5 Things That Could Ding Your Car’s Resale Value—and How to Prevent Them

Car graphic with magnifying glass
Preparing to get rid of your wheels as is? You may want to reconsider.

Selling your car not only means money in your pocket, but the opportunity to upgrade to an even newer (and nicer!) ride. So how can you make sure you're set up for a maximum return? Knowing what potential buyers look for—or run from— before you put your car on the market is the first step. Read on to find out about the factors that could lose you cash, plus the easy fixes that'll ensure your vehicle makes a killer first impression with shoppers.

The Problem: High Mileage

The number on your odometer can greatly impact your resale potential. The rule of thumb is not to go over 100,000 miles, since this is when your car's value significantly decreases. And it's not necessarily because anything is mechanically wrong once you pass that mark, it's more so because buyers just prefer a lower number.

The Solution: Cut Down on Driving

If you know you want to resell down the line, try to limit your day-to-day driving and longer car trips. Stuck with a lengthy commute? Consider using public transportation or carpooling to cut your mileage. And if your car is your go-to for work or personal travel, taking the train or renting a car occasionally could be more cost-effective in the long run.

The Problem: Visible Signs of Damage

Scratches, dents and windshield chips may seem minor, but one thing's for sure—your car's next owner doesn't want to deal with any of that. And you may not get as much as you want (in the form of a fat check) if you have one or more of these issues.

The Solution: Fix the Nicks

Paying for repairs may seem like an unnecessary expense when you're in the process of selling your vehicle, but doing so could actually pay off. When you think about this in dollar signs, it may be worth spending a couple hundred to repair dents if your resale price will increase. The same goes for fixing a windshield—aka pay now, get paid later. Be sure to do your research in advance so you know what's worth fixing, and then get estimates from a few different body shops to make sure you're getting a good deal.

Smart Money Tip

The Problem: Tired Tires and Squeaky Brakes

Nothing sends a test drive to a screeching halt (literally) quite like noisy brakes. Along with uneven or worn tires, squeaky or problematic brakes can make a new buyer cautious to commit. In contrast, they'll be even more likely to take the plunge if you're able to say you just had them replaced with high-quality new ones.

The Solution: Out With the Old

If your tire tread is worn down, it's in your best interest to trade them in for a new set. Buying online is often cheaper than at a tire center, but remember that you'll still have to pay elsewhere to get them installed, so see if the math adds up. As for whether it's worth it or not to replace brakes, have the car inspected to see if it's just time to replace the brake pads, which is a much less expensive repair.

The Problem: Cleanliness and Odors

Cars may be vital for transporting pets and kids, but unfortunately they can wreak havoc on a vehicle's interior. Imagine renting an apartment or house for a weekend. Do you want any signs of the previous owner—smell, sight or otherwise? Chances are, no.

The Solution: Clean Up Your Act

Luckily, this is one of the easiest (not to mention cheapest) fixes you can make to impress potential buyers. Worn floor mats might be something you can overlook, but these details are the first thing shoppers zone in on. So do yourself a solid and swap them out for new ones. In addition, giving your ride a good old-fashioned cleaning goes a long way toward creating that like-new illusion. It's also a smart idea to remove any bumper stickers, decals and other glaring symbols of personal fandom, like those sports-related license plate frames. Potential buyers want to imagine their life in the vehicle, not be reminded of yours.