Most people do not buy cars as investments, and for good reason. However, you can keep your car valuable by taking care of it, thinking of its resale value with every decision you make.
Depreciation often is the greatest expense incurred by drivers during the first five years of vehicle ownership, according to Kelley Blue Book. An average vehicle will only retain about 35 percent of its original value after a five-year ownership period, meaning that a $50,000 new car today will only be worth somewhere close to $17,500 after five years.
Cars begin to depreciate as soon as you drive away from the dealership, so try to maintain reasonable expectations.
You won't be able to keep your car as valuable as it was when you bought it, but the following tips will increase the money you receive from sale or trade-in ...
No. 5: Keep maintenance records
If you want to keep your car valuable, purchase a 3-inch binder to store all your car's maintenance records. From oil changes to tire rotations to major repairs, keep the receipts and work descriptions in chronological order. This way, when someone wants to buy the car, you can show them how you have maintained it.
Also, make timely repairs so that problems do not escalate. If you notice a funny noise when you drive over 60 mph, or if fluid starts to leak from the undercarriage, take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic as soon as possible.
Some small problems can quickly escalate into much bigger problems if left alone long enough. If your car dies on the side of the road because of a maintenance issue you ignored, you can sure you've got more to worry about financially than just your resale value.
But even before you have to start worrying about maintenance, there are ways you can be saving yourself down the road ...
No. 4: Make smart buying choices
Sometimes the best way to ensure your car loses as little value as possible is to simply make smart choices when shopping.
"Choosing makes, models and options wisely now can help new-car shoppers keep additional money in their pocket down the road when they go to sell or trade in the vehicle used," said Kelley Blue Book's Jack R. Nerad.
That starts with choosing the right color. While you may love that exotic shade of purple, you might find it harder to move your car when it comes time to sell it. Instead, Nerad suggests choosing a popular exterior color such as silver, white, gray or black.
Car-buyers should also carefully choose the options on their new car to ensure they are customary for the vehicle type. For example, luxury sedans should have an automatic transmission instead of a manual transmission.
Popular equipment and options such as anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, an audio system with MP3 compatibility, cruise control and remote locking also will help down the road, he said.
No. 3: Remember: Aesthetics matter
The overall appearance of a vehicle will play a large part in keeping your car valuable. AutoTrader's Linda Payne recommends cleaning your vehicle regularly, making sure to vacuum the seats and upholstery and paying particular attention to the dashboard.
Run your vehicle through a car wash to keep it valuable, or clean it on your own driveway. Don't smoke in your car, because tobacco smoke will remain through many cleanings, and avoid transporting anything that might leak or stain.
"People want to buy a car that looks and smells like it's been taken care of properly," Payne said. "The thought process is that if you can't take the time to clean your car, then are you really going to take the time to have it serviced regularly as you should?"
But even though you want your car looking good, don't go too far in an attempt to make it stand out ...
No. 2: Don't customize or go generic