Have You Ever Considered Remodeling Your Car?

Real Estate Agent with Lyon Real Estate BRE #00697006

Elizabeth Weintraub Land Park Real Estate Agent in SacramentoEverybody knows that the moment you drive a brand new car off the dealer lot, the value drops when those tires hit the street. Still, there's a certain appeal to buying a brand new car. There's an agent in my office who trades in her car and buys a new car every year. She just gets tired of her vehicle. She doesn't lease; she pays cash.

I took my car to Tom Stephens Mercedes in East Sacramento last week for its annual service. Stephens is the best Mercedes auto shop in Sacramento; he used to be a manager at Mercedes, and he intimately knows these cars because that's all he does.

That's when I realized that my car is 9 years old this month. I wondered if I should buy a new car. Not because I need a new car because I don't; it has less than 40,000 miles. But I also realize that real estate clients expect their agents to drive newer cars. It's perception, in part. It's why I wear suits and not cut-offs to work.

I love my car because it's fun to drive and because it's a convertible. The drawback is it has only one passenger seat, but I either drive with my buyers or I borrow my husband's Prius when I show property. If I bought another car, I'd probably get the same model; that's how much I enjoy it.

The service manager suggested I spruce it up by buying sportier rims, which now has me wondering about remodeling it. Hey, I know I won't get the money back out of it, but it's a lot less expensive than forking out $50,000 for a new Mercedes. I could use new leather seats, I suppose. Maybe buff out the paint or paint it a different color. Then replace the tires so they're all the same size and I can rotate them, which would give the tires a longer life expectancy.

I could easily drive this car another 10 years and it still won't turnover 100,000 miles. What do you think? Is remodeling a car a bad idea?

Elizabeth Weintraub Land Park Real Estate Agent in Sacramento

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Elizabeth Weintraub is an author, home buying expert for About.com, a Land Park resident, and a veteran real estate agent who specializes in older, classic homes in Land Park, Curtis Park, Midtown and East Sacramento, as well as tract homes in Elk Grove, Natomas, Roseville and Lincoln. Weintraub is also a Sacramento Short Sale agent who lists and successfully sells short sales throughout the four-county Sacramento area with an emphasis on Elk Grove. Call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759. Put 40 years of real estate experience to work for you. Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate. BRE License # 00697006.

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Photo: Unless otherwise noted in this blog, the photo is copyrighted by Big Stock Photo and used with permission.The views expressed herein are Weintraub's personal views and do not reflect the views of Lyon Real Estate. Disclaimer: If this post contains a listing, information is deemed reliable as of the date it was written. After that date, the listing may be sold, listed by another brokerage, canceled, pending or taken temporarily off the market, and the price could change without notice; it could blow up, explode or vanish. To find out the present status of any listing, please go to elizabethweintraub.com.


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Cindy Edwards
RE/MAX Checkmate - Johnson City, TN
CRS, GRI, PMN - Northeast Tennessee - 423-677-6677

I get so bored with my cars.  I buy every 2 years.  Silly, I know.  I would love to remodel my car...tell me what you end up doing, I'm coming up on that 2 year mark!

Feb 01, 2009 10:05 AM #5
Fran and Rowena, La Canada Realtors - (818) 952-0077
Dilbeck Real Estate - La Canada, CA

Elizabeth - Our clients do not expect us to drive new cars.  Thank goodness, because my car is almost ten years old, but looks like new because I have it detailed, including dent removal, shampooing of carpets and waxing.  However, our climate is not hard on cars, either.  In this economy, people certainly understand making something last longer, rather than replacing it with new.  

Feb 01, 2009 10:06 AM #6
Alan Gross
PrimeLending, A PlainsCapital Company - Bethesda, MD

If your happy with your car it makes sense to me to "remodel" rather than replace. I've always held on to my cars for long periods of time. You post makes me think it may be a good idea to "remodel" nice in a while.

Feb 01, 2009 10:20 AM #7
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Yeah, that's the thing, Michael, car styles really don't change much. To the untrained eye, it's hard to tell the difference between a 2009 or a 2000 SLK.

If I had high miles, buying new (or slightly new) would make sense to me. But I don't drive long distances. Even my insurance is rated for less than 7,500 miles a year.

Hi Fran and Rowena: No client is going to come right out and say, "Hey, why don't you drive a better car?" But they may wonder about it. It's human nature. People form judgments about other people based on how they appear to them. It's unfortunate, but it's the way things are.

Hi Alan: The rims alone will cost around $3,000, but I think they will make the car sparkle. I haven't heard of anybody remodeling their car, so I didn't know if this was something that makes sense. On the surface, it seems to make financial sense. It's not like I plan to pimp out the car or anything. :) And I should add that it most likely wouldn't make sense at all if I wasn't in real estate.

Elizabeth Weintraub Land Park Real Estate Agent in Sacramento

Feb 01, 2009 10:35 AM #8
Chris Ann Cleland
Long & Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Northern VA

Elizabeth:  If it's working, keep it!  I can't believe you've had a car 9 years and have less than 40,000 miles on it.  Mine is two years old and has over 30,000 miles.  I've always averaged about 12,000-15,000 miles annually on a car...even before I was a Realtor. 

Feb 01, 2009 11:06 AM #9
Alyce Martin
The Realty Group, LLC - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque - THE Place To Be!

Elizabeth - keep it! keep it!  That's the beauty of German cars - they don't radically change year to year.  It sounds like you only drive it occasionally anyway so why buy new?  You're cool - make it your signature. 

Feb 01, 2009 11:28 AM #10
Tom Braatz
Re/Max Realty Center 262-377-1459 - Oconomowoc, WI
Waukesha County Realtor Real Estate agent,Waukesha


I have a tendency to drive and drive and put all kinds of miles on cars. I think sprucing up a car is a great idea. However, they would have to start with training me to get rid of that mountain of "large coffee" cups I have in my back seat that act as insulation.

All my best

Tom Braatz

Feb 01, 2009 11:37 AM #11
Holly Weatherwax
The Momentum Group, Northern Virginia - Reston, VA
Keller Williams Realty, Dulles

Wow, how do you have less than 40,000 miles on your car?  I am at 38,000 and have not hit the 3 year mark.  I would definitely keep that car..The one thing we noticed with our BMW, however, was at about 100,000 miles the maintenance got to be very expensive and pretty constant.

Feb 01, 2009 12:02 PM #12
Terry & Bonnie Westbrook
Westbrook Realty Broker-Owner - Grand Rapids, MI
Westbrook Realty - Grand Rapids Forest Hills MI Re

I like the idea of remodeling your car. New tires, have it detailed, and enjoy it for another 4 or 5 years no need to buy new. I think so many people are thinking that way today is one of the reason the car companies are in trouble.

Feb 01, 2009 12:11 PM #13
Carol Spengel
Prudential Rubloff - Wheaton, IL
Wheaton IL

My favorite MTV show is called Pimp My Ride.  It is hilarious what they can do to an old, rusty car.

Feb 01, 2009 12:16 PM #14
Paula Swayne
Dunnigan, Realtors, Sacramento (916) 425-9715 - Sacramento, CA
Realtor-Land Park, East Sac & Curtis Park -Dunniga

Hi Elizabeth!
Up to now, I have been leasing my cars. I am not sure what I will do next time since the laws have changed.  I am like you...since my office is a simple drive through Land Park, I don't put many miles on it.  I mght be passing this one on to my daughter, so it will get an extended life.  Then I might adopt your approach!

Feb 01, 2009 02:54 PM #15
Jesse & Kathy Clifton
Jesse Clifton & Associates, REALTORS® - Fairbanks, AK
Fairbanks Alaska Real Estate Specialists, 907-328-9328

Elizabeth - I don't think what you drive is as important as what you know.  I realize we're more laid back than some places, but I think it's still about what you can do for a client vs the emblem on your grill.  You have a great car... drive it until you want a new one!

