Car Care

How to Make an Old Car Look New [Quick & Easy]

Many people desire to improve the value of their car after years of use have taken their toll. And while it may seem like a daunting task to enhance or improve your car’s value after it’s had some miles on it, there are actually many affordable changes that can make the car look new. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons that improving a car’s value may be beneficial to car owners, as well as the best ways to affordably do so.  

Best Ways to Restore and Make Your Car Look Newer

There are a plethora of ways to make an old car look new. Namely, cleaning, repairing, and replacing are the go-to methods. But among these methods, there are a lot of small and relatively inexpensive things you can do to turn a clunker into a decently cared-for automobile. 

1. Replace the Windshield Wipers

This one is pretty simple and it actually won’t require a very big investment. Replacing windshield wipers improves both the appearance of the car and the functionality when driving in wet conditions. 

If your goal is to prepare your car for resale or to trade it in, this could increase the car’s value by a small amount. Windshield wiper replacement costs around $80 on average for parts and installation.

But if you want to save a little money, note that you don’t need much car knowledge or repair knowledge to do it yourself at home for a bit cheaper. 

2. Clean the Exterior

There are a couple of routes you can go to clean your car’s exterior. It’s basically free to do at home. You can simply use soap and a water hose, but a really clean finish requires buying some wax, polish, and a few other materials. 

However, if you want a full exterior detailing, including washing, degreasing, polishing, waxing, vacuuming, and restoring the exterior parts of the car, you may be better off paying someone to do so.  

A full detailing typically costs at least $100, but it could be more depending on what the package includes.

Detailing covers trim cleaning on your wheels, tire cleaning, window and mirror washing, and more. Some exterior work even includes repairing the car’s paint with some kind of finish, which can increase the price you end up paying. 

Overall, though, a solid exterior cleaning is worth it in the long run because people do judge a car by its cover (the outside) in most cases. When people see a shiny, clean car with shiny, clean wheels and trim, they are more likely to see value and potential in it. 

3.Clean the Interior

Depending on what type of interior your car has, the inside job may vary. It starts with cleaning out all the junk (trash, old receipts, gum wrappers, etc.), and ends with cleaning products and final touches.

You don’t want the inside of your car to look like your temporary home when your aim is to increase its value. Instead, it should only contain the essentials for driving. 

At the very least, you should know whether your car has a leather or fabric interior for the seats and seat backs. In any event, you’ll want to start with a good vacuum to remove all the dirt and crumbs that get stuck in hard to reach places. 

For leather interiors, you’ll want a decent leather cleaner and gentle fabric cloth to clean it with. These typically only cost around $15, and with a proper cleaning, you can make the material look and smell like new again. 

But if you have a fabric interior, just stick to the vacuuming in order to keep the seats clean. Further, a good inside job includes cleaning up the floors, where dirt always seems to collect, and cleaning or replacing floor mats.

If you want to save money, empty them of dirt outside your car and hose them off with some soap, then let dry. However, if you want an affordable upgrade, you can get most new rubber floor mats for only $25 on average. 

And when it comes to cleaning the inside windows, make sure you choose a glass cleaner specifically for cars, so that you don’t damage the windows or end up with streaking or smudges left behind. 

4.Fix Dents and Scratches within Reason

If you think it’s not worth it to pay for dents and scratches to be buffed out, think again. While these minor repairs can be costly, they make a big difference in your car’s value, and they definitely bring the car closer to looking new again. 

To remove a dent that hasn’t compromised the surrounding paint, you can expect to pay about $50-$120 per inch that is affected. And for most car scratches, you can expect to pay according to how deep the scratch penetrates.

For example, a surface scratch will cost significantly less to repair than a scratch that has run deep beneath the paint. The former usually costs around $150 (on the low end of costs), and the latter typically costs up to $2,500 or more. 

Note, however, that in some cases you can attempt to repair a scratch on your own for an affordable cost. First, gently wash the scratch to see if what remains includes exposed metal.

If not, you are usually safe to make the repair yourself with a store-bought scratch removal kit. These typically cost around $20, which is quite a steal in comparison to what you could be paying at an auto body shop for a very minor scuff or scratch. 

5.Make Minor Repairs and Replacements

In addition to repairing the facade of your car to enhance its value and appearance, you can also make small replacements and repairs of the following car parts:

  • Tail lights – These typically only cost about $20 to replace, but a body shop may charge you hundreds of dollars to do so. Do it yourself with a proper tutorial, and you could save a lot of money to make them look new. 
  • Headlights – These typically cost about $80 to replace, but to get a professional to do so could cost about $125 total. It’s a decent chunk of change, but could be worth it to make your car look shiny and new again. 
  • New battery – A new battery is a good upgrade if you want to sell or trade in your car, and most batteries only cost a few hundred dollars at most. 
  • New air filters – New air filters are relatively inexpensive, costing around $50-$60 on average for parts and installation combined. 

