How to Detail a Vehicle That You are Trying to Sell

Man detailing a car before selling

How to detail a vehicle to get the best selling price

You want to sell your vehicle, and you want to sell it fast . . . for a good price. When people see the vehicle for the first time you want their eyes to pop out, you want them to fall in love immediately and say, "I need to have this vehicle!"

How can you do that? What work needs to be done on your vehicle—and what should you avoid doing?

See your vehicle through new eyes

As a first step, put yourself in the place of the buyer. They see the vehicle for the first time. They take a slow walk around. They open the door. They catch the first scent of the interior of the car. They get into the driver’s seat.

What do they see? What do they smell? You want those first impressions to be as positive as possible.

—When washing the outside of your vehicle, make sure to use products specifically for vehicles that will leave the car sparkling clean, with no dull film—or worse yet, that would damage the finish.

—Clean all the windows on both sides.

—Remove all personal items.

—Take the time to carefully vacuum your vehicle. Get all the hidden spots—move the seats back and forth, get under the rugs and attack the trunk to get it spotless.

—Wipe down all areas, including those forgotten areas like inside the ashtray and glove compartment. Use a toothbrush to get into the small areas.  

Should you get your vehicle professionally detailed?

You could consider getting your vehicle professionally cleaned, which is called detailing. However, you want to be careful about the cost. If this service will hike up the price, the vehicle could take longer to sell. Also, the benefits of detailing will be lost in a few weeks as the vehicle gets dirty again.

What are other areas the buyer will check?

Buyers will probably look at basic maintenance points to see how well you have cared for the vehicle. Are fluids—including oil, brake, transmission and windshield washer—topped off? Are the headlights in good working order? Consider buffing or painting any scratches.

However, don’t spend too much money to get your car up to speed. Consider the reasonable selling price and decide how much you should invest in improvements. If you won’t be able to get back the money that you invested in repairs, it’s probably better not to fix it.

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