You’ve no doubt heard that prices for both new and used vehicles have risen dramatically in the past year. Much of the responsibility for the increase is attributed to a shortage of semiconductor chips, but whatever the cause, if you want to make a trade, you’ll want to get top dollar for your current vehicle. Here are a few tips to help you make that happen.


Look for reliability. Do your homework and select a brand and model with historically good resale value. AAA members get a free Carfax report. If you’re in the market for a used car, get a FREE CARFAX Vehicle History Report with every car listed on You can narrow down your search by car type, price, location, ownership history and more.

AAA members also have access to a free CARFAX Flood Check® to make sure your car is safe.

Choose popular features. As an example, used-car shoppers expect models like luxury sedans to have leather seats. Cars that don’t have sought-after features such as forward collision warning or adaptive cruise control could be more difficult to sell and have a lower resale value when it’s time to do so.

How AAA can help: Thinking about trading in or selling your car? The AAA Auto Buying Program lets you see the value of your vehicle and get a cash offer in minutes. Before you buy, get preapproved at and head to the dealership knowing what you can afford.

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Drive safely. Collisions decrease car resale value, even if the damage is repaired.

Follow the maintenance schedule. In addition, complete all safety recalls (they’re almost always free) and keep all service records. CARFAX Car Care sends you maintenance reminders, alerts for open recalls and shows you vehicle service history. Consider keeping hard copies of receipts and paperwork in a DIY car maintenance binder to keep a historical archive of work done. Proof of routine maintenance could help car resale. If you don’t have your receipts, ask your mechanic for a statement that summarizes your visits.

Don’t ignore minor repairs. Fix dents, scratches and dings immediately, before they worsen.

Preserve the interior and finish. Avoid eating or smoking in the vehicle to prevent unpleasant smells and stains, and have the vehicle detailed regularly.

Park in a garage or covered carport. If you can, protect your car from harsh weather that can wear out the paint, fade the interior and decrease the resale value.

Keep the mileage low. Driving at or less than an average of 13,500 miles per year will help maintain the vehicle’s resale value; driving more will lower it.

How AAA can help: Need a trustworthy mechanic? AAA Approved Auto Repair Facilities meet certain standards, and AAA Members get 10% off labor (save up to $50) and a 24-month/24,000-mile guarantee on parts and labor. Plus, members get a free multipoint vehicle maintenance inspection upon request.

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Recondition hazy headlights. An inexpensive conditioning kit from a local auto parts store will improve the driver’s ability to see at night and enhance the car’s appearance. (Learn more about restoring headlight lenses).

Go for a “showroom” look. Remove exterior stickers and decals, and clean out interior storage, such as the glove compartment.

Get rid of stains and odors. Have your car detailed by a professional.

Find the right market. A private-party sale will usually be more lucrative than selling to a dealer. In general, vehicles in better condition have a greater likelihood of a private-party sale, whereas vehicles in worse shape may be more appropriate as a trade-in or dealer sale.

Know when to sell. Timing is important. The COVID-19 pandemic may impact these trends, but vehicle sales typically peak March through May. Selling in September or October could be more difficult due to the typical glut of used-car inventory from rental car companies disposing of older vehicles.

How AAA can help: When you go the DIY route for last-minute fixes, save 10% on most parts and accessories at NAPA Auto Parts stores.


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This story was featured in the
November/ December 2021 issue of AAALiving Magazine

Looking for a New Car?

Use the AAA Auto Buying Program to get upfront member pricing on new and used cars from the comfort of home. Look for the Buy From Home badge to see which dealers offer vehicle delivery and remote paperwork processing.

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