Grub on the Go Hurts a Car's Resale Value

The food you eat in your car could have a damaging effect on its resale value. You should probably think twice before you chow down after a visit to a drive-through window.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Finally, many of you may be listening to our show today in your car--maybe sipping a cup of coffee, or munching on a bagel, or finishing off a sandwich, or worse, fries. Because eating in your car may save you time, but it could also cost you money. It turns out that eating and making other messes in your car's interior really can damage its value for resale. Joining us is Michelle Singletary. She writes the Color of Money column for The Washington Post. She's a regular personal finance contributor for DAY TO DAY. Michelle, welcome back, and if you had to guess, how much does it cost you to eat in your car?

MICHELLE SINGLETARY (Columnist, Washington Post): Well, I had no idea it costs as much as it did. I didn't think it mattered that much, but it certainly mattered with Kelly Blue Book. And Taco Bell, of all companies, did a survey and showed that most people don't think that the interior of the car contributes greatly to the value of your car when it comes time to resell it. And they are wrong. In fact, the interior contributes about 30 to 35 percent of the value of your car when you go to resell it.

CHADWICK: Do you let your kids eat in the car?

Ms. SINGLETARY: Oh, I sure do. Listen, I keep my car until I'm on a first name basis with the local tow truck driver. My car is just, you know, amazingly messy, I have to ashamedly say.

CHADWICK: So, what can drivers do to reverse the damage? Say you say okay, I'm going to get rid of the car and now I remember all those meals driving around town. What am I going to do to make things better?

Ms. SINGLETARY: You want to get it detailed, and that can cost you anywhere from, you know, fifty or sixty dollars for a low end, to a couple hundred dollars to get it detailed: shampooing the rugs, getting the upholstery cleaned. If you've got leather and its got cracks, you maybe want to get those fixed, because sometimes drivers look at the interior to judge the whole car. So, you could have a very, very messy interior and kept the engine up, which is what we do. We faithfully get the oil change and all, but the car inside is messy.

But he says people use that to say, well, if the car is messy inside, perhaps they didn't get the oil changed and do all the other things to maintain the engine and transmission, even if you had. So, you want to definitely go get it cleaned out, and also, if you don't want to do that, you don't want to spend the money, but you say listen, the engine is great. You may want to bring your receipts to show that you did get the oil changed regularly, that you did get, you know, regularly scheduled maintenance.

CHADWICK: You know, food is one thing, Michelle. What about pets? What about if you're carrying your dog around?

Ms. SINGLETARY: Well, if your letting Fido or Fiffy run throughout your car, and they're dropping hair and dandruff and all, that could definitely affect the value of your car, because lots of people have allergies. And, you know, they get into the car to test it and their sneezing, and that could, you know, cost you a sale. Anything that could damage the interior. So, you want to make sure you get it detailed. You want, I mean, listen. There are lots of used cars on the market right now, especially from people who were leasing.

So, you want to present your car in the best possible light, so that you can get the most amount of money for it. And again, don't think just because you got a great engine and the outside looks good and the inside is kind of damaged, that that's not going to affect the value of your car, because it will.

CHADWICK: Michelle Singletary, our regular guest on matters of personal finance, and now autos, too. Her latest book is Your Money and Your Man, How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich. Michelle, thank you again.

Ms. SINGLETARY: You're so welcome.

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