If you're interested in preserving your resale value, you've come to the right place. We've listed a few of the most important options and features for drivers who want to get the best possible price for their cars when they're ready to sell and buy something else.
Our first piece of advice is simple: minimize. Most options won't offer any benefit when you go to sell your car. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should buy a vehicle with the fewest number of features possible. But it does mean you shouldn't load up your car with every single option on the list. Drivers who do that are often stunned to discover that the $1,000 premium sound system or the $2,000 radar cruise control function are essentially worthless when it comes time to sell.
Our guidance to minimize also applies to personalization. Aftermarket options -- such as wheels and stereos -- almost never add any market value to a used car. And even personalized new-car options, such as a unique color or a 2-tone interior, probably won't see any value boost on the used-car market.
Some of the options that offer the most return on investment are those that improve driver comfort or convenience. Sometimes, it's not that these items will see that you receive more money but that lacking them will hurt you when it comes time to sell. Easy examples include air conditioning and power windows, which many drivers now expect in cars. Vehicles not equipped with those features often sell for hundreds -- or thousands -- of dollars below their normal resale value.
Two major comfort options that can improve resale value are a sunroof and an automatic transmission. While most drivers agree they don't commonly use the sunroof, nearly all shoppers expect it -- especially on high-end models, or high-end versions of regular vehicles. And unless your car is a high-performance sports car, an automatic transmission will certainly add value on the used-car market.
Performance options often increase resale value. That's because car enthusiasts are often willing to pay extra for a high-powered model, whether it's new or used. So choosing a high-powered engine can often earn you a large chunk of change back when it comes time to resell. It's important to remember, however, that this generally applies only to performance cars, such as the Volkswagen GTI or MazdaSpeed Miata. Opting for a 6-cylinder engine on your Honda Accord is unlikely to have the same effect.
Most stylistic options don't do much for a car's resale value. But one big exception is alloy wheels. Alloys can have a huge effect on a used car's price, as many used-car shoppers are willing to pay more for a vehicle that looks newer and more expensive. With that said, we don't necessarily recommend spending thousands on a set of alloys -- especially aftermarket units -- as you won't see much of that money back. Instead, it might be best to pick a car with alloy wheels if it's not a huge price increase when you're buying new.
Sorry, technophiles: Most tech options won't return much value on the used-car market. That's especially true of premium audio systems, which hardly offer any boost to resale value. And while navigation systems once added considerably to a used car's value, the proliferation of portable navigation systems and smartphones means that's no longer the case.
Safety items can add big value to some used cars, but it's hard to predict exactly which cars -- or which items -- are the ones to choose. For example, some drivers insist on side airbags, which means they're willing to pass over cars not equipped with that feature. But side airbags aren't totally necessary for many drivers, meaning they won't pay much more for a car that includes them.
The same is true for today's modern collision alert technologies, and even features like radar cruise control. As a result, we suggest choosing these features solely for peace of mind -- and if you end up getting some money back when you go to sell, that's just a nice bonus.