Can Your Dog Lower Your Car Resale Value?

  • By: Sean Cooper
  • Date: September 1, 2022

There are lots of things that can lower the eventual resale value of your car, truck, van or SUV, but could your beloved pet dog (or dogs) be responsible for dramatically reducing the amount of money you get for your vehicle when the time eventually comes for you to sell it?

Owning a dog by itself won’t harm the resale value of your car, but your dog can have a serious effect on the price you eventually get for it when you eventually get around to selling it or trading it in for something else.

I’ll nail my colors to the mast right away here and tell you that I’ve had a pretty big and very lively dog for almost nine years and counting. So far, my dog hasn’t been responsible for losing a single dollar on the resale value of any of the numerous cars I’ve had while I’ve had him, but almost a decade of experience in the retail auto business showed me lots of ways where dogs can have a dramatic effect on resale values.

Cars for dogs

I know what a lot of you are probably thinking, which is that an awful lot of people get a car because they need to get their dog places and they can’t always get them there by walking. They might live a few miles from a beach, for example, and what dog doesn’t love a beach?

There are plenty of other reasons why our dogs have to be in our cars, such as when we are taking them to see friends and relatives, trips to the vet, getting them to boarding kennels when we go on holiday, or taking them on holiday with us.

Dogs and cars go together like kids and cars, but although your kids can also have an effect on your car’s resale value, they’re not in the same league as a dog.

Dog damage to a car

No matter how big, small, hairy, well-behaved, or naughty your dog is, he or she can cause at least some damage to your car that can hurt its value. Some things can be easily fixed, some things can be sorted as long as they’re not left for too long, but some things are going to be almost impossible to rectify and you may not even recognize the problem until someone else points it out to you.

Dog hairs get everywhere

An extreme example of dog hair in a car

I’ve had long-haired dogs, short-haired dogs, and dogs with hair that you’d probably describe as medium length, and I’ll even admit that my current dog, Zakk, was bought with the fact he’s a short-haired breed very much in mind.

I’m going to give you the benefit of my experience now and tell you that it really doesn’t matter how long your dog’s hair is. Regardless of the breed or what its hair is like, you’ll find it gets into places where you didn’t even know there were places for it to get.

If you have some idea that you’ll be able to give your vehicle interior a good brush and vacuum clean before you go to get it valued by a dealer with the idea of trading it in, that will stop the dealer from knowing you’ve had a dog in there, you’ve got another thing coming.

You may well be able to get all the hair off the seats, the carpets, and in the trunk, but the kind of inspection a dealer will subject your trade to will lead them to lots of other places you probably won’t have given a thorough clean.

I’m talking about inside the runners your seats sit on, in the door pockets, inside cupholders, in your unused ashtrays, underneath the edges of your removable trunk floor cover, and even on and under your spare wheel.

A very good detailer would probably be able to remove almost all traces of dog hairs on the inside of your car, but I’m talking about a really serious professional who will probably charge you a pretty decent amount of money for the service. And even then, I bet I could still do an inspection and find enough evidence to give the game away.

Of course, if the only thing your dog has done to your car is to leave a few stray hairs here and there it’s not going to be detrimental to your car’s value. Unfortunately, dog hairs could be the least of your problems.

Before you even think about parting with your hard-earned money for any used car, please make sure you know what you’re buying by getting a vehicle history report you can trust like one from EpicVIN. If you’re buying from a dealer they should provide one, but if they don’t, get your own and it could save you a fortune in the long run.

Dog claws have consequences

Even the smallest dogs have claws, and when they are puppies especially, those claws can be seriously sharp. My boy’s claws are horrendous because we didn’t do the proper training with him when he was young to get him to allow us to clip them to keep them nice and short. As a result, some of them can sometimes get a little too long, too sharp and often ragged. He only has to put his paw onto something adoringly to get our attention and damage can be done to a susceptible surface.

There are three main areas where scratches from your dog’s claws can cause problems, which are door and trunk sills when getting in and out, and any exposed plastics such as the sides of the trunk space or the back of the rear seats.