Feb 01, 2009 03:11 PM #16
Tammy Lankford
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Your Lake Sinclair Expert (706-485-9668)

I have heard and ask your dealer about changing paint colors being bad for value.  I've heard that and when I repainted a car I stayed with the same color for that reason.  I really gotta know how you have so few miles on your car, oh wait you can walk to the movie and I have to drive half an hour.  I have 40,000 miles and my car is just over 3 years old.  With the miles you have the reputation of Mercedes I'd go for the makeover unless your accountant suggests you need the depreciation on your tax return.  That's why I have a 3 year old highlander hybrid instead of a ten year old Senica... my accountant made me do it.  Of course they didn't make me buy new, but I did get a $2000 tax credit for buying a hybrid.  Does your husband love his Prius?

Feb 01, 2009 05:17 PM #17
Bryant Tutas
Bryant Tutas-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc - Poinciana, FL
Broker/REALTOR, Tutas Towne Realty, Inc

Elizabeth, Remodeling your car is an excellent way to go. A Mercedes with less than 50k miles has a lot of life on it. Go for new leather, paint, rims and have the engine fully cleaned and it will look and run brand new. Heck you can even buy new car smell in a can. Take the 30k you save and buy a rental property CASH in my area that will generate $650 a month in rent.

Feb 01, 2009 06:32 PM #18
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

I used to lease before I bought this car, Paula, and it didn't make sense to me to continue leasing. Yeah, it's a tax write off, but I'd rather spend the money on other tax-deductible business expenses and own my car free and clear.  It's probably a personal preference though because everyone has different values. The tax deduction on mileage is pretty good, though, -- something like 58.5 cents per mile. If you drive 12,000 business miles, that's more than $7,000 in a deduction versus a lease payment of, say, $500, results in $6,000 and you don't own the vehicle.

Hi Tammy: I've heard that if you don't have to repaint, you shouldn't because it will never be a baked-on finish like the manufacturer delivers, but that advice was received years ago and maybe they've improved the process by now. I don't often drive out of my downtown Sacramento area, and, like you say, I can walk almost everywhere in Land Park, which is why I have almost no miles. When my husband and I go out, he does the driving. He has no attachment to his Prius (he's not that kind of guy), but I love his car. :)

Hey BB: You're selling rentals for less than 4 GRM? Are you giving them away? Is there a lot of maintenance, vacancy, rapid turnover, HOA fees, taxes? What's the catch?

But overall, it sounds like we have a consensus here that it makes sense to remodel the car.

Elizabeth Weintraub Land Park Real Estate Agent in Sacramento


Feb 01, 2009 07:29 PM #19
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
CRS, GRI, e-PRO, Searcy AR

If you love it, keep it.  One of the things we need to do today is watch our money and keeping a car would be good for the budget.

Feb 01, 2009 07:58 PM #20
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Selling Daytona paradise for heavenly good prices

How you mqanage to have less than 40K miles on a 9-year old car is beyond me. I think my Mercedes is 2001 (I should have asked my son, he knows better, but he is dating), and I have over 100K.

And I am in Daytona, where distances are not really killing

Feb 01, 2009 11:53 PM #21
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Elizabeth - My son has a 1990 Mustang that he refuses to part with.  It's been sitting in a Mustang restoration shop for the last several months, getting a new engine and going beyond restoration.  When he told me the cost associated with all this, I almost fainted.  But when a car is a "family member" it's difficult to pull the plug.  You provide all the life-support you can :-)  The car is black now, as it was in the beginning.  But there was a period of time in his life when he had it painted a shade of lavender-purple, called "Statutory Grape."

Feb 02, 2009 08:17 PM #22
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

40K miles in 10 years. Wow I am shocked. I put 25K on each year. Do you want to sell? How did you do only 40?

Feb 03, 2009 06:21 AM #23
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

He sounds like your son, Myrl. :)

Oh, I dunno why the mileage is so low, Missy. I did drive it from Minneapolis to Sacramento. I mostly sell around the inner core of Sacramento -- Midtown, Land Park, Curtis Park, East Sacramento  -- so I don't drive very far. When I go any distance, it's usually with my husband in his car. I have special rates on my insurance for driving under 7500 miles a year.

Elizabeth Weintraub Land Park Real Estate Agent in Sacramento

Feb 03, 2009 11:16 AM #24
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