1. Buy a car that will hold its value. Resale value is based on many factors, including desireability and reliability. Some makes, such as Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and Lexus, always hold their value well. Use a good used car pricing site, such as Kelley Blue Book or NADA, to research the resale history of models in which you are interested. Some options, such as air conditioning or a sunroof, will improve your car's resale value; consider buying them even if they aren't on your personal must-have list.
2. Follow the maintenance schedule and keep all receipts. You'll find the maintenance schedule in the back of the owner's manual. Keep receipts for all maintenance and repair work, no matter how minor. A stack of receipts underscores the fact that your car has been well taken care of. Savvy used car buyers will be willing to pay extra for a car with a fully documented service history.
3. Don't crash. Any history of collision damage can ding your car's resale value, and a trained used car appraiser can spot body work from a mile away. If your car is in a collision, use an experienced repair shop with a good reputation and insist on using factory (also known as OEM, for Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts. Save all receipts and be up front and honest about any collision repair work when it comes time to sell or trade. Being evasive about collision repair may lead the buyer to believe that the damage was more extensive than you are letting on.
4. Resist the urge to customize. Spending money on your car can actually decrease its value. If you do have your car customized, stick to non-intrusive upgrades such as new wheels or an upgraded stereo that won't require extensive re-wiring or cutting up the dashboard. Save the old parts so you have the option of returning your car to its original condition before selling.
5. Keep it clean. The better your car appears to be kept up, the more it will be worth, and most people associate cleanliness with care. Washing and waxing your car on a regular basis is a much easier way to keep it looking good than paying for an expensive detail job when the time comes to sell.