Sill protectors can prevent some of the potential damage when a dog is getting in or out of a vehicle, but there will still be some areas of painted metal exposed that can still get damaged. Although scratches to your paintwork are a pain to get fixed, that’s nothing compared to those cheap plastics that a lot of automakers use in areas like the trunk of an SUV.

If some of those get severely scratched, which is a lot easier than you might imagine, the chances of you getting them fixed without completely replacing them are slim. And I can tell you that when people are inspecting a used car with a view to buying it, badly scratched plastics are a big turn-off.

The only thing that might prevent someone from going to look for another vehicle that doesn’t have your dog’s signatures all over the inside plastic surfaces would be the price. And that’s why a dealer will hit you where it hurts when they value your trade-in if it’s in that kind of condition.

Look how happy he is in his crate?

Upholstery damage

If you think the type of upholstery you have in your car is going to be resistant to your dog, then think again. I don’t care if your seats, door cards, carpets, and headlining are made of velour, cloth, real leather, fake leather, vinyl, or even rubber, your dog can damage it.

I do remember a three-door Freelander Sport that Land Rover produced for a while that had a kind of dimpled rubber upholstery that everyone hated that would have been as resistant to dog damage as any upholstery I’ve ever seen, but even that could be scratched.

I even had a Kia Sportage a few years ago with perforated fake leather that I thought would be fine if I let Zakk travel in the back seat, but I was wrong. I didn’t hurt my resale price because I was leasing it so didn’t have to worry about the resale value, but I was sweating on the appraiser and whether they’d try to charge e for excess damage.

After two years, the vehicle had only done five thousand miles and Zakk had only been in it for 10 minutes at a time a couple of times a week. Even so, the light-colored perforated fake leather looked as though it was 8 years old and had endured a couple of kids in hiking boots jumping up and down on it every day of those eight years.

What’s that smell?

So, this is where I’ve saved the best until last, or should I say I’ve saved the worst until last? There are two seriously big turn-offs when it comes to buyers looking over a used vehicle that will lead the dealer taking it in as a part-exchange to bid you very low when you’re trading it in; cars that have been smoked in that reek of nicotine and cars that stink of damp dog.

Just as you probably can smell the nicotine in your car interior if you’re a smoker, a dog owner often won’t be able to detect the stench of a damp dog that’s so obvious to everyone else. Believe me, it’s almost impossible to get rid of the smell of dogs from a car interior, especially in a short period.

It may dissipate over time after a lot of cleaning and anti-odor treatments, but I’m talking about a LOT of treatment and possibly many, many months that a dealer can’t afford to have your vehicle for without it selling.

How to prevent your dog from ruining your car’s resale value

There are several ways you can minimize the amount of financial damage your dog will do over time to the eventual resale value of your vehicle, but it’s going to be hard to stop it completely.

For a start, you could use a crate in the back of an SUV or wagon, and there are a few different restraining devices for the back seats too. A crate is going to be the best option, but I don’t like them and my dog would have made journeys even more unbearable than he does already if I shut him in a crate.

To stop your upholstery from getting damaged you should use seat covers, preferably waterproof ones, but even those are not going to stop the smell problem if your dog regularly gets in your car wet or even just damp.

How could you resist?

Otherwise, the best way to mitigate these issues is to deal with them as soon as possible. If you notice some damage being done then do something to prevent it before it gets any worse. And to minimize the small problem, dry your dog the best you can before they get in, keep them on a waterproof cover, and deodorize your car immediately after you’ve had a damp doggy in there. Once again, a plastic or metal crate will go a long way to reduce the amount of damp dog odor that gets into your seats, carpets, and headlining.

On the other hand …..

On the other hand, if you’re anything like me you probably love your dog so much that you have considered his or her needs when choosing what car to buy in the first place, and you have also factored in the extra depreciation you’ll suffer as a result of being a doggy parent.

It might hit you hard in the pocket when it comes to trading your current vehicle in for a new one, but that’s nothing compared to the years of joy you’ll have benefitted from thanks to your furry friend. But if you want to do everything you can to clean and de-smell your vehicle before you sell or just because you want a clean, tidy, and sweet-smelling vehicle, check out car detailing products online,