It’s easy to overlook your car’s trade-in value when you’re shopping for a new car. It happens to everyone. You get swept up in the excitement of choosing features, upgrades, and optional equipment - and before you know it, your old car is the last thing on your mind.
But when you sit down with your salesperson to work out the contract for your new car, your trade-in offer is going to be a major consideration, whether you’re ready for it or not.
If you want to get the best deal possible on your new car, it’s critical to prepare yourself and do everything you can to ensure you get as much money as possible for your trade-in.
There are 3 Certainties in Life: Death, Taxes, and Depreciation
OK, Benjamin Franklin never mentioned depreciation. But if he had lived in the age of the automobile, he probably would have.
Almost everyone understands that new cars depreciate rapidly as soon as they’re driven off the lot. Depreciation rates vary by make and model, but as a general rule of thumb, the average vehicle loses about 20% of its value in the first year. Ouch!
And there are many other factors that can take away from your old car’s value, including mileage, accidents, open recalls, normal wear and tear, and more. When you start to add them all up, it becomes clear that you should take advantage of anything and everything you can do to improve your car’s trade-in value.
How Regular Maintenance Improves Your Car’s Trade-in Value
Fortunately, two of the biggest things you can do to improve your trade-in offer are things you might already have done: 1) take your car in for regular scheduled maintenance, and 2) keep records of all your maintenance work.
Even if your car still drives like new, there are still plenty of fluids that can run out and replaceable parts that need replacing. By keeping up with regular maintenance on your car, you ensure that small problems never turn into big problems that can have a permanent impact on the overall value of your vehicle.
Pay a Little Bit Now, Or Pay a Lot Later
Some people hate coughing up the money for regular maintenance, but if you’ve owned a car before, you probably figured out that keeping your car maintained is cheaper in the long run.
The costs of fluids, filters, sensors, and spark plugs are manageable on their own - but can overwhelm many drivers’ budgets when they’re put off until later to be taken care of all at once. And what’s worse - any of these issues left unrepaired can cause even bigger and more costly problems down the road.
The perfect example of this is changing your brake pads regularly instead of waiting until they wear through and your brake rotors are damaged. In this case, the cost of skipping your regular maintenance can easily inflate your bill from $50 to $500.
Whether you’ve managed your maintenance responsibly or let minor problems compound for months and miles, there will definitely be a day of reckoning when you take your car into the dealership to trade it in.
Reaping the Rewards of Receipts and Records
Almost as important as keeping up with your maintenance is documenting all of that work. Having exhaustive documentation of the repairs you’ve done to your car will significantly improve the market value of your vehicle compared to similar vehicles without that same documentation.
Maintenance documentation not only shows what’s been done to keep your car running smoothly but also shows who did the work. And when a dealer is deciding your car’s trade-in value, the “who” can be just as important as the “what.”
A dealer can infer a lot about the condition of a car based on who has worked on it, and the timeline of the work that’s been done.
Final Thoughts About Regular Maintenance and Your Car’s Trade-In Value
The bottom line is that knowing your car has been taken care of properly will create confidence in the mind of the dealership when they’re doing the math to decide what they think your current car is worth.
When you walk in and present your maintenance records, the dealer will know that you’re a serious customer and your trade-in value should reflect your responsible ownership.
In your negotiations with the dealer, you’ll be able to demonstrate that minimal parts and labor will be required to get the vehicle ready for resale. A good dealer should acknowledge these savings, and some of those savings should be passed on to you in your car’s trade-in value.