Should You Fix Or Repair Your Car Before Trading It In? (Full Analysis)

You got a car on your hands that you need to somehow get rid of, right? I’ve been there multiple times and had experiences where my car needed severe repairs before I traded it in. And I was then asking myself the age-old question, should I fix and repair my car before trading it in or not? So here is what I and many others in a situation like this have learned. 

I will describe this entire experience based on my E90 BMW 328i, which needed new fuel injectors. The old fuel injectors were causing the engine to startup roughly, and these engines were known to have fuel injector problems. And because 6 new fuel injectors are not precisely cheap, 1700$, I was surely wondering what in the world I should do.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of repairing your car vs. not fixing it before trading it in.

Trading in the car vs selling it privately.

I want to first break down how my situation changed when I first wanted to trade in my car at a dealership vs when I later sold it privately. 

Trading the car in a dealership

The dealership offered to purchase the car for 5500$ without me replacing the fuel injectors. I then asked them what they would be prepared to pay me if I took care of the fuel injectors. Their answer was loud and clear: “6000$ and not a penny more”. My car was otherwise in perfect condition, with no dents, significant scratches or anything. The only thing wrong with it was the faulty fuel injectors.

Immediately, you can see that financially that makes zero sense. If I decided to repair the car, It would cost me at least 1700$ with OEM’s new spare parts and labour at my independent BMW mechanic. Even if I tried to install poorly refurbished BMW piezo fuel injectors, I would not be able to make a profit for the additional 500$ that the dealership offered me. In that sense, It made absolutely no sense for me to repair my car.

On the other side, the low to mid-market value for my car at the time was 8000-9000$. This was a realistic price range at which a well-maintained, fully operating E90 would sell for. In addition, the dealership was planning on maybe replacing the fuel injectors with used ones that would at least temporarily fix the lousy start of the engine, and they would gladly sell the car with 2000-3000$ profit.

I hated the idea of giving them a chance at an easy flip. So I didn’t.

Selling the car privately.

In another scenario, I was constantly being offered 5000-6000$ for the car as it was, with a faulty engine. Some buyers were car dealers in disguise; others were mainly DIY mechanics who saw the car as an excellent chance to get a well-equipped E90 with a relatively easily fixable engine.

I then decided to fix the car on my own. I spent a total of 1400$ on original parts and labour, but in return, I raised the value of my car by at least 2000$. So I thought, and I was right. I then sold the car for 8800$. 

Fixing the car did take some of my time, but it turned out to be incredibly beneficial. My time was well worth it as I profited around almost 1000$ compared to selling the un-repaired car to the dealership. You can benefit even more if you are good with words and know how to find discounted car parts. I simply did not have the time to source the parts with a more significant discount, but still, I managed to profit from the fact that I have sold a fully functioning BMW.

Pros And Cons Of Repairing Vs. Not Repairing Your Car Before A Sale

Here is my take on the pros and cons of repairing vs not repairing your car before deciding to sell it. Your situation might be different from mine because it all varies based on the number of things that need repairs on a vehicle and how honest you decide to be when selling the car. I am always 100% genuine because I want others to be the same. 

Pros of repairing your car before selling it

  • You feel good knowing you took good care of your car and left your hands in perfect condition. This is very important to me!
  • If you sell the car privately, you will, with no doubt in mind, get more $ for the vehicle.
  • You will sell the car quicker and easier. Few people want to touch a car with too many problems or a single big problem. Sometimes, you just have to fix it to get rid of it or continue driving it.
  • If you sell multiple cars in a few years, local buyers become aware that you sell well-maintained vehicles, which helps out your car addiction.

Pros of not repairing your car before selling it

  • You don’t have to lose time and money by bothering with repairs that could be more extensive than you first imagined. Let the dealership or a private buyer who is aware of the potential problems deal with it.
  • Based on the point above, it might be more profitable deciding not to repair the car.
  • You sell the car quickly when trading it in. The sale is almost instantaneous when you trade your old car for a new one at a dealership.

Cons of repairing your car before you sell it

  • You might end up with a loss in the end. Make sure you make a good evaluation of the financial side of the repairs. Remember that repairs might be much more expensive than you first anticipated.
  • Fixing your car before a sale can also be extremely time-consuming and stressful. How much do you value your time in comparison to money? If there is a chance for measly profits, you might be better off using your time doing something more productive. Sell the unrepaired car to the dealership and be done with it.

Cons of not repairing your car before you sell it

  • Unless you know what the problem is, repairs for particular issues can sometimes turn out cheap. If you just decide to sell or trade in a slightly malfunctioning car, you can lose out on some big profits.

Conclusion

Ultimately, it all comes down to how financially viable your decision is. If you are asking yourself, should you repair the AC before selling the car, should you repaint the car and fix all the dents, should you replace your brakes, should you replace your tires before selling the car? All of these questions have the same answer. You should do it if the costs of doing so are lower than the increase in value after the repairs. What I find funny about this topic is that by doing a search for this dilemma on Google, all you find is a bunch of dealership websites that all claim that cars absolutely need to be in perfect condition before you trade your car in. I mean, of course, they would say that they love nothing more than getting perfect cars traded in and selling them for an easy profit.

Why would you fix your car’s AC and pay 500$ for repairs when a dealership only gives you 300$ more for the vehicle. It makes zero sense. That is why the answer to all the questions above lies within a thorough financial analysis. Before you repair or decide not to repair your car before selling it, make sure you analyze both costs of repairs and the benefits of repairs. Be precise and take the time to do it!

Always be honest about the condition of the car

We want to end this article with an important disclaimer. If you know something is wrong with the car, especially regarding safety-related matters, make sure you are always honest about the state of the vehicle. For example, if you try and hide that the brakes on your car are due for a replacement, you can get into legal trouble if the buyer of the vehicle gets in an accident. Honesty is always the best policy. When it comes to cars, it should also be the only policy. Good luck!