Preparing Your Car to Sell


When you are ready to sell or trade in your car, your main goal is to get the most you can for it. There are four areas you need to consider: how it looks inside and outside, how it works, and its service history. At this point there’s nothing much you can do about the service history that you haven’t already done. Hopefully you’ve been conscientious about having it serviced regularly, and keeping your receipts. If not, don’t worry. Just dig out what you have, and make a vow to be more careful with your new one. Showing prospective buyers that your car’s received regular service will make them feel more secure about it, and therefore willing to offer you more for it. Now would be a good time, however, to take the vehicle in for a checkup, oil change, and to spot any problems that might pop up later. That will make a good impression on your prospective buyer.

While there’s not much you can do about the past service records now, there’s plenty you can do to make your vehicle more appealing to a buyer. First, get out a notepad and take an assessment of your vehicle. Give it an objective inspection, inside and out. Make a note of any cosmetic things you might want to fix, like spots on the seats, holes in the floor mats, or cloudy headlights. Start it up and drive it around the block, looking and listening for any problems like squeaky brakes, rattles, or any other mechanical problems. Make a list, including those you’re prepared to fix, and those you can’t fix, so you can make a fair appraisal of the car’s worth.

Selling? or Trading in? Your judgment here depends on what you intend to do with your vehicle. If you’re going to sell it or trade it in to a dealer, you don’t need to spend a lot of money fixing it up; they’ll see past the cosmetics to arrive at a price. Just make it as presentable as possible. If you want to sell it to a private party, you need to do whatever you can to make it more attractive to the buyer. For example, if the car has squeaky brakes, you should seriously consider having them fixed before you offer it to a private buyer; that can be a deal breaker. If you’re considering trading it in or selling it to a dealer, fixing the brakes is probably not worth the expense.

Make a good first impression. Your prospective buyers are going to make a judgment based on their first impression. If the car’s clean and waxed, with the chrome shined, and looks like you care for it and have taken good care of it, you’re well on your way to getting your price. You can spare yourself a lot of work by taking your vehicle to a good detailing service, or you can save the two hundred bucks or so that will cost you by doing it yourself. By the way, you should have a good idea of how much to ask for your vehicle, and a bottom line of what you’ll take for it. There are many sources that will give you an idea of what it’s worth, depending on the way it’s equipped and the condition it’s in.

Start on the inside. Pop the hood and take a look at the engine. Think about taking a rag and wiping it down a bit, to clean up any grease or oil spots. A clean engine can make a powerful impression on a prospective buyer. Next, stick your head inside the car and take a good, objective sniff. You might even have a friend do that for you, because we’re not as liable to recognize odors that we live with every day. If you smoke, or have a dog that rides with you a lot, there might be a lingering aroma you need to get rid of. Get a good cleaning product and give the inside of the car a good work over, including the dashboard and the door panels. Do your best to remove any spots or stains on the seats. Fabric seats might need a good shampoo; leather seats generally just need a good wipe down with a damp rag, but may also need some spot cleaning with a good leather product. Check the floor mats; maybe they just need to be shampooed, maybe you need to spring for a new set. Give the entire interior a good vacuuming, getting down into the crevices. Consider adding a mild air freshener to make the inside more appealing. Open the trunk, take out everything that’s not essential, and give it a good cleaning.

AutoAnything - Parts & Accessories

Move to the outside. First, check for small things you might want to do, like replacing the windshield wipers or – if it’s an older car – cleaning or even replacing the plastic headlight housings that can get cloudy over time. Auto parts stores sell a product make specifically for this job, and it can dramatically improve the look of your vehicle, plus make it safer on the road. Next, get out a hose and bucket and give the car a good wash. When that’s done, seriously consider giving it a good waxing. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Time to let the buyers know about it. So now you have your car all cleaned up and in great shape. You can just park it in the driveway with a “for sale” sign on it and wait for a buyer to show up. That might take a while. You can take an ad in the classified section of Pennysaver and deliver your ad to everyone in your neighborhood. Or you can find ways to attract prospective buyers by listing your vehicle for sale on the internet. You can use free sites like

As we said at the start of this discussion, your job is to get as much as you can out of your vehicle when you trade it in or sell it. Hopefully these tips will help you do just that.


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