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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

How to Keep Your Car Longer

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy flickr
A friend of mine recently lamented that he paid as much for his new car as he did on a house a couple of decades ago.  He further complained that his previous car wound up only fetching him $2,500 in trade-in value even though it was less than 10-years old.  If you’re like me, you want to get your money’s worth out of one of your biggest investments, I’ve come up with a few time-tested tips that are guaranteed to get the job done.

1.      So many cars.  So little time. – If you’re like most people who buy as opposed to leasing your car, you probably hold onto it until the wheels are coming off. By that, I mean you probably hold onto the thing until the cost of maintaining it exceeds the car’s value.  This usually leads to heading over to the dealership to get a replacement so you can get to work the next day.  This is the worst way to shop for a vehicle.  It also doesn’t help your bargaining power if your trade-in needs to be towed to the dealership.  As a result, a dealer or sales rep can sense your anxiety much as a shark senses blood in the water.  This puts you in a tight spot that makes it likely that you can be steered to a vehicle that isn’t right for you, not to mention you are likely to get the worst deal possible.

Image courtesy flickr
2.    How to find the best car for you. – Long before your current vehicle is on its last leg you should start shopping for new wheels.  The worst way to do this is to listen to the ads on TV.  The second worst way is to start surfing the web without knowing what’s what when it comes to cars.  In both cases, you’re more likely to be dazzled by all the hi-tech bells and whistles that add little to a vehicle’s value.  If you want a car that will stand the test of time and retain the most value, touchscreens and in-car entertainment centers are not where you need your attention to be focused.  Warranties and reliability are where the rubber really meets the road.  The best person to ask about both these is your friendly, neighborhood auto mechanic.  Who knows more about cars, trucks and vans than a mechanic?  Not only do they have hands on experience with most every make and model, but they can tell you about problems that have yet to make the headlines.  They can also point out which makes and models spend the least amount of time in the shop. 

3.    Narrowing the field – Once you have a few makes and models in mind, now it’s time to do some additional research online.  You’d be surprised at how much more you can learn about a vehicle by perusing popular car portals and review sites.  You can also compare prices online, as well as checking out warranties and dealerships while you’re at it.  If you’re going to buy a new or relatively new car, the warranty is going to be your lifeline when it comes to repairs for the next few years.  Since most warranty work is done at the dealership, you want one that has a reputation for being prompt, thorough and courteous.  The Internet can let you know about customer experiences at most any dealership.
Image courtesy USAF
4.      Don’t be fooled - Another thing you need to stay abreast of are tricks and traps that dealers use to lure unsuspecting prospects into the dealership.  If you are comparing prices online and see a car that’s way below book value at a dealership, don’t speed down there until you call to see if the car is actually at the dealership.  If you don’t you could be told, “That car was just sold this morning.  But we have other similar vehicles on the lot.”  In most cases, the truth of the matter is that the car listed was never on the lot and the “similar vehicles on the lot” cost a lot more.  While there are many other tricks that unscrupulous dealers use to lure you in and rip you off, this is one of the most common.  Another is being suckered into paying extra for extended warranties that aren’t worth the paper they are written on. 

5.      How to get the best financing deal. – When it comes to buying a car, you’ll usually get a better financing deal is you don’t rely on the dealer.  In fact, you should comparison shop for financing the same way you shop for a car.  Talk to you banker and credit union to see what kind of rates they offer.  Even many insurance companies offer car loans to customers with good credit ratings. If your credit rating is less than stellar, before you start looking for a loan, look to see what you can do to improve your credit score.  Talk about saving a bundle. 

Image courtesy piqsels
6.      What to do to keep your car in showroom condition. – The reason that so many people receive such a poor trade-in value is because all too many drive their vehicles into the ground.  Since your car could be the second biggest investment after your home, this is like buying a house and letting it fall apart, only to try to sell it.  If your home’s roof is full of holes and your yard is a weed lot, do you think you’d get top dollar for it?  Of course not.  Then don’t expect a worn-out rust bucket of a vehicle to fetch top dollar come trade-in time.  The secret to getting top dollar is to keep your car well maintained.  This means doing regular oil changes, tire rotations and other routine maintenance, as well as keeping the car clean inside and out.  If you have a garage, I highly recommend you store your car in it.  If you have kids, you really shouldn’t let them eat and drink anything other than water in the car.  Nothing reduces the value of a used car faster than upholstery and carpet stains.  If you really want to get top dollar for your vehicle, sell it privately instead of taking a trade-in offer which is always less.

7.      Road warriors need not apply. – Last but not least, try not to put any more mileage on your vehicle than you really need to.  Other than having an accident, nothing reduces the value or the length of time you will be able to enjoy your next vehicle more than high mileage.  If your goal is to keep it for years to come, you need to give it a fighting chance.  

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. Having bought and sold at least a dozen cars I owned, I can tell you that selling it yourself can net up to $1,000 more than the dealer will offer. Not a bad return on investment for a $5 Used Car for Sale sign.

  2. Keep your car well maintained not only save money it provides better resale value as well. Great tips.


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