Buying a new vehicle is a whole lot easier when you come to the negotiating table with a high-value trade-in car. The little things you do to maintain your car every day goes a long way in determining its trade-in value and the offer you can expect to receive for it. From your personal habits to your driving habits, you can take steps right now to save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Click through to learn what to avoid so you can swap your old car for a new one.
1. Smoking Cigarettes in Your Car
It’s no secret that cigarette smoke — and certainly cigar smoke — stinks up your car. The problem, however, goes beyond smell. The contaminants in cigarettes bond with the materials in the car, making the smell and discoloration almost impossible to erase. According to CarsGuide, abstaining could earn you hundreds or even thousands more at trade-in time.
See what else you need to know about how to sell a car.
Fix: Find Smoking Alternatives
If you smoke, you probably know that your body, wallet and loved ones are desperate for you to quit the habit. That, of course, is easier said than done (especially on long car rides).
You’re better off leaning on an alternative like patches, gums, lozenges or e-cigarettes when you drive — or you could always just pull over to smoke.
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2. Neglecting Regular Service
One of the first things used car buyers are cautioned to do is request a service history report for any car they’re considering. According to Autotrader, well-maintained vehicles are far more reliable and have much longer lifespans, making them more coveted by buyers who want the best deal.
Fix: Setting a Regular Maintenance Schedule
Your car’s manufacturer dictates a suggested maintenance schedule, with recommended servicing a specific mile or time intervals. If you’re not sure, use a make-and-model tool, like the one offered by Firestone, to determine your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule.
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3. Racking Up Too Many Miles
Each mileage milestone passed can dramatically reduce the value of a trade-in. The first one is 30,000 to 40,000 miles, which is when the first routine services are usually scheduled, according to Edmunds. The next is milestone is 60,000 to 70,000 miles, when more expensive things tend to start failing. The final turning point is the 100,000-mile mark.
Fix: Sell Before Milestones
If you know you plan to sell your car, do it before you hit 30,000, 60,000 or 100,000 miles. Once you drive a single mile beyond those landmarks, you’re likely to receive an offer that’s the same as it would have been if you had driven all the way up to the doorstep of the following milestone. To reduce mileage, consider renting a car when you travel.
4. Holding Your Car Too Long
According to Autotrader, a car’s mileage is more important than age — but age definitely matters. If you work from home or otherwise don’t drive a lot, don’t expect a 7-year-old car with 34,000 miles to fetch the same price as a 3-year-old car with 34,000 miles.
Fix: Sell Your Cars More Frequently
Not only do cars deteriorate with age even when they’re driven lightly, they can actually fail without “exercise,” according to Autotrader. Don’t make the mistake of thinking low mileage will earn you a good asking price. Instead, make the trade when you’re still holding a prized low-mileage vehicle that’s also young.
5. Tinted Windows
Tinted windows can reduce glare and heat, but they can also reduce the resale value of your car. Tinting — specifically dark tints — can turn off some potential buyers.
Another consideration is legality. Laws regarding tinting vary considerably by state, so what’s legal where you live might not be legal where a prospective buyer lives.
Fix: Tint Minimally
If you decide to tint your windows, consider doing so to the standards allowed in the states with the most stringent legal requirements. For example, a 20 percent tint is legal in New Mexico. On the other hand, Vermont allows 70 percent.
This is not a time for DIY. Without professional installation, tints often bubble and blister over time — which never makes cars more valuable.
6. Choosing an Undesirable Color
You should buy the car you love, but you should also keep in mind that the color you choose will play a large role in the price you’re likely to get when it’s time to sell. The colors that tend to turn off buyers the most are green, yellow, brown and gold, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Fix: Don’t Choose an Undesirable Color
The most sellable color by far, according to U.S. News and World Report, is white. Black, silver and gray come in at No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. Do note, however, that sports cars fetch the highest price when they’re red.
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7. Not Washing Your Car Regularly
When you let your vehicle go long periods between washes, you not only doom yourself to driving around in a dingy car, but your neglect can dramatically reduce your car’s value. Built-up dirt can diminish paint, encourage rust and allow pollutants to become embedded, which can enhance scratches and dings.
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Fix: Wash Your Car Regularly
Built-up dirt can diminish paint. This can encourage rust and allow pollutants to become embedded, which can enhance scratches and dings.
8. Aftermarket Modifications
You might love that new spoiler or glowing neon light bar around your license plate. In reality, however, each aftermarket modification you make personalizes your car a little bit more and therefore makes it less attractive to any used car buyer.
Fix: Stick With Stock
Even aftermarket modifications that are expensive and add short-term value, such as new alloy wheels or an upgraded sound system, can diminish what you’re offered when it’s trade-in time. The personal preference associated with each upgrade makes modified vehicles hard to sell.
Dealerships offer trim packages for a reason. So, try to stick with what you bought.
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