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Should I spend money fixing up my trade-in?

By Tim Robson, 12 Feb 2020 Car Advice

New car dealership

Katie wants to trade in her Mazda 3 but wonders if she should fix it up before trading it in

Hi WhichCar,

I’m finally in a position to buy myself a new car this year, but I will need a bit of assistance from my old car at trade-in time to get it over the line.

It’s a Mazda 3 from 2013, and I’ve looked after it pretty well, with all services done through my dealer. However, there are a few items which will need attention.

Which leads me to my question. How much is too much when it comes to spending money on fixing up a car you’re only trading in?

If I leave a few things, like a slightly chipped windscreen and tyres that are a bit worn, will I still get a good trade-in price? Does cleaning your car increase trade-in value? I really just want to get the most money for my trade-in.

Thanks for any advice you can offer. Really love the website and the TV show!


Balmoral, NSW


Hey Katie,

We’ve reached out to our secret dealer – no, not that kind of dealer! Mr X is a former new and used car salesperson who has given us great advice before, so I thought I’d get his opinion here./Tim

The best advice is to look after your car. Keep it clean (inside too) and regularly serviced. The money spent in these areas will mean you can actually get top dollar when you trade it in.

It's a spend versus reward situation. Give it a clean, sure, but don't pay for it to be done.

If the tyres are legal, go with it. Dealers will calculate tyres in the appraisal and most likely be able to buy a new set for less than what the average punter could.

MORE: Should you get your car serviced at a car dealership?

The only exception is if the tyres show obvious signs of… let’s just say spirited driving, like feathered edges and the like. Change at minimum cost.


Headlining, for example – the fabric that lines the roof of your car and which can sometimes droop - is a relatively cheap fix and makes a huge difference.

Chipped windscreen? I'd treat that the same as tyres. Insurance policies can be a free or cheap way to repair or replace a windscreen.

MORE Ten questions you need to ask a car dealer

These things will be less important as the odometer gets higher. Engine and driveline should be the focus to really get the most back at trade-in time. A basic service could be the best couple of hundred bucks you could spend.

Oil Change 101

Depending on the age of the car, a timing belt replacement could pay off and actually mean you'll get to sell it, and not have to give it away.

If it were me, I'd always sell a car 10,000km before a belt change is due, or alternatively use all of those kilometres and use the lure of a new timing belt as peace of mind to a dealer or prospective buyer.