Take steps to retain your car's value

September 22, 2010

Depreciation is one reason Barbara Terry tells friends to consider buying pre-owned.

"I always recommend to friends and family, and to people who email me, to go ahead and buy something pre-owned, maybe a couple of years, maybe 20-30,00 miles on the odometer," she says. "So that the first person who brought it off the showroom floor will eat up the depreciation, not them."

Terry is the author of "How Athletes Roll" and a car-care advice columnist for The Houston Chronicle. She says you should begin thinking about getting the most from selling your car as soon as you buy it.

"Don't buy something that is not going to be atttractive as far as a color goes," she says. "Keep in mind if you are going to re-sell it, you've got to keep that broad audience, so buy a very friendly color (like) white, silver, black, or red."

She also advises against making modifications -- like dropping the car and putting on fancy wheels.

But she says it is important to touch-up scratches and keep your car clean -- inside and out.

"You can actually fix the scratches yourself. If you go into any auto parts store, there is a plethora of touch-up paint that will literally match your make and model and it doesn't take very long at all to fill in scratches," she says.

She also advises, "Give it a good belly-scrubbing in and out. You don't want a potential customer to pull up , open up your minivan and it smells like your favorite fast food joint or there's stains on the carpet."

And she says routine maintenance is very important, even if you do it yourself to save money.

"If your local mechanic is recommending doing a transmission service, something like that, definitely do that," she says. "Because a lot of people are mechanically knowledgeable these days and if they pull your oil dipstick out and it looks like black tar or molasses, they're going to know that you didn't get your oil changed. I've always had a saying, spend $50 and you'll make $500 more."

And when you are ready to sell, don't assume you'll get a great deal from a dealership. She advises selling the car yourself, using both classifed ads and the internet.

"You're going to get a lot more money out if if you try to sell it on your own." She suggests using eBayMotors.com.

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