Get Your Used Car in Shape... To Sell! (part 4)

February 12, 2010

In Part 3 of our series on getting your car in shape to sell, I covered how to value your car using the Kelley Blue Book guide.  If your car is in any condition other than excellent, you have some work to do to bring it up one or two notches.  Doing so could bring you hundreds, even thousands more at the bargaining table.

TIP: If you are hard-pressed for cash to prepare your car for selling, focus on everything visual.  Cleaners, car polish, car wax, and rubber/vinyl dressing are inexpensive items that will make a big difference in how your car looks.

The Used Car Seller's Check List

Even if you have not planned ahead to the day when you will be selling your used car, it's not a lost cause.  The following used car preparation check lists will help you get your car ready to sell for the most money possible:
  • Have the oil and other mechanical fluids serviced.  They should all look clean (smart buyers will check these service points).
  • Clean the battery.  If the battery is more than a few years old, replace it (selling point).
  • If the car was not regularly serviced, have the belts replaced and the hoses inspected.
  • Service the tires and replace if worn (selling point).
  • Replace the windshield wiper blades if they are more than 6 months old.
  • Replace burned out lights (interior and exterior).
  • Replace cracked and damaged headlight and tail lights lenses.
  • Get all of the trash out, including the greasy French Fries between the seats.
  • Remove everything from the glove box except the owner's manual, insurance   papers and the registration (buy a replacement owner's manual if it's missing).
  • Remove ALL devices that did not come with the car from the factory (radar detectors, GPS, MP3 players, cell phones).  They make the car look cluttered and they may walk away while a "buyer" is inspecting the car.
  • Fix all switches, knobs, handles, etc. that do not work properly (a clear sign the car was not maintained).
  • If the parking brake does not set firmly, have it adjusted.
  • Make sure the A/C blows cold.  If not, have it serviced.  Also, if the A/C smells bad, have it treated.
  • Lubricate door hinges and trunk hinges.
  • Clean and treat door, hood and trunk seals and treat with a vinyl & rubber protectant.
  • Clean the engine compartment and treat all plastic and rubber surfaces.
  • Clean out the trunk.  There should be nothing in the trunk that did not originally come with the car.  Make sure the spare tire and jack are clean and stowed where they belong.  A rusty jack should be cleaned and repainted or replaced.  Remove any moisture from the trunk.
  • Vacuum the interior until every last crumb is gone.
  • Shampoo cloth seats, carpets and floor mats.
  • Clean and condition all vinyl surfaces and leather seats.
  • Make sure the dashboard, console, arm rests, cup holder, ash trays and steering wheel are spotless.
  • Clean the interior glass until there are no streaks or smudges.
  • Scrub the exterior, paying extra attention to the bumpers, area around the   gas cap, door jambs and other soiled areas.
  • Make the tires and wheels look like new.
  • If your alloy wheels are damaged, have them repaired.
  • Remove all bumper stickers and personalized license plate frames.
  • Repair all minor nicks, chips, scratches and dings.
  • Make your paint perfectly smooth and clean by using a detailing clay bar.
  • Polish the paint until it is free of swirl marks, water spots and fine   scratches.
  • After polishing, wax the paint to protect the shine and dress all of the trim.

Now that your car is back in pristine condition, take lots of digital photos for your advertisement.  Be sure to take pictures of the engine, interior, and trunk, as well as multiple angles of the exterior.
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