How Do I Get More For My Used Cars?

Every day con­sumers ask me, “How do I get more for my used car?”  The sim­ple and hon­est answer is… “You can’t!” 

These are sim­ple strate­gies to help sell the car.  But they don’t increase its val­ue!  In fact, the only thing you can do to increase the val­ue of a vehi­cle after years of use and miles is to recon­di­tion it your­self.

Grand­ma had the right idea

If you real­ly want to pre­serve the val­ue of any vehi­cle, think of Grandma’s couch.  Chances are she had plas­tic cov­ers on the cush­ions.  Those men­ac­ing lit­tle grand kids she loved with their blow pops and cool aid nev­er stood a chance of stain­ing that couch.  If peo­ple only took the same approach to their vehi­cle dur­ing the own­er­ship, the effects of use and wear would be min­i­mal.

“MUST DON’TS” for max­i­miz­ing used car val­ue

Don’t wreck it:  that’s right folks, nobody wants to buy your wrecked car and Car­Fax is going to make sure of it!  Acci­dent his­to­ry pret­ty much guar­an­tees that Kel­ly Blue Book (KBB) is not in your future – no mat­ter how good the repair.  If your car has mul­ti­ple acci­dents or struc­tur­al dam­age, you are a step above sell­ing a sal­vage title vehi­cle lit­er­al­ly and your audi­ence is very lim­it­ed.  Acci­dent his­to­ry usu­al­ly hurts vehi­cle val­ue by up to 17%.* Frame/structural dam­age is near­ly twice the impact.  Most frame dam­age vehi­cles are adjust­ed down­ward $1,500–2,500 at the whole­sale lev­el.

Don’t let it get stolen:  lock it up and keep it safe.  If your vehi­cle is stolen and recov­ered, pray it’s a total loss because theft his­to­ry is anoth­er brand that will impact the val­ue neg­a­tive­ly.  Car­Fax has made hay with their brand over acci­dents, flood and theft cars by show­ing the absolute worst cas­es with vehi­cles being crashed or abused then stripped of parts.  Theft his­to­ry amounts to a 10% hit in vehi­cle val­ue* In addi­tion to the his­to­ry, 15 states require that if a vehi­cle is stolen and pur­chased (paid out) by your insur­ance com­pa­ny the vehi­cle MUST have a sal­vage title brand.  This dev­as­tates the val­ue as a sal­vage title vehi­cle will be worth only 40% of the same vehi­cle with­out one*.

Don’t smoke in it:  not to beat up on our friends that smoke, but there are few­er and few­er of you around these days and many of you don’t even smoke in your own car because you don’t like the smell of smoke (# truth).  A vehi­cle that has been heav­i­ly smoked in is worth 12–15%* less than the same vehi­cle with­out smoke odor.

Don’t skip the floor mats:  Should you spend the $115 for floor mats or destroy the car­pet in the vehi­cle that requires the seats and half the inte­ri­or parts be removed to replace it?  See sto­ry above about: Grandma’s couch.  Floor mats pro­tect your invest­ment.

Don’t skip main­te­nance:  this means main­tain your vehi­cle reli­gious­ly.  If you can remem­ber 3 things: clean air, clean gas and clean oil, the engine and trans­mis­sion will last a lot longer than expect­ed and the con­di­tion of your vehi­cle will be bet­ter than oth­er vehi­cles like it when you decide to sell it.  Change the oil, the air fil­ter and the gas fil­ter as rec­om­mend­ed. Wash and wax the vehi­cle reg­u­lar­ly.  The first thing peo­ple notice about your vehi­cle is the paint.  If it is dull or the clear coat is peel­ing, it’s a lot of mon­ey to restore that fac­to­ry shine.

KBB Vehi­cles are not born, they are raised like kids

Com­mon sense escapes us and we don’t make time to take care of things that we depend on.  Auto­mo­biles are machines and machines break down!  They will break down unless you main­tain them reg­u­lar­ly. Every­one wants to buy a real­ly nice, clean vehi­cle that was owned by a lit­tle old lady that nev­er real­ly drove it any­where but to the gro­cery store and church on Sun­day – right? The truth is… that is about the only type of own­er that will pro­duce or “raise” a KBB Grade Used Car.  Every­body wants KBB for their vehi­cle when they want to sell it, but few peo­ple “raise” a KBB car. Rais­ing means car­ing for, pro­tect­ing, main­tain­ing and keep­ing it safe and out of harms way.

Get­ting your vehi­cle ready for sale 

We buy thou­sands of vehi­cles from online leads before touch­ing or see­ing the car.  These pur­chas­es are based on sell­er descrip­tion and dig­i­tal images.  You would be amazed at how many peo­ple don’t even wash their vehi­cle before they send us pic­tures.  We rec­om­mend at bare min­i­mum that you pay for a full pro­fes­sion­al detail. This will run from $100–150 and will include wash, wax, buff­ing (pos­si­bly wet sand­ing), car­pet sham­poo­ing and inte­ri­or and engine bay steam­ing and detail­ing.  This will be the best mon­ey ever spent on the vehi­cle and will yield the high­est return for your dol­lar.  Mechan­i­cal repairs should be made if the vehi­cle is not in good/safe work­ing order but do not enhance the val­ue.  A new trans­mis­sion sim­ply means that it won’t break down any­time soon, how­ev­er, it does not make the same car worth more.  Same thing applies for a new engine – in fact a new engine makes peo­ple think the car was abused to the point the engine failed.  It does not enhance the val­ue at all.

Oth­er enhance­ments: bumpers that are scratched and scarred from park­ing lots can be recon­di­tioned.  This is a judg­ment call but can make a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in the sale price.  Inte­ri­ors are very impor­tant and if your car­pet is worn or heav­i­ly stained, replac­ing the car­pet and torn seat cov­ers will go a long way to improv­ing your final sale price.

If you choose to sell it your­self, remem­ber a few things:

  1. You can get more, but it’s a lot more work.  What is your time worth and how many Saturday’s do you want to burn try­ing to make that extra mon­ey?
  2. Pick a good venue to list your car for sale.  Some choose the news­pa­per clas­si­fieds, we rec­om­mend as they have the largest audi­ence avail­able.  Stay away from — it is free and worth every pen­ny you paid…
  3. Safe­ty first – if it doesn’t sound right, it prob­a­bly isn’t.  Don’t invite peo­ple to your home or place of busi­ness you don’t know.  Nev­er meet any­one at a loca­tion at their request.  Always get their phone num­ber and email address and see if they are who they rep­re­sent them­selves to be.  Use social media and the inter­net to ver­i­fy their iden­ti­ty.  Know who you are talk­ing to before you meet them

If you don’t want to sell the car your­self or trade it in at a deal­er, vis­it or and we make it easy for you to sell your car.

Michael Lasi­ni is a lead­ing expert on dam­aged vehi­cle remar­ket­ing and direct to con­sumer car buy­ing and can be reached at




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