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Just Don't Do It: How Paying Good Money
Lowers the Value of Your Car

back to Mercedes SL500 or 190D or BMW 540i or R100S

INTRODUCTION

Collectors will pay you far above book value for your car, if it's in collectible condition.

Collectible condition means it's original and has long-term value. This has nothing to do with its value to you as transportation today.

"Book" values are for ordinary cars used for transportation. Collectors pay far above Kelly and Edmund's values.

I sold my 1988 Mercedes 190D Diesel for about five to ten times its book value precisely because it wasn't much different than a new car, even though it had 160,000 miles on it. Not only did I get a high price, I had many more people disappointed that they had missed getting it after I sold it.

The best thing you can do is leave your car alone, take it to the dealer for service, and save everything. Don't ever try to improve or modify anything, including even bad paint.

A car is only original once. Anyone can do any number of restorations. An original is always worth more than a restoration.

For transportation you may prefer some aftermarket customization, and go right ahead if you want bottom dollar for your car in 10 years. What you think makes your car stand out today will make it blend in with every other junky used car in a decade or two. A fully original car in top shape always stands out when it's exactly as it left the factory. Even an untrained eye recognizes it's originality, and having all the original parts adds to the impression of "showroom condition." I know it takes restraint to keep your hands off, especially with a performance car like a BMW, but your restraint will pay back handsomely in later years, as well as in your own appreciation.

Start swapping things out and you wind up with a car half made in China or Inglewood, CA. Leave it alone and you still have a great German car.

I cover what you should do, or upkeep, elsewhere. Here's what not to do:

Don't Drill Holes to Add Accessories

As a collector I'm not going to buy your car if I have to replace the dashboard if your stereo store installer drilled through it to install a holder for your phone.

Don't Add Aftermarket DVD Navigation Systems, Radios or MP3 Players

The people selling you your Pioneer DVD player or Alpine stereo take a lot of money from you and try to convince you you're upgrading. This may have been true in 1975, but not today. Today factory radios are the best head units you can get.

It costs an awful lot for a collector to go buy the factory's original radio, and often they are no longer available.

Worse, if you had to cut the dashboard you're screwed. No one wants a car with an abortion for a dashboard.

Remember, collectors (and most people) want a new car; not one that you're personalized for you any more than they want your graffiti on their fence.

Don't Repaint Panels to Cover Scratches

Don't touch the paint!

If a collector wants to do a restoration he's going to do it his way and doesn't want to deal with any of your attempts at repair, deep detailing or restoration.

When you pay good money to repaint even part of a car you destroy most of its value to a collector. This is because repainting is never as good as the factory's paint, and the more paint you put on a car the more work it is to do any other restoration.

Factory paint is usually a dozen layers of primers, base coats, color coats and clear coats. These are applied as electrostatic powder coats and baked at around 1,500 degrees to a rock hard finish. The factory paints your car before almost anything is attached, otherwise they couldn't bake it this hot. Electrostatic painting means the paint is vaporized around the shell of the car and attracted to your car with an electrostatic charge, allowing a wonderfully smooth and even finish. Because there's nothing but metal and paint the whole thing can be heated super hot to effect complete chemical changes to whatever is applied. Because of this factory paint is shiny everywhere without needing polishing.

Repaint, even at the finest shops, is repaint. It's simply sprayed on in a couple of coats and then not baked, but possibly heated to 350 degrees to speed curing.

Repaint can look great for several years. The problem is that it won't hold up for decades for the collector as factory paint will. As a collector I'm going to pay someone else top dollar for their original car, not you for your repaint.

Don't Chrome Your Rims

Not only does it scream "alteration," chrome peels of in a few years. If you chrome your rims at great expense to you, the collector now needs to pay $700 each to buy original rims from the manufacturer. Leave these alone!

Don't Replace Your Rims

Even worse, replace your factory rims with some off-market ones from some catalog.

You're out even more cash, and the collector has no choice but to have to go buy a new set of original rims.

Don't Add a Gold Kit

Gag. These are always in bad taste. Now the collector needs to replace everything you messed with, and the gold peels off anyway.

The real reason these always look so hideous is that no one ever does a complete job. People will gold some emblems, but skip expensive parts like the door lock cylinders, window trim or headlights. There is no "kit" for an entire car; kits just cover some easy basics and forget the other half of the car like the rims. People wind up with a car 3/4 in gold and 1/4 in chrome, and it looks like the abortion it is.

If you can do the whole car, from headlights to the entire wheels, in gold, go for it since I'd really like to see one done right. If you're only going to go 95% of the way then please don't start.

Don't Lose Your Receipts

Your car's records are a testament to it's real mileage and that you've kept it up . Save your receipts!

Don't Have Your Work Done by the Lowest Bidder

Do you think I want to buy your car after you've cheaped out by taking it to the cheapest repair place you can find and used aftermarket parts? That tells me you spent as little as possible to keep your car running with no thought to the future.

I always have my cars serviced at the dealer, so if you want a premium price for yours I'll expect you to have had it dealer serviced, too.

Don't Add Aftermarket Accessories

Sure, bolt on those foglights and neon kits. Just do it so that you can take it off when you sell.

SUMMARY

if you can resist the temptation to screw with your car and keep it original you'll have a collectible in a decade or two. This is because every other turkey with a transportation car is out "improving" it, and after 10 years the most unique and unusual car will be yours, exactly like it left the factory.

My 1988 Mercedes 190D was the bottom of the model line, not a 560 SL, and I still got top dollar for it. Most folks don't realize that collectiblity has more to do with condition than with model.

When it comes to upgrades, just don't do it.

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