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Will modifying your car affect the resale value? We look at 7 popular trade-in myths

almost 5 years ago JS Lim





This article is for general informational purposes only and is not meant to be used or construed as legal advice in any manner whatsoever. All articles have been scrutinized by a practicing lawyer to ensure accuracy.



Ever heard a myth or two about selling used cars in Malaysia?

“Repair and polish your car first to get a better price”

“Cars with Wilayah plates sell for more”

“Bring your car directly to a dealer for a better deal”, and so forth...

But how true are these claims actually? What if you took the time and trouble and then got the same price as your friend who didn’t do any of these?

We asked you to send us any myths about selling cars that you’ve heard of, and we selected 7 of the most interesting myths (we’ll be in contact with you submitters soon!). To find the answers, we approached someone with a lot of first hand experience on second hand cars - Carsome MY (who have also sponsored this article).


Carsome makes it easy to sell your car!

Most of us aren’t car experts, so when we want to sell a car, we go to a few dealers to get a comparison - just to see if we can get a better price or second opinion (or third, or fourth..). This usually takes an entire day (or even longer), and it’s exhausting!

Carsome can cut all that out for you.

You can rest assured that you’re being offered a fair price because they offer you two ways to sell your car:

  1. Sell your car to them on the spot

  2. Put your car up for bidding to get the best price possible

Did we mention that they also get all the paperwork settled for you? You can check their FAQ if you’d like the details on how they work, but it can be as simple as dropping by their shop, and then walking away with the money. All you have to do is book an appointment and go to one of their centres for a free inspection.

So back to the topic at hand, let’s look at some widely believed car selling myths with the inspectors at Carsome to see if they are actually true.


1) Japanese cars retain value better than other cars - TRUE

You’ve probably heard this so often that it’s one of the reasons you own or considered buying a Toyota or Honda. If you bought a Japanese car with the view of selling it at a good price later, you’re in luck - this myth holds true!

“Japanese cars are one of the top automotives in the world in terms of technology. And Malaysia has a good supply of spare parts for Japanese cars too.” - Carsome MY

Image from Car Brand Names

Okay, Japanese cars get better value as second hand cars in Malaysia - good of a deal do you get? We asked Carsome for a rough price comparison and here’s what they said:

“For example, a BMW 3 series car will devalue much more after 5 years: RM259k brand new, RM95k after 5 years - a depreciation of 63%. A Toyota Vios devalues much slower: RM80k brand new, and RM50k after 5 years - depreciating only 37.5%.”

But aha, is there a difference between a 9 year old Toyota and a 10 year old one, since they hold their value so well? Actually...


2) There’s a big difference between the value of a 9 and 10 year old car - TRUE

You’d think that cars drop in value by roughly the same amount each year, but nope! Apparently, a car’s value tends to drop by A LOT once it reaches 10 years of age. The reason is not really anything to do with the physical condition of the car, but is more to do with getting a loan for it.

“Yes, cars 10 years or older are much harder to get loans for, and the interest rates are normally higher – that’s why used car dealers tend to offer lower amounts for these cars.” – Frankie, Head of Inspectors at Carsome MY

As an example, these are the MyVi EZI’s estimated prices for different years of manufacture (at time of writing):

2010 MyVi EZI (8 years old) - RM 18,000

2009 MyVi EZI (9 years old) - RM 16,000

2008 MyVi EZI (10 years old) - RM 12,000

Image from paultan

In essence, it’s a lot harder to sell cars above 10 years old because few buyers can get a loan for them, so they go for a much lower price.


3) Modifications and accessories can affect the value of your car - TRUE

The best part about owning your own car for some people is the ability to modify it to your personal tastes and style. Be it sports rims, flashy decals, or even eyelashes for your precious ride, expressing a part of yourself on something you drive everyday can feel really good.

Image from Amazon

Except, your mods and decorations might not be appreciated by the next buyer, which can mean a reduction in your selling price.

“They’re bad as car dealers may not like non-original parts, and it’s harder for dealers to find buyers who will appreciate the same modifications. Depending on the brands of accessories, you may get a slightly higher price if you’re using premium brands, otherwise it has no effect on the car price.” – Frankie, Head of Inspectors at Carsome MY

This means that if your sports rims really suit your car and make it look that much more appealing, you could actually get a better price for your car (it doesn’t matter if the rims were original). Looks like mods don’t really have a consistent effect on the price, so you’ll have to get your car valued to find out exactly.

Now we come to an interesting part of this myth - what if your car has illegal modifications like over-tinted windows and retrofitted HID lights? Well, we found out that illegal mods don’t affect the price because they will be removed by the car dealer. That being said, it’s obvious but worth noting that this won’t keep you out of trouble for the illegal mods while you’re still using the car!


4) Keeping the plastic wraps on the interior parts gets you a better price - FALSE

We weren’t sure how many people have heard of this one, but we could kinda imagine the logic behind the myth: if you don’t take the plastic wraps off the seatbelts and the sleek dashboard, you get a “brand new” feeling, and it sort of implies you’ve not really used those parts - good for the next owner, right?

Like that…?

Well… We asked Carsome and they said

“No, it doesn’t affect the price.”

Okay… We dug a little deeper and found out that a damaged interior will affect the resale value, and this goes as far as scratches. So while you won’t get a bonus for keeping the plastic wraps on, you might as well leave them on if it helps you take care of your car’s interior.

