Keep the exterior clean

Even if you wash and detail your car frequently, it won't matter much if you treat it like a cafeteria or designated smoking area. Avoid eating and drinking inside your car, even on long road trips. Don't smoke and don't allow anyone else to smoke in your car. Spills, cigarette smoke and stains can ruin the inside appearance and smell of your car and lower its resale value.

Protect its appearance

Even the color of a vehicle can impact its resale value, so it is essential to keep your vehicle stored properly. If you live in a hot or extremely cold environment and you have the option to store your car inside, you should do so. Excessive sun can fade the outer surfaces of your car, including paint, trim and moldings. Additionally, extremely cold temperatures and environmental conditions can wreak havoc on your car's engine components. By storing your car in in a climate-controlled environment, you can help avoid costly and unnecessary repairs.

Try to avoid conditions that can damage the exterior finish of your car. Paint chips, gouges and fading can all decrease a car's value. If your vehicle's paint is less than ideal, consider having it painted prior to resale time, and be sure to have a reputable paint expert or body shop perform the work. A nice-looking exterior finish can increase a car's curb appeal and, ultimately, its value.

Although dents, scratches and other kinds of damage are sometimes unavoidable, it is important to remember that visible imperfections will impact resale value. Dent repair, a "light touch" procedure, can get rid of dents without sandblasting and expensive painting.

Other problems many vehicle owners face are rusting and unsightly stone chips. Repairing those chips with an inexpensive touch-up stick can dramatically improve your car's appearance.

Fix small problems promptly

Many drivers tend to neglect small problems as long as the car still runs. Unfortunately, these are often warning signs of a more serious problem. Taking care of problems in a timely manner, whether they are mechanical or cosmetic, can often save money and help you avoid frustration. If you live in a cold climate with harsh winters, be sure to wash your vehicle often to remove salt deposits that can eventually lead to rust. Whenever possible, have your car undercoated to avoid salt deposits from building up on the frame and the underside of the quarter panels and fenders.

Treat your car with respect

Prevent excessive wear and tear by avoiding extreme start-and-stop driving, over-towing (or towing more weight than is recommended in your owner's manual), excessive speeding or driving your vehicle in areas with poor road conditions.

Accidents, no matter how slight, can negatively impact a vehicle's value and jeopardize personal safety. No matter how short the trip, avoid excessive speeds and erratic or irresponsible driving, and always pay attention to the roadway and weather conditions.

The bottom line

Whether you want your current car to last longer or you're looking to get top dollar at resale, it's important to stay on top of maintenance and cosmetic issues. By following these simple steps, you can increase your car's value and get the most money when the time comes to sell.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

More from Investopedia: