One of the most common questions we get asked is how to value a car for a trade-in. That’s a tricky question at the best of times, not least because there is no transparency in the Irish used car trade over values, but also because it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to disappoint someone. People often live in the misguided belief that their car is in better condition or has a more desirable specification and is therefore going to be worth a mint at trade-in time. Sadly, it’s just not so and too often we see expressions of disappointment as people realise that their cost of trade-up just increased.
That cost of trading-up is a critical number these days – the gap between the value of your old car and the price of the one you want, and it’s one that’s under threat from weakening second hand car values. If the value of your current car goes down, the price of trading-up goes up. Simple market forces.
But what if you could detach yourself from such worries? What if you could forget about the cost of change and instead just concentrate on making your current car last longer? Very often we trade-in our cars because we think that they’ve gotten too old, or that they’ll start giving trouble, or that we’ve just become bored with them. But these are often foolish reasons and the cost of renewal will almost always outweigh the cost of sticking with what we’ve got.
So, here are a few things you can do to keep your current car looking and feeling its best.
First off, get it valeted. Sounds stupidly simple, but a car that’s just had a proper top-to-toe valeting job really can feel (and smell, for that matter) as good as new. You’d be amazed the difference it can make. Second, get it serviced and keep it serviced. Most reliability issues can be side-stepped simply by keeping a car properly looked after, and keeping the service book up to date is the most critical factor. It’s a good idea to get to know the garage you’re getting your car serviced at too. Don’t just drop off and run – stick around and have a chat; you’d be amazed what a difference a bit of insider knowledge can make, and always insist that the highest-possible quality of oil is used when you’re getting an oil change. It makes an enormous difference to have good quality lubricant, and to keep it changed regularly. If there were ever one simple secret to keeping a car in good mechanical condition, it’s good oil.
It’s also worth looking at your own driving style and how mechanically sympathetic you are. There’s a famous tale told by the McLaren Grand Prix team mechanics of the days when they had both Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost driving for them. Senna was often the fastest, but his car, and especially the brakes, would have to be completely rebuilt after each race. Prost’s car, by contrast, was often so lightly used that it could have still been factory-fresh, yet he was rarely, if ever, actually slower. So be more like Prost – develop a sense of mechanical sympathy and drive with a light touch. Accelerate more gently, steer more gently, try to avoid the worst potholes and bumps, ease onto the brakes and don’t bang up onto the kerb when you’re parking. Small things, but they really make a difference over time.
Don’t leave small car maintenance issues to build up over time. If you’ve found a paint chip, or a blown bulb, or a dent or a bad wiper blade, get it sorted as soon as. Motor factors such as Halfords can often help you to carry out small running repairs, so you don’t necessarily need to book a visit into the garage for most of these issues, and they’re usually not as expensive as you think they’re going to be.
Keeping your car washed in the winter is a good idea too. It may seem a bit odd, talking about this in the height of summer, but too many of us are tempted to put off washing in the winter because we think there’s no point – the car will just be filthy again in a few minutes. While that’s true, the fact is that the gunge, grease and salt which cakes roads in the winter gets stuck to our cars, especially underneath and if we leave it there it can start to damage paint, plastic panels and even start causing old-fashioned rust. Washing it off regularly stops too much getting built up, even if the process does start again as soon as you drive out of the car wash.
These are simple steps, but if you keep with them, then the condition of your car will be maintained over time, and you not only will you get more use out of it, but you may become less tired with it, less quickly. There’s little or nothing here that’s expensive (changing your driving style is free…) but it can all help you stave off the day when you need to contend with the cost of changing your car.