The interior is usually not too difficult to take care of unless you’ve spilled things like hot drinks in there, but the effect on your car’s value can be pretty big when it comes to the more serious type of damage - accidents.


5) Cars that have been in bad accidents fetch a lower price, even after repairs and part replacements - TRUE

If you’re unfortunate enough to get into a car accident, it’s bad enough that you have to get the car repaired, and might even need to foot a medical bill - you still have to face a possible decrease in the resale value of your car.

For any accident at all, your car gets devalued for the damage done. But hey, a scratch on the paintjob won’t devalue your car that much. If you can get it patched up nicely, it might not even count.

But on the flipside of things, particularly bad accidents will cost your car value permanently, even after you’ve done repairs and replacements. But what makes an accident “bad”? The inspectors at Carsome had a pretty specific criteria for that:

“ ‘Bad’ is when you damage the chassis structure of your car, or anything that dents the front as deep as your front tyres.” – Frankie, Head of Inspectors at Carsome MY

For the car dummies like this writer, the chassis structure is the bare skeleton of the car that everything else is attached to, like the picture below.

Image from clevelandpap

So an accident that breaks your headlights won’t cost you as much as damaging the chassis. Think of it as comparing a cut on your arm to breaking your backbone.

As for what is a dent “as deep as your front tyres”, imagine getting your car hit directly on the front. A bad dent crushes the front until it is level with your front tyres - like that:

Unedited Image from paultan

In a sense, you could summarize it like this: as long as the parts which are important to the core function of your car (ie. to safely move from one point to another) got damaged, it’s considered a bad accident.


6) License plates with “unlucky” numbers fetch a lower price – TRUE

If you’re the superstitious sort, you know that certain numbers are taboo while others are going to bring you good luck and bless you forever.

Image from joannpittman

There are those plates with numbers that sound ominous especially in Chinese dialects. There’s the license plates with the number 4, which sounds like “death” in Cantonese and Hokkien, so Chinese Malaysians tend to stay far away from them. Then there are also the oddly specific combinations like “5354”, which actually sounds similar to “neither dead nor alive” in Cantonese.

On the flip side, the number 3 is considered lucky because it sounds like “life” in Cantonese, and the number 8 sounds like “prosperity” in Cantonese as well – both of them sure feel better than having four “death”s on your license plate following you everywhere you go.

In the end, do these numbers really affect the number the dealer will quote you?


According to Carsome’s inspectors, the number usually doesn’t matter for lower value cars, but it does make a difference for higher value cars if the license plate is not attractive. On the other hand, a nice license plate will actually add value to your car.

“A good number plate like ‘WWW 1’ will add value to your car if you decide to sell them together.”

Speaking of which, what about the letters on your license plate – do those matter? And since we’re talking about customizing the license plate, does your colour choice matter as well? Turns out – they do.


7) Certain license plates and colours get better prices - TRUE

This is probably one of the most popular myths, with waaay too many versions out there.

Some people think that license plates from certain states fare better than others, for one reason or another. Ivan here has heard Penang plates are better, some say KL ones - so which plates are the real champion here?

a) KL license plates get the best prices

You read it right, KL license plates apparently command the highest prices. Some of us might think that city-folk are busy people and drive around a lot more - so their car mileages would be higher, which should fetch a lower price.

Yes, it’s true that buyers want to get cars with lower mileages. This might sound crazy to you, but it’s exactly why KL cars are sought after - they are usually only driven within the city, which means short distances, which translates to a lower mileage on average.

“Those from states like Johor, Kuantan, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, and Penang tend to get lower prices because they generally have high mileage and are flood-prone states.” – Frankie, Head of Inspectors at Carsome MY

It might look like non-city folk are getting the short end of the straw here, but floods can severely damage a car. Generally speaking, the worst condition cars to come in for inspection at Carsome are those that have been through floods. Unfortunately, flood damage is also very obvious, and inspectors can spot telltale signs like stains on the seats even after customers have cleaned up their cars.

b) Are certain colours better for resale value?

Then, there’s the other aspect of a car that people love to pick and choose – colour. Some of us might pick colours like deep red, apple green, and the occasional hot pink to stand out from the crowd of silver, black, and white cars. But if resale value is one of your top concerns when picking a car, you might be better off getting a common colour.

Silver, black, and white cars actually pack a better price than other colours. This is mostly because a majority of people still prefer these colours over the rest. When more people want these colours, demand goes up, and so the price follows.

“Most Malaysian prefer to buy cars with the colours white, black, and silver - so it’s easier to find a buyer. Other colours such as blue, yellow, and red are not as popular, which can lower the car price.”


Bonus - You can get a better price if you buy a meal for your car inspector!

Image from imgflip

Yes, apparently some customers have tried this before. This one is confirmed “false” by Carsome, okay? ;)

Otherwise, some of these techniques might be effective at optimizing the resale value, but you may hesitate to use them because it gets in the way of your enjoyment of the car. So if there’s one rule you follow, let it be this: stay accident-free and keep your mileage low.

“Always drive safely. You’ll minimize your chances of an accident, which is the important factor not only for your car value, but also for your own safety.”

If you’ve got a car you’re thinking of selling soon, how about getting an idea of your car’s value from Carsome? You can book a free inspection with them by filling the form below – with no obligation to sell!

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JS Lim

Jie Sheng knows a little bit about a lot, and a lot about a little bit. He swings between making bad puns and looking overly serious at screens. People call him "ginseng" because he's healthy and bitter, not because they can't say his name properly.