When you purchase a new car, it immediately starts to depreciate — losing some of its value. In most cases, you won’t be able to sell a car you’ve owned for the same amount you purchased it for, but some actions can devalue your car faster than others. Let’s take a look at five of the things that can quickly devalue your vehicle, as well as how to avoid them.
1. Driving It Home
You just bought a new car — congratulations! Unfortunately, as soon as you drive it off the lot, it loses upwards of 10 percent of its value. Depreciation is not kind to new cars, and the longer you own the vehicle, the lower the value becomes. If you lease a car, after 12 months when the lease is up, the car has lost 25 percent of its value. If you purchase a vehicle and keep it for five years, it will have lost upwards of 63 percent of its value.
2. Getting Into an Accident
No one likes to think about getting into a car accident, but they do happen. Even if you repair your car after a crash — and even if the repair is so good that the car looks like nothing ever happened — the car will still be worth less than it was before the accident.
If you try to sell your car to a dealership, the dealer will probably offer between 10 and 30 percent less for your car than they would for a similar vehicle that had not been in an accident. Even cosmetic accidents like a fender bender can lower the value of your car.
3. Skipping Oil Changes
Don’t skip your regular oil changes or other scheduled maintenance. The car might run fine even though it’s been 15,000 miles since your last oil change, but skipping your routine maintenance can lower the value of your vehicle over time.
When a dealership or mechanic assesses a car for trade or sale, they have tools to test the oil, coolant, transmission fluid and other fluids to see if they have been changed recently, as well as if the engine is presenting signs of undue wear and tear caused by unchanged fluids.
4. Scratching the Paint
Paint seems like it’s made to get scratched, and scratched paint can quickly lower the value of your car. Little things can scratch even the most well-maintained paint. Taking your vehicle through an automatic car wash that uses brushes to clean your car can dull your top coat and scratch your pain, for example, though newer touchless car washes have fixed this problem.
A faulty garage door can fall on the top of your car and scratch or damage the paint. Even if you don’t see it on a regular basis, it will still devalue your vehicle if you sell it at a later date. A broken spring or misaligned track, which are some of the most common garage door problems, can all lead to a garage door falling and damaging your investment.
5. Making Modifications
Modifications can make your car look amazing, but if they are non-standard modifications, they could reduce the value of your vehicle dramatically. If you want to modify your car but are planning to sell it later, opt for removable modifications, so you can restore the car to its factory design before you put it up for sale.
Even something as simple as skipping a few oil changes can damage your car’s value if you’re planning to sell it. While you can’t do anything about the depreciation that occurs when you drive the car off the lot, the rest of these problems are preventable with a bit of forethought and a bit of preparation.
Scott Huntington is a writer and car fanatic from Harrisburg, PA.