April is car-care month!

Are you planning on keeping your car a long time? Or are you thinking you might trade it soon – maybe within the next six to 12 months?

Whether prolonging the life of your vehicle or protecting its value to ensure you get the best possible offer when it comes time to sell or trade, taking good care of your vehicle just makes sense. Dollars and cents.

Of course, regular systems maintenance is a key component of car care. Your best bet in keeping all the moving parts in top condition is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, located in the owner’s manual.

But did you know that protecting and cleaning your vehicle’s interior and exterior can impact the lifetime and value of your vehicle as well?

I can attest to this first-hand. The second vehicle I ever owned (and my favorite, I might add), was going strong at 160,000+ miles. She was awesome – original clutch and everything. I loved her, but I didn’t treat her very well when it came to keeping her clean.

One day, when I took her in for service, my mechanic pulled up the back floor mat to reveal rusted-out floor boards. The winter road treatment that I seldom bothered to wash away had eaten away at her to the point that, if I had a back-seat passenger, it’s likely they would have put their foot straight through to the ground.

Needless to say, I purchased a different vehicle that weekend.

I guess I learned my lesson because, a couple of years ago, it came time to sell my SUV. She’d been good to me over the years, but we just didn’t need her anymore. And since we weren’t buying or leasing anything to replace her, we decided to run an ad and sell her ourselves.

The gentleman who purchased her from us was very excited about how clean she was inside and out. He had test driven another one the previous day that was “filthy” (his description, not mine). The other owner had close to the same asking price, but had fewer miles on his otherwise nearly identical SUV.

Because my vehicle was spotless, inside and out (not an easy feat, given my dog was a frequent passenger), the buyer gladly paid my asking price and we both drove away feeling as if we got a good deal.

I will admit, going to the car wash is still not my favorite thing to do. But for five to 10 minutes of my time, I know I’ll get a long-term return. So I do it.

Unless, of course, my husband volunteers.