Maintenance Tips Help You Get Top Dollar at Trade-In

Protect Your Car Right From the Start

As soon as you bring your car home, give it a good coat of wax. “You want to protect the manufacturer’s clear coat, which makes modern cars shiny but is susceptible to UV rays and pollution,” says Charles Van Stone, an amateur auto trader in Shepherdstown, West Virginia who has successfully bought and sold two dozen cars in the past 10 years. He also recommends protecting the carpet and cloth seats with a stain repellent, such as Scotchgard. And consider buying rubber floor mats to use on top of (or in place of) the dealer mats, to limit wear and tear. Protect Your Car Right From the Start

Keep the Engine Running Smoothly

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended tune-up schedule. While under warranty, see your dealer for car maintenance. But once your warranty has expired, an independent repair shop may be a more convenient and affordable way to keep your car in good shape. (Be sure to save receipts that detail any repairs and upgrades; they may come in handy at trade-in time.) You may also find some useful car maintenance tips online. Many automotive sites have forums where you can chat with other owners of your make and model of car.

Protect the Exterior

Van Stone advises using brushless car washes, since brushes may scratch your paint. And since even a good brushless wash seldom gets all of winter’s grime off, those in colder climates may want to add in a hand wash.

Clean the Interior

A clean, well-maintained interior is a major selling point and can increase a car’s trade-in value. Keep leather seats supple by cleaning periodically with leather conditioner. Vacuum regularly. Avoid eating and drinking in your car (or at least limit in-car munching to longer trips) and keep wet wipes on hand to mop up any spills. Most important: Don’t smoke in your car.

At Trade-In Time

When it comes to getting the best trade-in value for your car, first impressions really count. Pay attention to these details:

  • Polish up your tires with a tire cleaner—you can find one at auto supply stores. Also clean the rims.
  • Erase superficial body scratches with a clear coat pen.
  • Top off your fluids.
  • Make minor repairs rather than trading “as is.”
  • Invest in a professional detailing. It may cost you $150, but you could recoup several hundred on a trade-in with “curb appeal.”