Dramatically Increase the Value of Your Car for Less Than $100

by Will Lipovsky · 1 comment

old bmw 528i
Was this title just click-bait? Absolutely not. This is indeed an article that will enable you to add quite a bit of value to your car – for less than a Benjamin. How do I know? Because I’ve done this process to multiple cars (I did my most recent car yesterday).

When focusing on our finances, it’s important to make the most of your investment. An investment can mean stocks. An investment can be in the form of food – to give you energy so you can work hard. And investment can be in the form of putting money into a tangible object in order to increase its value. That’s the type of investment we’ll be working with today. We are looking at how to fix up your car so it’ll be worth more when you sell.

Before I dive in, I want to take this chance to let you know that the following process isn’t for the lazy. It takes hours and hours to do the following. So really, it’s best to not do this unless you’re willing to work. Furthermore, if you hate working on cars (or finding someone else to do it) and your time is very valuable, then it also doesn’t make much sense to follow along with this post. Your car also needs to be a bit tired. If your car is in perfect condition right now, this post will be of little help to you. For the rest of you though, I think you’ll find everything you’re about to read very handy. Let’s get going.

Assess the Car

Walk around the car with pen and paper (or your phone) and markdown everything wrong with it. Cosmetic and mechanical.

Assess Each Jobs Complexity

Some parts of your car will be really easy to fix. For instance, if you have a broken radio, it’s simply a matter of pulling the current one out and replacing it. That’s an easy job for most people, but harder jobs need to be looked at carefully. Is it really worth the effort to fix? Bigger jobs include fixing the rust, fixing headliners, repairing leaks in the engine compartment, etc. Markdown if you’ll actually want to move forward with these fixes.

It’s also important at this stage to ask yourself what the new buyer would want. Would they want the loose A/C control knob fixed or would they probably not care enough to warrant the fix? If you’re unsure, what’s best to do is ask yourself what all the new owner would be touching and looking at during the test drive. It’s smart to make sure all the ‘touchpoints’ in the car are in good order. For instance, you can wash and wax the car until your hand cramps up, but if the door handle is broken, that’s what your new buyer will notice. Touchpoints include interior and exterior door handles, steering wheel, gear shift selector, seat belt, seat, controls for all electrics.

Price the Parts

Now that you know what you’ll want to fix, see how much the parts cost. The BEST way to get your parts is by visiting a junkyard – particularly one that lets you pull the parts off the wrecked cars yourself. This is by far the cheapest way to get parts since no labor is really involved on their end. I went to a self-serve junkyard a week ago. Here are some of the prices:

  • Airbag ECU: $35 (my SRS light went off after the car had been parked for 6 months and I read online the only way to fix was getting a new ECU – it worked)
  • Wheel well splash guard: $5
  • Fog lamp and assembly: $3
  • Cruise control switch: Free (junkyards usually don’t care about small plastic things)

Get to Work for Find a Shade Tree Mechanic

I completely refurbished a car over the past two weekends. All told, it took me 16 hours. Now, if you don’t want to do this stuff yourself, find a ‘good ol’ boy’ who enjoys working on cars but doesn’t charge nearly what a professional would charge. To give you an idea of the time it takes, here’s what I did. Note that I’ve worked on these types of cars before and I’m only okay at fixing things – I definitely wouldn’t say I have a natural gift for working on cars though:

  • Replaced emergency brake handle
  • Replaced airbag ECU
  • Replaced cruise control switch
  • Replaced drivers’ side power mirror motor
  • Replaced fuel filler cap and tether
  • Replaced cup holder
  • Replaced wheel well splash guard
  • Replaced under-hood heat shield
  • Repainted fog lamp surrounds and air intake covers
  • Wet sanded headlamps
  • Replaced plastic side skirt pieces
  • Reattached license plates with new brackets
  • Ground back and fixed rust on 3 places on car
  • Used touch up paint on the 20+ rock chips around the car

How My Investments Pay Off

Everything I did to my car over the 16 hours cost less than $100, and I’ve probably brought up the value on this car by $1,000 because it’s a dang good looking car once again. I’ve rolled back the clock on its depreciation schedule.

Whenever I’ve done this to a car, it sells really well and really quickly. Cars in excellent condition sell for so much more than ones that look like they’ve seen better days.

It’s fun too because I enjoy investing. So while some may think I’m working on cars, I’m really investing. Plus, it feels good to help keep a car on the road.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Mike says:

    LOL the 5 series in the picture could probably fit in the back seat of a current 5! #sizeinflation

    Great job doing the work yourself. With a parts store and the internet, the average person can do a lot more than they realize. As an old colleague used to say – “do you think the guy at Pep Boys is more qualified than you?”

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