A vehicle is a big purchase. One of the biggest purchases most people make in their lifetime. However, we won’t call it an “investment” because you’re bound to lose money on it. No vehicle holds its value, unless you’re springing for an ultra rare collector’s item. Every normal car starts depreciating the moment you drive them off the dealership lot.

However, that’s not to say that your vehicle can’t maintain some value. Even a used car has some value attached to it, especially if it’s in good shape. It can be sold or traded in for some extra money. The key to maximizing this amount is to maintain as much of the vehicle’s value as possible while you own it. Here are 15 tips on how to keep the value of your vehicle as high as possible.

Keep the Vehicle Clean

Let’s dispense with the most obvious advice first. Keeping your car clean is a no-brainer. However, it’s often easier said than done. We all know that we should keep both the exterior and interior of our car clean. It’s just that life often seems so hectic. There’s work, household chores, children, and social obligations. Do you really want to spend your free Saturday afternoon detailing your car?

However, over time, a persistently dirty interior or exterior can lead to body corrosion, faded carpets, seats, and permanent stains. These can impact the vehicle’s performance. They also turn your car into an eye sore. It will put off potential buyers if you try to sell it down the road. It’s good to give your car a thorough cleaning at least twice a year, and more often if possible. If you can afford it, there are plenty of places to get it professionally done too.

Know Which Vehicles Retain Their Value Best

Not all vehicles are created equal. Some cars are known for retaining their value more than others. Being a savvy car owner and knowing which vehicles retain their value over many years is important. Check out the Used Car Information Center to compare the price of both new and used vehicles. Then try to buy one that will naturally hold more of its value as you own it.

Brands like Honda and Toyota are known for their reliability. That helps certain models retain their value a bit better than competing brands. This is simply smart consumerism and car buying. People are often attracted to vehicles solely due to their appearance and price. The fact that the car will be worthless in six years means nothing to them. Take the time needed to assess the financial implications of long-term ownership.

Think of Your Vehicle As An Investment

We already told you that a car is a terrible investment. In fact, it’s more accurately described as a depreciating asset. It’s never worth as much tomorrow as it is today. While this is all true, your car does have some value. It can be resold or traded in at dealership. That money can be used as a down payment on a new vehicle. So while your car will never make you more money, you can still extract some value of it.

With this in mind, it helps if you still try to consider your vehicle as an investment. After all, you paid all that money for it. Why wouldn’t you try to take care of it? This mindset can go a long way to helping treat your car with care and respect. If you only view your car as a tool for transporting yourself from point A to point B, you are less likely to look after it well.

Watch the Mileage

The first thing anyone will ask about a vehicle you’re selling is, “How many miles on it?” It doesn’t matter whether it’s a salesman at a used car lot or a neighbor down the street. The number of miles on your vehicle directly related to how much it’s worth. The more miles, the less value your car has.

So watch the mileage. Keeping it low is critically important. The average number of miles most people drive is between 12,000 and 15,000 per year. People who drive more than 20,000 miles a year are considered heavy users of their vehicle. A car’s value drops steeply once it has more than 100,000 miles on it. Cross the 200,000 mile mark and the value plummets further. So consider taking steps to cut that long commute. And definitely think twice before offering your ride up for a long road trip.

Avoid Excessive Wear and Tear

A lot of people use their vehicle for more than transportation. Trust us, it shows! Towing boats or RVs, moving items from one house to another, hauling plants and shrubs, making extra money by driving for ride share companies. There is no limit to the things people use their vehicle for.

However, all of this leads to extra wear and tear on the vehicle. It’s not good in the long term. When a vehicle is treated with respect, it also shows. Avoiding start-and-stop driving, prolonged towing, excessive weight, high speeds, or driving in areas that have unpaved or poor road conditions is important. This will help your car age with dignity, rather than see it end up a decrepit wreck.

Fight Rust

Rust is like cancer on a car. Over time, rust will corrode and eat the metal parts of any vehicle. Therefore, rust should be avoided like the plague. You need to constantly fight against its spread. If you who live in a cold climate with harsh winters, make sure to wash your vehicle regularly. That will remove salt deposits that can eventually lead to rust.

It’s also advisable to get a car undercoated with a rust proof spray or treatment. Opinions vary on exactly how effective this is, but anything that keeps your car from becoming a crumbling brown mess is a positive thing. The best way to combat rust, though, is to make sure your car is cleaned regularly and thoroughly. Yes, that means underneath and all the hidden spots too.

Store Your Vehicle Properly

Your garage is for more than storing old furniture and sports equipment in it. It’s obviously designed for you to park your vehicles inside. You should do thia, especially if you live in an extremely cold or hot climate.

Too much sun can fade the outer surfaces of a car, including the body paint, trim and moldings. Conversely, extremely cold temperatures can wreak havoc on a car’s engine and related components. By storing a car indoors in a climate-controlled environment, you can avoid costly repairs. It will help maintain you vehicle’s value over the long term. So clear out your garage and park your car in it tonight.

One word of warning, though. Parking your car indoors during snowy winter months can often accelerate rust growth. The snow and ice melts, creating a puddle in your garage. That damp environment is perfect for rust to sprout up. If you park inside in the winter, you should really be consistent on hitting the car wash. It also helps to sweep or shovel out any snow, ice, or standing water from your garage.

