Purchasing an automobile is one of the biggest investments you'll ever make. It doesn't matter if you buy new or used — you'll end up with a hefty sum of money (the initial purchase price, the cost of insurance, fuel and maintenance) wrapped up in that shiny hunk of metal in the driveway by the time you decide to sell it or trade it in for a newer hunk of metal. Consequently, it makes sense to protect that investment from environmental damage and the typical wear and tear that comes with age. Here are five easy things you can do to maintain the value of your 4-wheeled friend and keep the cash you put into it from going down the drain.
The absolute easiest way to maintain the value of your car is to get it serviced frequently, and stick to the schedule maintenance timetable like glue. Although that includes things such as changing your oil, it also means not forgetting larger items like timing belts or water pumps. And make sure to keep all of your maintenance records; they show potential buyers that the car was cared for, not simply used.
A clean car is good for more than just looking sharp. Regularly washing your vehicle can keep moisture-trapping dirt deposits off the paint and out of nooks and crannies. It will also make any damage easier to spot — things like door dings and scratches that can develop into rust spots if left untended. This doesn't apply just to the exterior, either. Regular detailing can keep your interior looking and smelling its best while cutting down on wear.
A single dent can make a huge difference in how a potential buyer looks at your car. The good news is that repairing everything from small door dings to larger dents has never been easier. Plenty of companies specialize in paintless dent repair — fixing the trouble spot without having to go through the mess or expense of respraying a body panel. You can usually have the repair done for less than $100, and it can make a huge difference in how much you can ask for your car when selling it.
Whether your car is a $16,000 economy commuter or a $70,000 luxury sedan, a quality cover can go a long way toward reducing damage from the sun and weather. It can also keep it free of droppings from birds and other creatures. All these things can ruin your vehicle's finish and, in some cases, actually eat through the metal underneath. An inexpensive, breathable cover can cut down on that damage in a big way. It will also save the interior materials from harmful ultraviolet rays that cause colors to fade and leather and plastic to crack.
Seats and factory floor mats take quite a bit of abuse over the life of your car. Every time you get in or out, the seat material suffers scratches that will eventually lead to tears or cracks. Meanwhile, the floor mats will eventually lose their carpeting from the constant friction of your shoes as you work the pedals. The best way to protect both is to visit your local auto parts store and pick up inexpensive seat covers and replacement floor mats. Store the factory mats in a clean, dry place while you own the car, and simply reinstall them when it's time to sell — the clean mats will help the interior look as good as new.
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.