How to Prepare Your Car Before Selling

If you’re thinking about selling your car, the most likely reason is you’re in the market for a new car. If this is the case, you want to get the most money out of your car that you possibly can. Buyers will be looking at the Kelly Blue Book value of your car, so they’ll know what price they can expect to pay based on its condition. So for that reason, you want your car to look as close to excellent condition as you can get it. 

Here are some tips to help you prep your car prior to listing it for sale. 

1. Have it Detailed

Having your car professionally detailed is going to give you the best results. Auto detailers have all the tools and know all the tricks for getting into those hard to reach grooves and spaces. But, if you don’t want to shell out the big bucks to have your car professionally cleaned, it is possible to do it yourself, but it’s going to take some elbow grease. 

Start with the interior. Remove your floor mats and place them on your driveway. Vacuum them with a hand vac, or regular vacuum if you don’t have one. If they still look dirty, spray them with a hose and wash them with a small amount of laundry detergent. Rinse them and hang them to dry. 


Vacuum the interior of your car as well. Use any attachments that will fit between and under the seats. Last, vacuum the seats. 

Scrub the dashboard, console and doors with a scrub brush from your kitchen or a tooth brush and household cleaner or windex. This will loosen any dirt and grime that is caught between the textured patterns and crevices of your dashboard. Once you’ve loosened the dirt, give the surfaces another spray and wipe them down. Also clean the steering wheel. After you wipe down the seat belts with warm water and detergent and clean the windows, you’re ready to get to the outside.

Fill a bucket with auto soap and water and use a sponge to apply the soap over the entire car. So the soap doesn’t dry on the car, rinse it after you’ve cleaned each side–front, back, driver side, passenger side. Last, clean the tires and wheels. 

When the car is dry, apply auto wax according to the directions, and don’t forget the tires and wheels. You want those to look shiny and new as well. 

2. Take Pretty Pictures

Take your car to a pretty lake, beach or park for professional looking pictures. If you have a newer smart phone, it should be up to the task. Take your pictures in the morning or late evening so the light isn’t so harsh it washes away details and makes the color seem brighter than it is. 

Take as many pictures as it takes to show the buyer every detail of your car. Be honest in your depiction of your car. If there is major damage, take pictures of it. Get a shot of the odometer with the car turned on, and if your car has any special features, take pictures of them as well. Don’t forget to include pictures of the trunk or storage area as well as all the seats and flooring. 

3. Service Records and Manual

It’s always a good idea to keep your service records just for this day. Gather any repairs and all oil changes you’ve had done to your car. You can show these to the potential buyer as proof that the car has been well-painted. 

Include the manual. Many cars lose the manual as they switch between owners but there is no logical reason for this. The manual should always be kept in the glove box and should always stay with the car. 

4. Set a Price

Look up the value of your car in its current condition. Expect a buyer to want you to come down from the price you set, so cushion your price by at least a couple of hundred dollars above the lowest offer you’re willing to take.

Based on the price you expect to receive forgot you car, you can also begin the process of shopping around for your next car. It’s likely your next car will cost more than what you’ll receive from the sell of your current car, so have what type of car financing you plan to utilize figured out. 

5. Prepare the Title and Bill of Sale

If the title shows your vehicle still has a lien on it, have it updated. Also, have a bill of sale prepared that has all your information along with information about the car, including mileage, make, model and year. Be sure to include that the vehicle is being sold “as is” so there is no confusion about what is being offered. 

Now that you have everything ready, list your car on your favorite online buy and sell site. All your hard work will pay off. 

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