely won’t want to own a car with your stickers on the back of it, or they may worry about removing them once they take possession of the vehicle. And removing them yourself could also cause problems if you scratch the car or peel the paint off. It may be better to just leave them off and not worry about potential issues when you’re ready to sell.

Smells

structuresxx/Adobe young Asian woman holding her nose because of bad smell

Interior smells may make potential buyers think your car stinks — literally and figuratively. Smoking inside your car could be a major issue along with the scent of pets, food, or any type of unappealing odors. It may take a bit to try and rid your car of offending smells, including a serious deep clean of your interior, but the extra work could pay dividends if it helps to increase the value of your car.

Old tires

Andrey Popov/Adobe mechanic examining car wheel

Tires are where the rubber meets the road, but that rubber wears out. Tires with a worn out tread can be dangerous when it comes to properly maneuvering the car. Uneven wear can also be a sign that something is wrong or regular alignments aren’t being done.

Potential buyers of your car may inspect the tires to see if there’s any cracking on the rubber of the tire walls, which could indicate heat or sun damage and lead to a possible blowout when on the road. New tires could be a good selling point.

Cloudy headlights

dimaris/Adobe the man holds the microfiber in hand and polishes the car

The plastic on your headlights can fog up over time, which doesn’t look good aesthetically or may even create hazardous driving conditions by causing your headlights to be less bright. It may seem like a small issue, but it could hurt the value of your car.

Luckily, there are several easy fixes. Look into a specialized headlight restoration kit to clean up that headlight, or you might even want to try household products like baking soda or toothpaste.

Cosmetic damage

ThamKC/Adobe scratch on car bumper due to minor accident

Any kind of damage can affect a car’s value, even small cosmetic dings and dents. It may be seen as a sign the car hasn’t been cared for. Things like small dents or key scratches could be a turnoff for potential buyers. You might have to spend a little money on fixes to make money when selling.

Windshield cracks

Aleksandr Lesik/Adobe broken windshield of a car

Simple chips or small cracks in your windshield could become bigger issues later. They often grow, causing visibility issues and safety issues. States have different regulations regarding driving with a cracked windshield or that vehicle passing inspection.

The best solution may be to get those cracks repaired quickly to not only protect yourself now but also appeal to potential buyers later on.

Pro tip: Check your car insurance to see what your policy may cover when it comes to windshield repair or replacement.

Tinted windows

Александр Поташев/Adobe tinting of car windows

They may look cool — and keep your interior cool — but buyers could be turned off by that tint you added to your windows. Depending on how dark the tint is, it might be within legal limits in your state but not in another state, which could reduce the pool of potential buyers. Instead, consider keeping your windows tint-free or find a place that can remove the tint before you put your car on the market.

Paint color

Vlada Z/Adobe Bentley gold car in Sirmione parking

Gold may not get you first place, at least when it comes to the value of your car. In fact, there are several colors that are less than ideal for your car’s resale value, including gold and brown. On the other hand, more popular — and more common — colors such as white, black, or silver may have less of an impact on your resale value.

Customization

Oleksandr/Adobe Golf 7 R is covering film of color iridescent

Spending extra cash on that updated sound system or those high-end rims may not help you out when it comes time to sell or trade in your car. You might like these after-market upgrades, but it might not be appealing to buyers, who may prefer fewer changes to the car from the manufacturer’s original options.

Bottom line

Rido/Adobe salesman giving new car keys to customer

You’ll want to keep your car well maintained not just for your own use and safety, but for when it’s time to sell. There is a high demand for used cars at the moment.

Tip: See if you could save on car insurance today.

Used car sales hit a record 40.9 million units in 2021, particularly due to issues with new car shortages across the U.S., according to Automotive News. So if you’re selling a car or trying to get the most for your trade-in, take into account these things that can hurt the value.

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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.