How to upgrade your car – without buying a new one

We’ve all heard of improving rather than moving homes. And with cars you can do the automotive equivalent. Rather than going through all the aggravation of selling your car for another model, why not simply upgrade your car by making the motor you already own better?

Of course, what ‘better’ is really depends on who you are. For some people it might mean making it look as smart as the day it first left the showroom. Others might want to increase its value. Yet more may want to make it more functional. Our suggestions will help you do all these.

Upgrade your car: get a SMART repair done

How much you spend having a car fixed is up to you. But a lot of garages now do SMART repairs (it stands for Small and Medium Area Repair Techniques). This is a clever way of fixing small dents and dings without your car needing a full-on respray. There are several reasons for doing this. Your car will instantly look a lot less tatty round the edges. You won’t have a constant reminder of the sickening moment you crunched into that concrete bollard. And it could increase your car’s value. Philip Nothard from used car valuation service CAP Automotive said: “I think more often than not SMART repairs will pay for themselves.”

Find all the kit that came with it

We all lead hectic lives and that means sometimes things go missing. Whether we’re talking the luggage cover, tool kit, spare wheel, user manual or even the spare key, all areimportant parts of your car. If they’re currently propping up the corner of your garage, re-unite them with your car. They’ll probably make your life easier while you own the car. And if you ever sell it on, Rupert Pontin from car valuation service Glass’s says they’ll add to its value. It’s a win-win.

Sort out the paperwork

Every car has a paper trail of history. Servicing, manufacturer recall work and repairs all generate receipts and descriptions of the work carried out. And having this paper trail ‑ sometimes called a service history ‑ will not only make a car easier to sell, it’ll also increase its value, possibly by as much as a quarter. If you bought your car second hand, it may not have had any service history with it. But that doesn’t mean the service history doesn’t exist. Go to the DVSA website and you’ll find how the car fared in recent MOTs. You can also use the V5C registration document to track down previous owners. You could contact them and ask if they can fill in any of the missing gaps.

Invest in some extras

We’re not talking about some tacky big wheels and go-faster stripes here. We mean tasteful extras, bought from the manufacturer. You could get rid of the tatty aftermarket car mats and replace them with smart manufacturer examples. Or what about upgrading from steel to alloy wheels? Or perhaps getting an aftermarket sat nav with a holder you can have wired in. All these will make your car look better and could make it more functional. What’s more, if you do it right and buy manufacturer equipment it could add to its value as well. Just make sure you tell your insurer that your car’s no longer standard.

Clean your car for that new-car feel

Clean your car for that new-car feel

Washing your car won’t just make it look its best, it’ll also help it to maintain its value. It’s perfectly logical. If there are two cars that are identical in age and specification, one has been looked after, the other hasn’t, the former is going to be worth more money. And it’ll definitely be more enjoyable to spend time in. And that applies just as much if it’s cleaned inside as out. According to car valuation services, a clean car can be worth as much as 10 per cent more than a dirty one. And of course it’ll make you feel better about driving it. And you can’t really put a price on that.

James Foxall

James is an award-winning motoring journalist with more than 20 years’ experience on national publications. He writes a popular consumer column for the Daily Telegraph Motoring section and contributes features to MSN Cars. James was motoring editor for the News of the World for seven years and has held senior editorial staff roles on Auto Express, Autosport and AutoClassic magazines.