Quick Tips For Preparing Your Car For Sale

by Don Elliott on May 19, 2011

Whether you are selling your used car yourself, or trading it for another car, there are a few things that you can do to make it more attractive to used car buyers. These tips apply whether you are selling your own car or if you are trading it at a car dealership.

Having your car cleaned up by a professional car detailer should maximize your used car value. A complete detail costs from $125 to $200. For a nicer car, it is easy to justify the expense, particularly if you are not into getting your hands dirty by doing the work yourself.

If you have kept your car in pretty good shape, a full detail may not be necessary. People who regularly buy cars from private sellers and appraisers at car dealerships all have “hot buttons” that help them set the used car price they will pay.

Clean it up – Every used car buyer will pay more for a clean car than they will for a dirty car. At the very least, take the car to a good car wash before you show it to potential customers.

Exterior paint – Remove bugs and tar wherever you can. Commercial bug and tar removers are safer than the gasoline your grandfather would suggest you use. Modern clear coat finishes don’t respond well to abrasive cleaners and harsh chemicals so use caution. There are a million car wash and wax products available at stores everywhere. If you wash your own car, do it in the shade with any liquid soap diluted in clear water. Apply a basic car wax to the clean car and it will shine for weeks while you sell it.

Engine cleaning – This is a messy job that might not really add much value. Wipe down the top surfaces and call it a day.

Battery terminals – Corroded battery terminals suggest a lack of maintenance. Eye protection is a good idea for this job. Sprinkle on some baking soda on the terminals and scrub them with a damp toothbrush. Wipe off the terminals with a disposable cloth. Smear on some grease or petroleum jelly to keep the terminals clean.

Change the oil – Most buyers will pull the oil dipstick to check for milky or dirty oil. Clean oil suggests a well-maintained engine. For $25-$30, an oil change from an auto repair shop is a good investment.

Interior area – Spend some time vacuuming and wiping down all the surfaces with a 20:1 water and vinegar solution. This will eliminate most normal odors and remove surface grime without leaving a sudsy residue.

Floor mats – If you have had floor mats in your car, they have probably taken a beating and absorbed lots of dirt and stains. Take them out to reveal the nice clean carpet before the buyers come to look at you car. Don’t throw them away, though. You will want to put them back between customers!

Trunk and glove box – Clean all the unnecessary stuff out of your trunk and glove box. A partially used can of transmission fluid, for example, raises too many questions for the buyers, even if they don’t ask. Make sure you point out your owner’s manual and service records if you still have them in the glove box.

Windows – This is the easiest and least expensive thing your can do to enhance your used car’s value. Make sure that the glass is clean inside and out. Ammonia-free window cleaners are best for most automotive glass surfaces. A good micro-fiber cloth and clean water are usually enough to get a clear, streak-free result.

Vehicle history report – If your car has a good vehicle history report, be sure to promote that value by having it on hand before the buyers arrive to take their first look.

It is not necessary to fix everything on your car. Most buyers understand that there is a reason that you are selling it. Be prepared for their questions and answer them honestly.

Send us a comment if these quick tips helped to get your car ready to sell.

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