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Your Car’s Resale Value: 15 Factors That Make a Big Difference

Selling your car, whether back to the dealership as a trade-in or to get some extra cash, has a lot of factors to consider. Knowing your car’s most accurate resale value is crucial in preventing yourself from getting lowballed or severely overestimating how much you can get for it.  

Before you begin your car-selling journey, you must understand the factors contributing to a car’s resale value. 

Car Brand

corvette logo
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More popular or hard-to-find brands will have a larger resale value than a car brand anyone can get. If a brand is known for being reliable and popular, you’ll have an easier time selling it, even at a higher price point. Luxury brands will get you more money than an everyday, run-of-the-mill car or truck. 

Car Model

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Along with a reliable brand is a reliable model. If your car’s model has an excellent reputation for being relatively low maintenance or resilient in accidents, it’s much easier to sell a used car than others with low safety ratings or a reputation for being a dud. 


Car Dashboard
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If you have an older vehicle but barely put any miles on it, it may be worth more than a car with closer to 100,000 miles. The more a buyer can get out of your vehicle, the more you can justifiably charge. Just don’t think it’ll add up anywhere close to what you originally paid for it even without excessive mileage. 


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Is it a car you’ve only had for two years or a car hanging around in your garage for a decade? Remember that when a car drives off the lot, its resale value decreases. Only certain makes and models appreciate in value, and it’s not likely the car you picked out for practical purposes is the one (bummer). 


Tesla Roadster Convertible Electric Cars
Image Credit: Tesla.

As it turns out, looks do matter. At least for used cars. If a used vehicle looks and functions the same as it did the day it drove off of the lot, then you could charge more for a used car. If it has scratches or dents on the exterior that haven’t been fixed, consider getting them fixed to get the most value. A new paint job can also improve a car’s overall appearance. You might end up keeping your vehicle if it looks good enough! 

Interior Condition

2024 LEXUS TX 500h interior
Image Credit: Lexus.

Yes, the inside is what counts. But if the inside is full of excessive wear and tear? Ick. Sure, some people don’t mind, but they’ll negotiate the price to reflect the interior condition. To make things easier for you, grab some floor mats and seat covers for any car you purchase, new or used. That way, it’s much easier to maintain its cleanliness and prevent more expensive damages. 

A Great Story

Portrait of happy young friends sitting in a pickup truck going on a road trip. Young people enjoying a country road ride.
Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.

Emotional appeal can do more than you think it can regarding a car’s resale value. Don’t make up a story or heavily fictionalize the truth. Instead, talk about road trips, funny memories, or how much it meant to the previous owner if it was a car you inherited. Make a list and circle the ones

Regular Maintenance

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Image Credit: KANGWANS/Shutterstock.

Hopefully, you’ve taken your car for regular maintenance. If not, it’ll show. Never underestimate the power of an oil change or tire rotation. For any maintenance or services done, including recalls, keeping records of everything done to the vehicle is essential for the most transparent transaction. 

Market Conditions

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Are there tons of used cars on the market? In a buyer’s market, you may have to settle for a lower resale value, especially if your car is a standard model. Brands and models in high demand that get snapped up quickly? Dealerships or independent buyers will be more willing to cough up the cash. 


Self-sufficient confident modern young woman inspecting broken car engine with a flashlight in her hand
Image Credit: Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock.

Some modifications or swaps can be beneficial for a car’s resale value. Others can make a car a little too customized, decreasing the value. If your modifications are ones in demand or largely sought out, it’s probably fine. Modifications like heavy window tints, crazy lights, or massive wheels could hurt your resale value more than boost it. 


Loading broken car on a tow truck on a roadside
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What has the car been through? Has it been fished out of a ditch, or did it stay primarily on the road and in the garage with no accidents? Buyers appreciate it when you’re upfront about the vehicle’s history. Of course, they appreciate it more when the vehicle hasn’t been in deep trouble, but it’s better to be honest and have a clear vehicle history report than to try to hide it. 

Fuel Economy 

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If your car or truck gets excellent mileage, you’ll be able to sell it faster and for more cash. As society shifts from gas-based cars to hybrid and electric vehicles, people who cannot reasonably afford a hybrid or EV will opt for a better fuel-efficient vehicle. Trucks may differ if the work they can do is significant and valuable for a person’s day-to-day use. But no matter what, vehicles with the best fuel efficiency will be a big draw for bigger bucks. 


Manual Transmission
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Most people drive automatic transmissions. Fortunately or unfortunately for you, manual cars will have a limited demand compared to automatic vehicles. However, if your car is a classic or you appeal to manual transmission enthusiasts, you can get a bit more cash out of the deal. But it also helps if it’s a classic, coveted vehicle. 


2010 Audi S5
Image Credit: Russell Purcell/Flickr.

Neutral colors like black, silver, or white are easier to sell than red, blue, yellow, or another colored car. A car with a custom paint job is even harder to sell…unless you happen to find an enthusiast buyer who loves your skull-themed orange muscle car. Hey, it could happen! But for the most part, neutral colors are easier to keep clean and are therefore easier to sell. 


car along long strip of road
Image Credit: Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock.

Your heavy-duty truck may not sell as well in New York City where public transit is king and most fixed costs are already enormous. It doesn’t mean no one in an urban setting would buy your truck. It just means that in order to sell your vehicle at a higher price, you need to find the right audience to sell it to. The same can apply to any car or truck. Check what is in demand in your city and state. Is it worth it to you to sell the vehicle to someone outside of your location? That’s for you to decide. 

Author: Gretchen Gales


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Gretchen Gales is a freelance writer, the executive editor of Quail Bell Magazine, and the author of the poetry chapbook Agora. Writing for nearly a decade, her work has appeared in Business Insider, Next Avenue, The Huffington Post, Bustle, and others. Gretchen has also been interviewed for Her Campus as part of their “How She Got There” series and an interview with the popular website Dear English Major. 

Gretchen, a knowledge geek and educator, loves breaking down complicated concepts into something everyone can understand and enjoy. A Jill of all (Writing) Trades, there aren’t many topics she hasn’t written about. 


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