Whether you’re selling to a private party or to the dealership, you always want to get the maximum value from your current vehicle. But what are the factors that make some used cars more desirable than the rest? Here are six of the most important factors that come into play.
WHAT IS THE VEHICLE’S CONDITION?
Everyone wants a used car in the best condition possible—it’s usually the first thing a buyer notices. Outside of normal wear and tear, the exterior won’t have any major scratches, chips, or dents. There should be no rust on the vehicle, including the underside.
Don’t forget about the inside of the cabin. The seats, carpet, and headliner should be free from heavy wear. If the vehicle has a leather upholstered interior, it should be well-maintained without any cracks or peeling. The electronics should also work as intended, including the stereo and climate controls.
WHAT IS THE MILEAGE AND AGE?
Mileage is the simplest way to judge a used vehicle, and it plays a big part in determining its resale value. Vehicles with lower mileage typically cost less to maintain in the near future, especially if the car isn’t approaching a major service interval. It’ll also be less likely to require major engine or transmission work, which can be costly.
But at the end of the day, the number on the odometer doesn’t tell the whole story. Age puts mileage into context—letting buyers know how much a vehicle was driven annually. For reference, the average person drives over 13,000 miles each year. You can use this as a starting point to determine whether a used vehicle has low mileage for its age.
HOW MANY PREVIOUS OWNERS?
When shopping for a used car, conventional wisdom suggests that it’s best to find a single owner vehicle. It’s far easier to get a true picture of the car’s history when it has only had one owner, whether it’s newer or older. You’ll typically have a better idea of how it was maintained, and you’ll be aware of its accident history, if applicable. This makes one-owner vehicles more desirable, and it’s something that often shows up as a benefit in the listing.
If you bought your vehicle new, you’re naturally in a good position to sell or trade. Three or more owners are viewed as less desirable, especially if turnover occurred during a short period of time. If you want to double-check your vehicle’s ownership history, consider purchasing a CarFax report.
DOES IT INCLUDE MAINTENANCE RECORDS?
A car that’s been taken care of will always command a premium, especially if the owner can provide the receipts to document the history of maintenance. This applies to oil changes, tire rotations, and regular maintenance—ideally based on the manufacturer’s recommended intervals. After all, vehicles that aren’t properly serviced can lead to costly repairs down the line.
The more documentation a used vehicle has, the more confident people will feel when buying it—bonus points if it was serviced at the dealership or a reputable mechanic. And if the vehicle is still under warranty, having all the paperwork in one place will make things easier for the next owner.
IS IT RARE?
Some vehicles are harder to find than others. They may have been produced in low quantities, discontinued by the manufacturer, or just too popular to meet demand. These vehicles are especially desirable on the used market, with certain enthusiast vehicles maintaining and sometimes increasing in market value over time. We’ve even covered a few favorites in our used car buying guides.
Although the most desirable and rare vehicles are often sports cars, rarity isn’t limited to this class. Certain trims, colors, and configurations can be difficult to track down. This also applies to special and limited-edition models, which are made specifically for collectors. Some cars also have rare variants, such as a hatchback or even an electric vehicle.
WHERE ARE YOU LOCATED?
The location of your vehicle can have a huge effect on its value, just like real estate. Terrain and weather influence the kind of lives people lead—and the cars they want to buy. If you live in a warm climate near the coast, rear-wheel drive sports cars may command a premium. Drivers in mountainous areas prefer utility vehicles with four-wheel drive, especially if the area sees heavy snowfall.
Timing can also go hand in hand with location. A convertible may be seen as less desirable during the winter months, when it may spend more time in the garage. And when gas prices go up, commuters tend to flock to hybrids and electric vehicles. It all comes down to supply and demand, which is always changing with the times.
This content was created in partnership with TrueCar.