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Maintenance You Should Perform on Your Vehicle to Increase Its Resale or Trade-In Value

Reading Time: 7 minutes

With Labor Day weekend fast approaching, now is the perfect time to start thinking about selling or trading in your current vehicle and purchasing a new one. The end of summer marks that time of year when dealership showrooms and car lots get ready to clear out existing inventory to make way for next year’s newest models. What does that mean for U.S. drivers? Labor Day customers can take advantage of blowout sales and greater opportunities to negotiate deals, as salespeople strive to meet their end-of-year goals and prospective buyers enjoy an extra day to shop around for the best deal.

But what do you do with your current vehicle? How do you make it desirable enough to sell or trade in for a price that’ll help you pay for your next purchase?

Planning to sell or trade in your current vehicle to purchase a new one? There are maintenance upgrades you can do to increase its resale value.

Here Are 13 Important Maintenance Upgrades You Can Work On To Boost Your Vehicle’s Resale Value

1. Change or Fill All Fluids

Potential buyers like to see a vehicle that’s well taken care of, and that includes clean oil and topped off fluids. Engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and antifreeze should all be checked for proper color, cleanliness, and levels.

2. Replace Windshield Wipers and Windshield

If your windshield wipers are dry-rotted and cracked, these should be updated as well nothing fancy per se, but working windshield wipers can go a long way in making your car look presentable for resale. The best part? They only take a few minutes to install. If you have a crack in your windshield, you can call your insurance company and see if they will replace it for free. If not, you’ll still want to get it replaced because it’s a huge eyesore, potentially dangerous, and just asking for a ticket.

Engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, and antifreeze should all be checked for proper color, cleanliness, and levels.

3. Replace Blown-Out Headlights, Tail Lights, Fog Lights, and Turn Signals

Obviously, you don’t have to change any bulbs that are working fine, but any bulbs that are flickering, dimmer than others, or completely blown should be replaced. Fortunately, bulbs are inexpensive and easy to install. What about foggy-looking headlight covers? With some teeth-whitening toothpaste, a toothbrush (or any brush that has similar bristles), and a little bit of elbow grease, clearing up those headlight covers should be fairly easy.

4. Recharge Air Conditioning

If your A/C is no longer blowing cold air, you can get a recharge kit from your local parts store or most stores that carry automotive products. This project can be done at home if you have some mechanical skills, but make sure you read and follow all directions and warnings that come with the kit. It can be a dangerous job, so if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, please consult a professional.

If your A/C is blowing warm air, you probably have a leak or something worse going on within the A/C system, which should be fixed as soon as possible.

You may have a leak or something worse if your A/C is blowing warm air. Make sure to address the issue as soon as possible.

5. Replace Battery

There’s nothing worse than telling a potential buyer that your vehicle runs great and then when you try to start it, nothing happens. You can take your car to just about any big chain auto parts store and they will check your battery for free. If your battery needs to be replaced, take care of it right away.

6. Replace Tires

Be sure to check your tires. If they are noticeably worn out, you’ll want to get a new set of tires that are the right size for your vehicle.

7. Replace Brakes

Brake pads and rotors are fairly inexpensive and easy to change. If you hear any squealing or grinding, or feel vibrations when braking, you’ll want to get your brakes checked right away. In some cases, you might be able to get away with just brake pad replacements, but it’s best to change your rotors as well, especially after putting in a certain number of miles. When someone test-drives your vehicle and hits the brakes, and it feels like the whole vehicle is going to fall apart, you’re going to have a hard time selling or trading it in for a good value.

8. Fix Exhaust Problems

Although exhaust tips are the only readily visible parts of an exhaust system, having an exhaust leak or a hole in the muffler is just as bad as an eyesore. Unless you’re selling a race car, you want your vehicle to run as quietly as possible.

For any exhaust issues, you’ll most likely have to seek out a muffler shop, even if you’re somewhat mechanically inclined, but it’s worth it. The average person or dealership is not going to give you a great price on a vehicle that’s loud and obnoxious.

For any exhaust issues, you’ll most likely have to seek out a muffler shop, even if you’re somewhat mechanically inclined. The average person or dealership is not going to give you a great price on a vehicle that’s loud and obnoxious.

9. Clean Interior and Trunk

A clean vehicle is key when presenting to a potential buyer. You can get your car detailed at any car wash or, if you want to save some money and get a higher return on your investment, follow these steps:

10. Install Floor Mats

Even if you shampoo your carpet, chances are you’re not going to be able to make it look perfect. A set of new floor mats are a great way to not only lend a fresh look but also a fresh smell to your current vehicle.

11. Clean Under Hood

You’ll probably notice a lot of dirt and grime under the hood. A quick spray with a pressurized hose will take care of this problem. Make sure not to get too close, as too much pressure could knock off electrical connections or spark plug wires, or cause other problems. It doesn’t have to look perfect just presentable. Everyone knows that a vehicle’s engine bay gets dirty.

A dirty and smelly interior won’t make a good impression on buyers. A set of new floor mats are a great way to not only lend a fresh look but also a fresh smell to your current vehicle.

12. Wash Exterior

Here you want to be a lot more cautious about what kind of soap and materials you use for washing your car. Household products like dishwasher soap are not a good idea. You want to make sure you use soap and materials that don’t harm your paint’s clear coat.

Taking your vehicle to the car wash is a safe bet. But if you want to wash it yourself, you need to make sure you use car wash soap or shampoo, which can be bought basically anywhere, from Walmart to your local parts store. While you’re there, make sure to pick up a car wash mitt, sponge, or microfiber cloth so no scratches or swirl marks get left behind.

If you’re done washing your vehicle and you still think it needs a little bit more shine, there are some great products out there that are inexpensive and easy to use. Mothers, Meguiar’s, Liquid Glow, Turtle Wax, and other great companies all offer you easy wipe-on and wipe-off wax that any amateur can quickly and easily apply. Tire shine is another great eye-popper that takes five minutes or less to apply, and it makes a world of difference.

13. Use Air Fresheners

For any smells your vehicle may have accumulated, make sure you do everything you can to get rid of them. There’s nothing that’ll turn away buyers more quickly than a foul odor.

That Well-Maintained Look

If your vehicle has any noticeable cosmetic damage (i.e. missing vents, bumper dents, cracked grille or dash cover, minor scratches, etc.), fix it! Small fixes will pay off in the long run, since a prospective buyer’s first impression at a glance is crucial. One of your most important goals when selling or trading in your car is to make it look like it’s been well-maintained throughout its lifetime.

If you’d like additional tips or have any questions, comment below!

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Author

Brian Hensley

ASE Certified Automotive Expert

Brian grew up on the race track and learned everything there is to know about cars from his father, who is a master technician himself. Having fallen in love with automobiles at an early age, he went on to work at dealerships, receive his ASE certification and spent two years at the William D. Votec Center for Automotive. Brian continues to express his passion for cars through writing and sharing his expertise with drivers across the U.S.

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