Don’t Eat, Drink, or Smoke in Your Car

Most of us are on the go much more often these days. It’s hurry to school, hurry to work, rush off to little league or piano lessons. However, our cars are not restaurants and should not be treated as such. You should avoid eating, drinking and especially smoking in your car. Nothing will hurt the resale value of your vehicle more than if it smells like an ashtray.

Coffee and soft drink spills can permanently stain the upholstery and hurt a vehicle’s value. And food, crumbs, Popsicle sticks, fast food wrappers, and stray straws all conspire to make a car look like a trash pit. They will leave potential buyers with the impression that the previous owner didn’t take care of the vehicle. Just stick with water.

Get Your Car Serviced Regularly

Most of us avoid taking our car to a service station unless we have to. No one wants that extra unexpected bill. However, it’s a good idea to have your vehicle serviced on a regular basis. At least get consistent oil changes, if nothing else. Then make sure you keep the records of all maintenance and repairs.

Regular servicing can help avoid big, costly repairs in the future. Having a record of the service done demonstrates to a potential buyer that you took care to maintain the car properly while you owned it. If nothing else, a consistent service record can help you negotiate your sale price higher. Many prospective buyers are willing to pay more for a car that has been serviced on a regular basis. Especially if you can prove it.

Fix the Body of a Car Before Selling It

Keeping the body of a car pristine is almost impossible. Inevitably, every vehicle gets nicks, scratches, gouges, or dents. Avoid these if you can, sure, but you can only do so much. By the time any car is four or five years old, it’s probably going to have some imperfections on the exterior.

Getting these little things repaired before listing your vehicle for sale is a good idea. We are not saying that you have to spend a lot of money at a professional body shop. Don’t shell out and have the vehicle completely repainted. However, taking your car to a reputable shop and getting the scratches and nicks touched up is a good idea. After all, nothing looks worse than seeing patchy spots on a vehicle from a do-it-yourself paint job.

Maintain the Fluids and Tire Pressure on Your Car

Have you checked the oil in your car lately? When was the last time you put air in the tires? These are small things that most of us don’t give much thought to. However, they are important to keeping any vehicle running smoothly.

The oil, for example, helps to ensure that the engine performs optimally. The tire pressure helps improve the mileage on a car. Taking time to check the oil and air pressure (and adding when needed) are small, inexpensive things that can pay big dividends in the long run. You should try to make a habit of checking these things when you stop for gas.

Polish Faded Headlights

Another quick upgrade you can do on your own is to polish your car’s faded headlights. After years of exposure to the weather, the plastic headlight lenses on most vehicles fade, dull, or even turn yellow. While the rest of your car might look terrific, aging headlight covers will reveal a car’s true age.

The good news is that faded headlights can be polished and restored by most auto detail shops. Polishing the headlight lenses doesn’t take long. It also doesn’t cost much. If you’re at all handy, many auto stores also sell DIY kits. Whether you pay someone else to do it or get it done in your own garage, discerning buyers will appreciate the difference. Especially when they compare your car to other vehicles of the same age that are also on the market.

Avoid Damage to the Wheels

Speaking of discerning car buyers, many people will pay close attention to the condition of the wheels on a car. They will often walk away if they see the wheels are damaged. Parallel parking is often a culprit that leads to damaged wheels — notably alloy wheels. Drivers who get too close to the curb end up scratching or bending the edges of the wheels. It’s not a good look!

While it’s always best to avoid damaging your wheels altogether, this is not always possible. For a reasonable fee, professional wheel repair shops can refinish damaged wheels. It will usually cost a lot less than to completely replace them.

Use Floor Mats

As with a lot of the items on this list, this one is simple, obvious, and inexpensive. Despite that, you might be surprised at how many people don’t use floor mats in their car. Protective floor mats can make a big difference in a vehicle — especially in cold winter climates where people bring slush, dirt, and salt into a car.

Salt stains can be particularly difficult to remove. They look terrible over time. Whether you use cheap floor mats that you can replace every few years, or spring for a high-end set of Weathertech mats, your car will thank you. And you’ll reap the rewards of a higher resale value when you finally decide to sell it. If the mats are custom and won’t fit your next car, you can even use them as a selling feature to boost the price a bit.

Avoid Repairing Your Car by Yourself

As previously mentioned, nothing looks worse than a do-it-yourself paint job. Or a crooked bumper or two wiper blades that are different sizes. Even people who don’t have a lot of car experience can spot a vehicle that has been fixed and repaired by an amateur. These home repair jobs can cause serious damage to the resale value of any car.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not advocating running to a mechanic or repair shop every time something glitches with a car. We know that many car lovers are great at wrenching around the hood. However, it’s still advisable to have professionals do any major repairs. That will ensure the vehicle looks good and retains its value. Even having the professional paperwork record of a repair is sometimes worth it. First impressions are lasting ones, and this is especially true when it comes a potential buyer of your car.


This article was worked on by a variety of people from the Autoversed team, including freelancers, editors, and/or other full-time employees.