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Trading in or selling your truck? Make sure it’s clean, and the maintenance is up to date because the difference between a clean trade-in or sales price and a rough trade-in price for your truck could make a huge difference. When you’re going to trade in your truck, the dealer doesn’t just look at the odometer. Instead, they look at dings, dents, stains, and maintenance history. But there are ways to improve your truck’s resale value.

Dealers also look to see if you’ve done tacky things to your truck. Stupid decals? That’ll cost you. Huge cheap rims? That’ll cost you. Stick-on chrome and bald tires? That’ll cost you. Instead, improve your truck’s value by cleaning it, fixing it, and maintaining it from the day you buy it.

What’s the difference between “rough” and “clean” at trade-in?

A lot packed with rental cars | Robert Gauthier, Getty Images

When you take your truck to a dealer to trade it in, they’ll assess what it takes to make it saleable on the lot. Nobody wants to but a truck that looks like it’s lived a hard life. Generally, a “clean” trade-in is a truck that doesn’t need anything. An “average” trade-in will probably need a few things, like tires, a good detailing, and maybe a scratch fix or two. A “rough” trade-in will need a lot, like upholstery repair and some bodywork, to get it ready.

A “clean” truck will command top dollar. An “average” truck will take about 20% off the value of a clean truck. A “rough” trade-in could take a lot off the offer a dealer will make you.

It can be cheaper for you to fix this stuff to improve your truck’s resale value yourself than for you to take the hit when you go to trade it in.

Keep it clean to increase your truck’s resale value

Man giving a spring wash to his Porsche 911 GT3RS with a pressure washer and wash bucket
Man washing a Porsche | Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

Instead of heading down to Pep Boys and buying all the air fresheners and a set of tacky seat covers, head to the aisle with the cleaning supplies. Then use them. When you trade in a truck, one of the first things the dealer will do is detail your truck. If you can take the time to clean it yourself, you’ll save. But it also makes an impression if you show up with a clean truck. You don’t want to buy a dirty truck, and neither does the dealer.

One of the hardest things for a dealer to clean, however, is a smelly truck. Smoking in your vehicle is a sure way to reduce the trade-in price, and destroy your resale value.

Fix the scratches, dents, and dings

someone scratching a car's paint with a screw driver
A man scratches car paint with a screw driver | Angelika Warmuth/picture alliance via Getty Images

It happens. We know, you bumped that tree or accidentally scaped a door with a golf club. Those little dents and dings make a truck look tired and old. With many scratches, though, you can rub them out with many kinds of polishes. It’s easy if you take the time to go through the steps to fix a scratch. Your dealer will also likely sell color-match paint that comes in a little tube and go on like a pen to fix a scratch.

Local body shops can easily remove small dents. Dent-removal services are an inexpensive way to make a car or truck look like new. Big dents can be costly to repair, but it may be worth your time if you’re trading in your truck.

Fix the mechanical stuff

Braden Carlson of Motorbiscuit pouring UV leak detecting oil dye into his Volvo 740 SE station wagon
Pouring UV Oil Dye into engine | Braden Carlson, Motorbiscuit

Trucks can lead a hard life. A trained eye can spot problems, and a trained ear can hear engine problems. A sign of over-towing, or that a truck has lead a long life, is a leaky rear differential. It’s easy to spot oil seeping out of the “pumpkin” in the back end. We’re not suggesting that you get a mechanic to certify your truck is in good shape, but if you have engine lights on, weird squeaks, rattles, or other scary sounds, get them addressed.

Keep (or buy) good records

Questions about car maintenance
A man changing the oil on a vehicle at Jiffy Lube | Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When you do fix stuff, or even just maintain it, keep a record. The next owner will feel better knowing that the truck has had some love along the way.

At collector car auctions, the cars that get the most are those that are sold with binders full of records. But you don’t have to go to those lengths. Buy a CarFax report or a similar report to improve your truck’s reesale value. Dealers and mechanics enter your vehicle into a database and mark what they’ve fixed. Companies like CarFax get those reports and compile them. It’s a nice way to show that your truck has been maintained.

Ditch the old floor mats

A 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer interior
Grand Wagoneer interior | Bring a Trailer

After years of use, or abuse, your truck’s floormats are likely covered in grime and gunk. Worse, they can have holes or stains that will detract. You’d be amazed at how much better your interior will look with some new carpets.

The same goes for all of the other stuff that could need replacing, like a windshield, foggy headlamp covers, and more.


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