Save Money: How To Get The Best Resale On Your Car


I have a friend who owned her car for 10 years from new. In those 10 years she frequently travelled with her two dogs, smoked, rarely washed it, parked it outdoors, had cloth seats and rarely serviced it. After 10 years, her $23,000 car ended up being given away for scrap metal — it was unsalable. The same car well maintained is valued at $5,700 on That’s nearly six grand she threw away because she couldn’t be bothered to look after her car.

We all know a new car starts to lose money the second it drives off the showroom floor and yet, for most people, their car is one of the largest investments they’ll make. Therefore, it makes sense to protect that asset as best you can to fight the depreciation battle.

Fortunately, there is a set list of factors which have the most impact on your resale value. I’ve compiled them below from the least to the highest cost impact.

People often assume the more they spend on extras, the more their car is worth. In fact, the opposite is often true and a lot of modifications, such as after-market stereos, larger wheels, and subwoofers give the impression to your potential buyer that you’re a hoon. There are a handful of factory options when you buy a new car will help (such as larger alloy wheels, automatic transmission and leather seats). But after-market options will not. The best-case scenario is that you will have added no resale value to your car for the thousands that you’ve spent. The worst case scenario is that you have put potential buyers off and lowered your asking price.

Much like good skincare, regular washing, vacuuming and an annual detail protects your car’s paint and interior and helps it age better. It’s easy to spot a poorly maintained car that has just had a quick detail before sale.

It’s not uncommon for car owners try to sell their car just prior to any major servicing. This is around the 80,000km -100,000km, or four to five year mark when most cars in Australia need their largest (and most expensive) service and again 160,000 – 200,000km (eight to ten years). The thing is, most buyers know this, and if they don’t, they’re likely to have it checked by a mechanic who will. Your best bet is to avoid selling anywhere near this time, or getting all the necessary services done to sell your car in the best possible condition, hence improving your chances of the best resale value.

If you’ve collected a few minor dings and scratches over the years that weren’t worth the insurance hassle or cost at the time, it’s probably a good investment come sale time to get them repaired. If your car is worth over $5,000, it’s usually worth cashing in on your insurance and wearing the cost of the excess, or obtaining a quote from a reputable panel beater and paying a relatively small amount to make your car more saleable against competition, and to gain a few extra dollars.

Having two small children myself, I understand what they can do to a car! Footprints, sand and food are the common ones. I ban food, crayons and drink bottles, but the reality is a footprint on the back of the front seats and sand they’ve brought home from school have a major impact on the wear and tear of your car’s interior. Leather seats can help counter this to some degree, as long as they’re maintained. Fortunately, eliminating the cause by banning food, shoes and crayons goes a long way to protecting your car’s resale value.

Try telling a dog owner that their car smells like dog – most won’t believe you. But believe me, just like smoking, having a dog leaves a permanent smell. It’s a smell that will impact the buyers decision to buy or not buy (especially if they’re not a dog owner). In addition to this doggy drool on seats can be a problem – use protection such as towels and seat covers and try air your car out as much as possible from the dog.

Not everyone has a garage, but if you do – use it! A garaged car will be much more protected and hence gain greater resale than a car that’s parked under trees most of the time. Tree sap, bird poo, sunlight and exhaust from passing cars all wear down your car’s paint over time. Sunlight will also wear down the colour on your car’s dash and leather seats.

On the inside of your car, floor mats, seat covers and toddler and dog protection such as towels will protect your car’s longevity and are a cheap insurance policy over the life of your car.

Smoke in your car gets into every fibre of its interior. It’s probably the hardest thing to undo. Even smokers tell me that when you step into test drive a smokers’ used car it’s a huge turn-off and often the deal breaker when comparing cars.

An un-serviced (or under-serviced) car without a properly maintained logbook is by far the worst thing you can do for resale. It tells the buyer there are likely to be repair problems down the track, reducing confidence in your car. If someone chooses to make an offer anyway, it will probably be lower than what you want as they need to account for the cost of future repairs.

Overall, just a little TLC can go a long way when it comes to fighting the depreciation battle on your car. Treat it like an asset, put in the extra effort and you could walk away with thousands extra in your pocket when it comes time to sell.

For more auto related tips and tricks head to the Blue Toro Blog.

Written by Janelle Gonzalez

Corporate escapee and mechanic’s wife Janelle Gonzalez has spent the last 24 years in garages, pit lanes and on road trips. Living a double life - corporate by weekday, trackside on the weekends - she shares her husband’s passion for cars. She has now turned her skills to building Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise. Her mission is to help Australians trust mechanics by educating car owners and returning to good old fashioned service values, while changing the lives of mechanics and their families.

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