People often ask us if it is worth having a car detailed or having a cosmetic repair done. The answer to this question really comes down to a close look at the car’s value on several levels. For most of us a car is usually a significant purchase. In fact, next to purchasing a home and/or an education, a car is one of the most expensive items most of us will buy. On a personal level we tend to invest and connect emotionally with our cars – we often name them, we fret over the first scratch or the first ding, and often anthropomorphize them (give them verbal encouragement as we accelerate up to highway speed as if they would actually respond to our words).

On this personal/emotional level it certainly makes sense to keep a car looking it’s best. Even as a car ages, a car that shines and is well taken care of will continue to tug at those emotional strings and make us feel good. Yet, in this article we’re going to look deeper at the economical value of keeping a car clean and performing cosmetic repairs. We’ll delve deeper into our emotional connection with the automobile in a later article.

Vehicle Depreciation

We are all familiar with the concept of depreciation – the concept of a car’s value decreasing over time. And it’s possible that you’ve heard that in most cases the value of a new car decreases as soon as it is driven off of the dealership lot. Certainly as we put more miles on our cars, mechanical parts wear and break down, paint fades, rock chips and door dings accumulate, and the car’s value tumbles. But there are other factors at work as well – factors that have nothing to do with the number of miles on a car. Every year manufacturers create updated versions of our cars, adding horsepower, increasing efficiency, and adding bells and whistles. With each new model release the value of the previous models decrease – even if we didn’t add any additional miles to them!

Proactive methods to alleviate depreciation

The downward force of depreciation is strong and inevitable. Yet there are things that we can do to minimize the severity of the drop in value. The battle against depreciation is most effectively fought on two fronts; proactive and reactive. The proactive approach is to take advance measures to protect your car and keep it looking new for as long as possible. Protective films, like XPEL Ultimate, can protect your car from rock chips and minor scratches. Ceramic coatings, like Opti-Coat PRO can protect your car’s finish from environmental damage like that caused by bird droppings, tree sap, bugs, road chemicals, and the sun. These advanced films and coatings certainly represent a substantial initial investment, however they often pay for themselves by helping to maintain value for a longer period of time.

Opti-Coat PRO/PRO+ does more than protect your paint. It protects your investment. And now we can guarantee that your investment will pay off!
We’ve partnered with a local dealership, Auto Buying Service, that is so confident that Opti-Coat PRO/PRO+ will help maintain a vehicle’s finish that they will offer up to $1000 above a competitor’s trade-in value for a vehicle that has had Opti-Coat PRO/PRO+ installed by us here at Automotive Quality Solutions.
So, down the road, when you are ready to sell your car, simply bring a trade in offer from another dealership to our friends at Auto Buying Service. Just for having us install Opti-Coat PRO/PRO+ on your car, ABS will offer you up to $1000 above the competing dealership’s trade in offer!

Another proactive approach is to have the car professionally detailed at least twice per year. A professional detail along with the application of an advanced paint sealant will add a protective layer to a car’s finish and keep it looking great for several months. Constant professional maintenance of a car’s finish again represents a significant investment – yet it is one that will often pay for itself when it comes time to sell.

Reactive methods to alleviate depreciation

The reactive approach is to address cosmetic needs as they arise or to ignore them until it is time to sell. Some damage is unavoidable – parking lot door dings, curb rash on wheels – no amount of preventative protection can avoid these hits in value over the life of a car. So the question becomes, is it worth having them repaired?

To answer this question we need to understand a little bit about how trading in a car to a dealership works. In most cases a dealership that buys your old car will do one of two things; either they will clean the car up and try to sell it as a used car, or they will sell it an auction as it is. In either case the dealer will assess the car’s condition and assign it a value. There are several pricing guide publications that dealers use as tools – often assigning value based on subjective conditional categories (i.e. rough, average, clean, extra clean). The price swing between these categories can often be a difference of several thousand dollars. So, no matter what the dealership does with the car, it makes sense to have the car as clean as possible when you offer it for trade.

If the dealership is going to clean the car up and sell it as a used car they will take into account all of the work that they would need to put into it to get it ready to sell. The cost of all of this reconditioning work will come out of the price that they would offer you for the car. For example, if the car needs to have the front bumper repainted, needs a full detail, and needs two dents removed, the dealer will estimate the cost of all of these repairs and subtract this from the price that they would pay you for a clean, sale ready, car. So the real question becomes, can I get these cosmetic repairs done for less than what the dealer will charge me to get them done?

Perhaps it is best to look at a few real world examples.

Diana L. shared with us that, when she was selling her 2005 Honda CRV, Carmax offered her $4000 and a dealership offered her $3700. She brought her car in to us and had a full detail and some paintless dent repair performed – $599 worth of work. She then brought her car back to the dealership and was offered $4800! So, by investing $599 with Automotive Quality Solutions she increased the value of her car by $1100 and made an additional $501!

Sharon W. let us know recently that when she traded in her 2011 minivan, Carmax offered her $16000. A dealership, noting how clean the van was, offered her $18,500 for the van and stated that it “it was the cleanest trade in that they had ever seen – so clean, in fact, that [they] would only need to [apply a window sticker] and place it on the sales lot”. Sharon spent $560 with us and walked away knowing that she received top value for her trade.

Having a car professionally detailed and having cosmetic damage repaired before a trade in almost always comes out in the seller’s favor. The less that a dealership has to do to a car to then turn around and sell that car, the better. Remember that the trade negotiation involves the dealer trying to find ways to pay you less than the car is worth so that they can turn around and make a profit on reselling it. A clean car takes a good deal of the negotiation power out of the dealer’s hand and puts it back into your’s. If you can deliver a car that the dealer can simply place on their sales lot immediately, they’ll most certainly pay a premium for it.

How about for a lease return?

The same concepts apply for a lease return. The dealership will charge you back for any cosmetic damage that they have to repair in order for them to turn the car around and resell it. The best approach is to bring your car back to the dealership before your lease ends. Have them assess it and let you know what they would need to charge for. Chances are you will be able to have a professional detailer repair most cosmetic damage for less than what the dealership will charge you for the same repairs.

Whether you take a proactive approach to maintaining your car’s value or a reactive approach, a professional detailing and reconditioning shop like Automotive Quality Solutions can help you build and maintain value in your car. Consider detailing, application of protective films and coatings, and cosmetic repair your tools for getting the most return on your investment.

Interested in learning more about Opti-Coat PRO/PRO+? Read our article, “Opti-Coat PRO in Plain English” to learn more!