I’ve sold quite a few cars in my lifetime, and I’d like to think I’m getting pretty good at it. But one thing I’ve learnt is it takes a bit of elbow grease and some clever decisions to ensure you get the best price possible upon sale. No matter what car you have, there are 6 simple steps you can take in order to get maximum resale value when it comes time to sell.
The first assumption here is the car you’re trying to sell is in half-decent, road-going condition. That’s the most important factor here – because if the car runs and has no major faults, you’ve got something you can work with.
If your car is being sold as a project or fixer-upper, there’s not really much point to sinking any time and effort into it. Sell it for as much as you can and cut your losses.
1. Vacuum and clean up the interior.
Easily one of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of your car, the condition and cleanliness of the interior is critical when it comes to a favourable first impression from prospective buyers. There’s 4 steps here to follow, which are:
1. Remove all things from the car which belong to you. Including any rubbish on the floor and boot/trunk, air-fresheners, anything dangling from the rear vision mirror, etc. It all has to go. You’ll want to keep the interior looking as generic or factory-standard as possible, so buyers can imagine themselves owning it.
2. Vacuum all cloth or carpeted surfaces, even under the floor mats. Take the head off your vacuum cleaner and use the flexi pipe only. Any more serious stains can be attacked with spray on carpet cleaner or the like. Alternatively, if the carpeted surfaces are really filthy, it might be worth investing in the services of a professional to clean it for you.
3. Wipe down all surfaces with a cloth. If you want to do this properly, grab some car interior cleaner from your local auto shop. Most cleaners will ‘re-condition’ the plastic surfaces of the interior and make them look a million dollars.
4. Clean the insides of the windows. While you’re at the auto shop, get some glass cleaner and a glass cleaning cloth to help get rid of any finger prints or muck which has build up on the inside surface of the windows. You can also use the same cleaner on any clear plastic surfaces, such as the instrument cluster and multimedia screens.
After you’ve completed the above steps, the interior of your car should be looking and smelling a lot better than before.
2. Give it a full exterior wash and detail
After you’ve cleaned the interior, it makes sense to move on and clean your car’s exterior, too. This might seem obvious, but there’s a difference between throwing a bucket over your car and giving it a proper wash.
1. Firstly, before you close the doors, wipe the painted surfaces all around the door openings. These are areas which an exterior wash doesn’t reach and are often neglected, yet extremely visible when the door is opened. Wipe them with a wet cloth until clean and close the doors.
2. Hose your car off to help soften up any dirt on the paint. This is an important first step before washing the car, as it helps remove any loose dirt and reduces the chances of the sponge scratching your paint.
3. Wash your car with proper car washing liquid and a good sponge. Car washing liquid is radically different to dish-washing liquid, so use the right stuff for the best possible finish. Make sure you clean off as much road grime as possible, and don’t forget to wash inside the wheel wells (above the tyres) if they’re highly visible. Finish off by giving the car a hose off to remove all the soap.
4. Wipe the car dry with a cloth if possible, as it reduces the chances of water marks drying onto the window glass and paintwork.
5. If your car hasn’t been polished recently, do it. Even if your car’s paintwork looks good at this stage, it can always benefit from a polish for some added shine.
6. If you’re after the maximum sale price possible, pop the bonnet/hood and clean under there too. Many cars these days use plastic covers and components in the engine bay. You can often clean these parts and make them look much better by using a cloth and some of the cleaner you used on the car’s interior. You don’t need to go too crazy here, just clean what you can and once you think it looks good just stop there. Most buyers will want to pop the hood and take a look in there after all.
3. Give your wheels and tyres a bit of love
Wheels and tyres are major contributors when it comes to how good a car looks. Cars which have been neglected will often have dirty wheels with lots of brake dust baked on, kerb rash from wheels being run along gutters, missing valve caps and the like.
1. Start by giving your wheels a wash. This can also include the front (visible) face of your tyres. Ensure you remove as much dirt and brake dust as possible, even in small,hard to reach areas.
2. Dry the wheels with a cloth and see what you’re working with. If the wheels have minimal to no gutter rash or scratches, you can try giving them a polish in the same manner as you would the paintwork. Otherwise, if you have more serious levels of gutter rash it might be worth getting a quote to have your wheels repaired. This once again comes back to the value of your car and how much you think you could gain by going ahead with the repair.
3. Check if your tyre tread is getting low. If your tyres are low on tread, it might be worth replacing them to keep your buyers happy. After all, worn tyres are just another point buyers can use to bring your sale price down.
4. Apply some tyre shine. Get a can of cheap tyre shine from your local auto shop and spray it onto the sidewall of your tyres. It’ll give them a rich black colour, looking newer and in better condition than before.
4. Check for any faults
The aim here is to remove reasons why the buyer could beat you down on price. If your car has some readily apparent faults or issues, the buyer will use these to his advantage in attempting to negotiate a lower sale price. Depending on the car, it might be financially viable to replace certain parts if they have a high impact on the presentation of the vehicle.
Say for example, you cleaned your car’s interior and it all looks fantastic – except that the steering wheel has a horrible wear mark on it. Depending on the value of the vehicle, it might be worth calling your local service centre and find out how much it would cost to have the steering wheel replaced. You can also try source second-hand parts from wreckers and install them yourself, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Likewise if the exterior of your vehicle was generally spotless, except for some damage on the front bumper, it might be worth getting a quote on having it repaired. Small dents can be pulled out, missing exterior trim or faded tail-lights can all be replaced. Remember, a few hundred dollars in repair costs could easily be offset by an extra thousand dollars or more on your sale price.
Whether repairs are viable or not are entirely dependant on the overall value of the vehicle in question. If your car is only worth around $3000, a $700 repair might not be worth doing. The best way to work this out is to check similar vehicles currently advertised to see how their condition and price compares to yours.
5. If it needs a service, have it serviced
If you know your car is overdue for a service, enquire as to how much it would cost to have it serviced. For just a few hundred dollars it’ll give potential buyers peace of mind that you actually care about the vehicle and it might even rectify some small problems, such as rough engine idling. Once again, you’re spending money here, so you’ll have to make a judgement as to whether this is worth it. If you had the car serviced 6 months ago and its still running well, don’t bother.
For cars which are still under warranty, it is also worth utilising this to your advantage. A car which I recently sold had premature wear on the steering wheel, a knocking noise from the front suspension and some movement in the driver’s seat base. All of these issues were covered by warranty and fixed for free, so it makes sense to use your warranty for what it was designed for. You were the one who paid for it after all!
6. Take good photos for the ad
Finally, good quality photos sell cars, so it makes sense to take a whole bunch now that your car is clean and looking sharp.
Make sure you shoot the exterior from all angles so buyers can get a good idea of the vehicle’s condition, plus a few interior photos which show the dashboard, seats (front and rear) and any other features you’d like to highlight. Play to your car’s advantages, so if there are any parts which don’t quite look as good as others, try and keep them out of the photos if possible.
It is also vital to take the time and do a proper write up about the car, including noteworthy features and giving an overview of the condition and why you’re selling it.