How to Minimize Depreciation When Buying a Car

| February 6, 2013

old car rustingWhether you’re looking for new wheels at auto dealerships listed on the DexKnows site, maintaining your old jalopy or just buying gas, you know cars and trucks are expensive. Yet one of the biggest costs is hidden from view: depreciation.

Most new vehicles lose 40 percent to 50 percent of their value in the first three years, and the value keeps dropping for the next dozen or more. This doesn’t matter if you plan to own it a long long time, but most people like to change their vehicle every four or five years and use the old wheels as a down payment for the next. So it follows that the greater the depreciation, the more money you have to find from other sources. (And you’re not immune to depreciation if you lease. The difference is that depreciation is estimated when you enter into the deal, showing up in the monthly payments.)

Depreciation can’t be prevented, but you can reduce the bite it takes out of your pocketbook. Here are some tips.

Buy wisely

The used vehicles that fetch the best prices are the ones most people want to buy. (It’s that old supply-and-demand thing.) So buy a car that others will want when you’re done with it. That means it should have a reputation for reliability, get reasonable gas mileage, be inexpensive to insure and be acceptable to most of the car-buying population. So no way-out colors or British “classics,” and think carefully before buying a car with a stick shift.

Maintain it well

A well-maintained car tends to be more reliable than one that’s been neglected. Buyers will pay more for this, providing there’s evidence the work’s been done. So get the oil changed regularly, have other service items attended to at the recommended intervals and keep the receipts. Stay on top of minor bodywork issues, too, because nothing screams “neglected and abused” louder than shopping cart dents in every panel.

Keep the mileage down

Yes, you bought it to drive it, but the simple fact is that low mileage is attractive to buyers. The average American car covers around 15,000 miles per year. Doing significantly more will reduce the value, and lower mileage will increase it, relative to similar vehicles.

Keep it stock

Some car owners like to personalize their rides with different lights, wheels or graphics. Others like to squeeze more horsepower from the engine by fitting aftermarket performance accessories. There’s nothing wrong with individuality, but recognize that personalizing means just that: Buyers may not share your tastes, and with fewer prospective customers, you’ll have to settle for a lower price.

Clean the interior

No one likes sitting among another person’s discarded fast-food boxes and candy wrappers, and no one likes the smell of smoke. So if you want to get top dollar when you come to sell, make sure the interior looks like the car just left the showroom. Sure, you can clean and tidy when necessary, but stale smoke, stains, burns and tears are much harder to get rid of, so don’t let them get there in the first place.

When it’s time to sell or trade your old wheels, the price you get may determine what you can afford next. Taking good care of your car or truck can reduce its depreciation and help you get a better car. So use DexKnows to find auto parts stores that stock good car-care products and get that ride in top shape.

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Category: Auto Buying, Autos

About the Author ()

After twenty years in the automobile industry the craft of wordsmith called. Putting down the wrench, Nigel picked up a keyboard on which to express his passion for all things automotive.