6.Add Small Touches

You might not think that the little things would make a car look new or enhanced in its value, but little spruce-ups can go a long way. This is especially true if your main goal is to just upgrade the car you currently have without buying a new one. 

Some things you can do to enhance your car in small and affordable ways include:

  • Add some nice air fresheners in the vents or on the inside rear-view mirror
  • Pay to get your GPS software updated (if it’s included in your vehicle already)
  • Buy an XM or Sirius radio subscription for the car
  • Add a first aid kit and emergency kit
  • Add an in-car trash receptacle so you always remove the trash from your car
  • Organize the glove compartment and stock it with on-the-road essentials like disposable cutlery, napkins, sunscreen, etc. 

7.Get the Oil Changed

Getting your oil changed typically takes only 10-20 minutes tops when you take it to most auto shops. There are even shops that specialize in oil changes, and they offer pretty good deals to do so (around $60-$80). 

Every car should get regular oil changes (every 5,000 miles or so), but if you’re about to sell your car or increase its value for a trade-in, then you definitely want to get the oil changed. It’s that extra step that makes a world of difference in the car’s functionality. 

8.Replace the Tires and/or Breaks

If your goal in sprucing up your car is to sell it or trade it in, then you should get an inspection and see if it’s worth it to replace the tires and/or the breaks.

Tires typically cost $100-$200 each, and brake pads themselves are pretty affordable (but the cost of installation and replacement is pricey, close to $1,000 in some cases). 

While these may seem like big investments to make an old car look new, a potential buyer will see immense value in a used car that has brand new brakes and tires. These features make a car ready for the road, in whatever conditions you may face, which is pretty enticing to buyers. 

9.Break Bad Habits

Are you used to eating and drinking in your car whenever you please? Do you normally leave messes behind and tell yourself you’ll get to them later… but then rarely ever do?

Most car owners fall into bad habits of leaving cars dirty, messy, and unmaintained as time goes on. It’s very easy to get lazy since our car is typically what we exit at the end of our day when we’re most tired. 

The same goes for car maintenance habits. Do you tend to wait until your car has surpassed the necessary mileage to get an oil change? Do you ride on brakes that need replacing or forget to get your tires rotated regularly? These things may seem minor but can actually take a big toll on a car’s lifespan over time. 

So, if you really want to improve your car’s value, then it’s better to start breaking these bad habits so you can begin to take proper care of your car. It will have a much longer shelf life if you thwart these habits as early as possible. 

Why Should You Make Your Car Look New?

You Can Up the Value

Whether your aim is to resell your car or trade it in for one of similar or slightly greater value, improving its features can increase its value. 

According to a CNN report by Peter Valdes-Dapena, car care experts say that with proper repairs/cleaning to a car, you can increase its value by up to $2,000 for private resale. Further, you might even be able to increase its value by a few hundred dollars just by getting it fully and properly cleaned. 

This may not seem like a lot of money, but when you consider the fact that most simple repairs and cleaning efforts (waxing, detailing, new windshield wipers, replaced lights) only cost between $20 and a few hundred dollars, the increase in value becomes worth the hassle. 

It’s an Affordable Alternative to Buying a New Car

On the other hand, one beneficial reason you might want to make your old car look new is that in some cases, it’s affordable compared to buying a new car. Most cars that aren’t too old can be affordably repaired to the point where it feels like a small upgrade. 

You have to make your decision carefully, though, since some cars start to quickly cost a lot of money for repairs. And at a certain point, it can actually be cheaper to buy a new car or trade in for one than it is to keep repairing your old car. 

Third Reason

One other less common reason to work on improving your car’s value is that it helps your collateral. If you’ve ever taken out a loan or line of credit and needed high-value possessions to use as collateral, then you’ll understand why this matters. 

By making small repairs and improving the value of an old car, you create a possession of higher value that you can use as collateral for future or current lines of credit.

This is fully to your advantage financially, although you should be careful about how much you spend to improve your car’s value.

Conclusion

Sprucing up your old car doesn’t have to be incredibly expensive, and doing so can increase its value to make it ready for resale or a trade-in. Whatever your reasons may be (maybe you want to make your minivan look cooler?), consider the above mentioned methods of making an old car look new. They may just increase your car’s value by a few hundred or thousand bucks!

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