What features enhance car resale value?

Q: I’m about to purchase a new car, and the dealer has offered me a number of optional extras. What special features are the most likely to enhance the car’s resale value?

A: Although flaming decals and a hot pink custom interior may appeal to some, sticking with the most popular add-ons will result in a higher resale value. Here are some tips on what will bring the most return at trade-in time:

  • Color: While seemingly boring, black, white and silver are the top choices for most car buyers. Purple, yellow and orange are mostly turnoffs, although on specialty models, such as the Volkswagen Beetle, they may not affect resale value. Remember to think regionally. Black cars are more difficult to sell in hot climates than less heat-absorbing white vehicles.
  • Power: Cranking up windows and reaching across to push down locks no longer has appeal, even for the small car buyer. Power windows can add around $125 to $300 to the value of a subcompact car; power locks may add another $200.
  • CD/DVD systems: Along with CD players, rear seat DVD systems to help keep the kids entertained are among the hotter optional items these days. On average, a vehicle with a video/DVD system is worth about $500 more at resale than one without. A multi-disc CD player fetches between $300 and $500 more, depending on the size of the car.
  • Sunroof/moonroof: A window on the sky is also in demand. Power sunroofs and moonroofs are popular new vehicle options. Sliding ones add $200 to $600 to the resale value, more than the ones that just tilt up.
  • Premium wheels: Premium alloy or aluminum wheels are in favor with used car buyers. A nice set of wheels adds from $150 to $600 to resale value.
  • Navigation systems: These systems can be useful to guide you around the country and back and can even unlock your door. But you are unlikely to recoup the full $1,000 to $10,000 cost in the resale car market.
  • Other extras: A leather interior can add $500 to $600 to your car’s resale value. Cruise control is also a desirable feature, along with factory equipment such as a semi-manual gear transmission, a sports performance package, air suspension and all-wheel drive. Rear defoggers, tilt steering wheels and power locks raise resale value more in trucks than in cars. Hybrid vehicles (which run partially on battery power) are also doing well in holding their value.
  • Must haves: Certain options are becoming standard, so doing without them may detract from your car’s resale value. No air conditioning, for example, can reduce the price of a used car by $400 to $800. A vehicle without an automatic transmission could fetch $450 to $1,000 less, depending on the model.
  • Final tips: Before trading in your car, consider removing and keeping expensive after-market add-ons, such as a high-end stereo system. These items might not add much to resale value, and you can replace them with the original factory equipment. Also, remember what adds most to value is low mileage and a clean, well-kept vehicle.
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