If you’re planning to sell your car or trade it in for a newer model, these 5 tips could help you get the best trade- or resale value for your old car.

Perhaps you’ve decided that you need to upgrade your wheels to something newer, or maybe your current car doesn’t suit your needs anymore. Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t just take it to the nearest dealer and accept the first offer, because there are some small things you could do to get more for your old car.

Related: Sell your car easily and safely with all the assistance you need from CHANGECARS!

1. Maintain a full service and maintenance record

Any future buyer will be happy to witness a complete service record, and this could net you improved resale value for your old car. Used cars often has sketchy service histories, which make those ones with complete service- and maintenance paperwork much more desirable in the market.

A full service- and maintenance record could persuade a dealership to offer you more on trade-in or make an elevated pricetag more palatable to a a private buyer, simply because it will give them confidence that they won’t need to spend a lot before putting your car up for sale or putting it in service.

Considering the expense of catching up on the repairs and maintenance of a neglected car, this peace of mind will be worth real money from private buyers and dealerships alike. Witness the price differences between 1990s Alfa GTV V6 models - the ones with pristine service histories are worth more than twice as much as clean examples with deferred maintenance.

Related: Could you live with a 1997 Alfa Romeo GTV V6 in 2024?

2. Keep your car original

It’s easy to get taken up in the wonderful world of car modifications, but it must be remembered that those modifications only add value to your eyes. Apart from a small number of OEM-level enhancements (such as MTM for Audi, Kleemann for Mercedes, Hartge for BMW, and RUF for Porsche), any modifications will actually reduce the resale value of a used car.

The reasoning is simple: Many dealerships and buyers have concerns about the quality and fitment of aftermarket accessories or software, because there’s no telling whether such a modified car will return with problems within the warranty period. Additionally, cars which were tuned for more performance will raise vivid red flags, due to the possibility of the downstream hardware (drivetrain, fuel systems, turbos and so on) being incapable of operating so far outside their design margins.

Many owners have spent many thousands of Rands on modifying their cars, often with all the best accessories, only to find that they won’t recover any of those costs when reselling and even get less upon trade-in. Even buyers willing to buy into another enthusiast’s mods may be hesitant to commit, simply because there is no real quality assurance.

Related: Get some sales tips to negotiate a better deal when selling your car.

3. Give it a thorough clean

Nothing screams neglect harder than a dirty, grimy car, because if a car’s owner can’t even be bothered to maintain its cosmetic appearance, the chances are that it will be neglected in the oily departments as well. This will obviously have a negative impact on value in a private sale, and even more so when trading it in, because an interested dealership will have to factor-in the cost of a proper valet when valuing your car.

We’re not talking about the 50-buck car-wash-and-go deals here, either, because those cleanups are mostly superficial. Instead, get the car’s undercarriage steam cleaned, pressure wash the engine compartment to get rid of any oil- or antifreeze stains, and have the upholstery and carpets deep-cleaned to remove any stains as well. It will cost you some, but the fact that the car presents neatly and cared-for will pay greater dividends come valuation time.

Some notes about pressure washing your engine:

Seal all exposed intake- and ventilation apertures, as well as electronic components under the bonnet, as effectively as possible, because water ingress into the engine’s air intake or breathers (if exposed) or into electronic control units and their connections could have destructive and expensive consequences.

Also don’t pressure-wash a petrol engine with direct-ignition coils when the engine is hot, because the thermal shock on the coil packs could cause hairline fractures which will lead to persistent misfires and necessitate expensive replacements. Rather keep the engine bay open for at least 45 minutes before washing, to dissipate residual heat and reduce this risk.

Related: If you’re looking for a good reason to sell your car, we’ve compiled this list of possible motivations!

4. Repair minor damage yourself

This ties into presenting a clean, well-cared-for vehicle to the buyer. If your car arrives at a dealership with broken or cracked light units, or with paintwork scratches and scuffed alloy wheels, the valuation will come out at a lower price than you were likely expecting.

The same applies to a fender-bender or other cosmetic issues - anything that will cost you less to repair than the valuation reduction will give you more money when the time comes to sell. And, if the tyres are visibly worn, invest in a new set of rubber hoops - Dealerships and private buyers alike will factor-in tyre replacement when considering buying a used car.

Related: Buying a used car? Here are the things you should look out for.

5. Sell according to the seasons

This is an odd trick, but there is some merit to this approach. If you can delay selling on your car, you may be able to time its sale according to the seasons during which cars of your type are in higher demand, which will realise higher resale values.

Selling a budget city car? Put it to market from November till January, because that’s when many parents are buying affordable wheels before sending their offspring to university. Want to get rid of your convertible or roadster? Sell it just as spring rounds the corner and into the summer, because the likelihood of buyers looking for top-down motoring will be higher around this time. Selling your family SUV? Do so just before the school holiday seasons start, as more buyers will look for these vehicles to take their families on a break.

Martin Pretorius


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