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What factors affect car resale value?

Timing. Exercising some patience can pay off when trading in or selling a used car. If the used-car market is soft, wait six months until demand is higher. If fuel prices are high, wait until they cycle back down before trading in that SUV. Simply visiting a dealership on a less busy day can increase the trade-in allowance. According to Reed, dealers are more willing to negotiate on all aspects of a new car purchase, including the trade-in, at times when the dealership is less busy. Dickering over the trade-in value will usually be more successful for a consumer on a Wednesday morning rather than a Saturday afternoon.

Other factors to consider

Reed also adds that when trading in a car, you will usually get a higher price if you trade in a vehicle toward the purchase of a like vehicle. "Trade in a Toyota for a Toyota," he says.

Once you purchase a new vehicle, the quality of its care and maintenance will also influence resale value. In addition to keeping it clean, follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule and document everything. "Whatever the manufacturer recommends, do it," Scott says.

Reed says that documentation doesn't mean as much when trading in a car. However, when selling a used car to a private party, the buyer will be more likely to pay more for the vehicle if you can prove that it has been well maintained.

Scott cautions against aftermarket add-ons. More often than not they don't add to a car's resale value, and they can sometimes reduce it. "When you do get work done, make sure it's quality work," he says.

Although resale value is an important consideration for most of us when buying a new car, that's not always the case. "If you are going to keep a car until the wheels fall off, you shouldn't worry about resale value," Reed says.

"There is a point of diminishing returns," Scott says. "A 15-year-old Honda is about the same as a 15-year-old Toyota."

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