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New, Used Car Prices Rise; How to Maximize Your Vehicle's Resale/Trade-In Value

(LOS ANGELES, June 15, 2011) —Recent world events, including the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the increased cost of crude oil that led to higher retail gas prices this spring, have significantly limited the supply of new cars and simultaneously driven up the resale value of pre-owned cars in the U.S., according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
Damage to operations of several Japanese auto parts manufacturers has choked the supply of parts critical to building many new vehicles, according to news reports.  And higher fuel costs during the past few months have magnified consumer interest in purchasing fuel-efficient cars.  The impact of the crisis in Japan is reduced new car inventory at dealerships, while high crude oil and retail gas prices have steered consumers toward buying fuel sippers.  As a result all vehicle prices are much higher than six months ago. 
And although most domestic manufacturers have not been seriously affected by the Japan crisis, nearly all fuel-efficient vehicles, regardless of manufacturer, are selling at a higher price due to consumer demand, according to the Auto Club. 
For example, compared to a year ago, the new  Volkswagen Jetta, is worth $747 more, the Nissan Cube, is worth $842 more and the Hyundai Tucson is valued at $635 more, according to the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA). The Honda Fit is selling for $1,070 more, than it was brand new last year, NADA said.
NADA says the current demand for used cars mirrors 2008, when the price of gas rose to $4.10 a gallon. In May, NADA guides suggested prices for used small vehicles climbed by 10 percent.
According to the RVI Group, a company which compares vehicle values, the average value of used vehicles increased by 16 percent in April as compared to a year ago.   
With added inventory pressure at dealerships this summer, how can motorists get the best price for their trade-in (or sale to a private party) for a brand new or a newer used vehicle? 
“Motorists can extend the life of their vehicle’s interior and exterior the same way they take care of its mechanical parts –  through proper maintenance,” said the Auto Club’s Car Buying Service Manager Dave Cavano.  “Vehicle upkeep that’s thought of as cosmetic care can reduce wear and tear and may help fetch a higher trade-in price or private party resale value.”
The Auto Club recommends motorists perform or hire someone well-qualified to perform the following cosmetic care maintenance to obtain the best price:
Vehicle Interior
  • Vacuum regularly and lightly shampoo the carpets as needed.  Dirt remaining in the carpet can greatly accelerate wear, but be careful not to soak carpets with too much moisture.
  • Use floor mats to protect carpet.  Carpeted floor mats will collect dust and dirt and are best for dry climates, while protective vinyl floor mats are recommended in wet and snowy areas.
  • Wipe down dusty and soiled surfaces with a damp cloth.  Follow up with a UV-protective coating on vinyl and rubber surfaces.  A solution with a matte or semi-gloss surface finish is preferred on the dashboard to reduce reflections in the windshield.  Be careful not to apply petroleum-based products on plastic surfaces, especially clear ones.  If the interior has leather, use products designed for cleaning and maintaining this material.
  • Clean stains from seats and other interior surfaces promptly to prevent them from becoming set.  Use a cleaner recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer to prevent fabric, vinyl or leather damage.  Test any non-approved product in an inconspicuous spot before use to make sure it is safe.
  • In hot and sunny climates, like Southern California, consider having the windows tinted to cut down on infrared rays that cause heat buildup and ultraviolet rays that fade and damage interior materials.  Over darkening windows can comprise visibility and is frequently illegal, so use legal appropriate materials.
  • Use protective flooring and seat covers when transporting pets or items with sharp edges that could gouge upholstery or carpeting.
Vehicle Exterior
  • Wash the vehicle approximately every two weeks and wax it twice a year.  More frequent washing and waxing could be advisable depending on climate and driving conditions. A good coat of wax looks great, protects the finish from contaminants and contains filtering chemicals that help reduce paint fading from the ultraviolet rays in sunlight.
  • When washing the vehicle, be sure to rinse out the wheel wells and accessible areas of the undercarriage. 
  • Use care when removing bugs and tar to avoid damaging the clear coat or paint.  Auto parts stores, such as NAPA Auto Parts, carry specialty products that can ease removal without causing damage.  AAA members qualify for discounts at all NAPA locations by showing their membership card.
  • Clean glass inside and out to ensure good vision. Use a product that doesn’t leave streaks or cause glare. 
  • Have small windshield chips repaired to prevent them from becoming cracks that require complete windshield replacement.  Most such repairs can be made easily by an auto glass technician coming to the vehicle’s location.
  • Consider headlight restoration if the lenses have developed a frosted yellow surface.  This repair restores a clear finish to the lens, which improves both vehicle appearance and nighttime vision.  Do-it-yourselfers can purchase restoration kits at auto parts stores for approximately $20.  Commercial services will typically do the job for $50-100.
Another way to improve a vehicle’s resale value is by saving its maintenance records.  Motorists can keep them in a file or add them to the glove box.  Either way, being able to produce a record of proper maintenance and repairs during ownership of the vehicle can add hundreds of dollars to a vehicle’s resale price. 
For more information about new and used vehicles for sale and discounts for Auto Club members, contact the Auto Club Car Buying Service at 877-552-4934.
CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.