Churchill magazine

Preparing your car for a sale

Updated on: 23 September 2020

preparing car for sale

Ready to sell your car? Take time to give it a good clean. Not only will this make it easier to sell, but you might also get a higher price for it.

To buyers, a clean car looks like it’s been cared for. But getting it professionally cleaned will eat into your profit. With a bit of time and elbow grease, you can easily refine your car by simply polishing the interior or washing and waxing the bodywork.  

Here’s few things you should check and consider before you put your car on the market…

Minor bodywork flaws

If your car’s a prestige model and only a couple of years old, getting dents repaired professionally is probably your best option. But if it’s four-to-five years old, minor scrapes and thumbnail-sized dents shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to selling it.

Just make sure all your doors open and close easily. A squirt of silicone lubricant will ease any squeaks, and be sure to tighten the screws on any loose trims.

  • DO fix or replace broken trims, and make sure doors open easily and quietly.

  • DON’T buff black bumpers to a high gloss or over-polish the bodywork.

Under the bonnet

Nearly every buyer will ask to look underneath the bonnet, even if they don’t fully understand what’s going on below. Most people will expect to see a tidy but relatively grimy unit, so don’t be tempted to pressure-wash your engine to make it look shiny, as this could damage the electrics.

Your time would be better spent checking the battery is secure and not caked in corrosion, as well as ensuring the hydraulic supports are in good working order.

  • DO check fluid levels, battery condition, and the engine is running smoothly.

  • DON’T pressure-wash or over-polish the engine or tubes.

Inside the car

Having a shiny car is great. But in reality, we spend more time sat behind the car’s steering wheel than we do admiring its bodywork.

If your potential buyer can imagine spending their time inside your car, you could be half way to sealing the deal. So, show them what a pleasant space it is inside by giving it a proper clean.

Vacuum in the gaps of your seats, scrub out any ashtrays, clean the roof lining and wash or replace the floor mats. When it comes to cleaning dashboards, consider avoiding glossy finishes as this can look a little tacky to some people. 

Also, if you smoke inside your car or regularly travel with a pet, you’ll need to work a little harder to get a neutral aroma.  

  • DO get rid of smells and use domestic carpet cleaner for the upholstery.

  • DON’T buff the dashboard and leave personal items lying about.

Wheels and tyres

It’s natural for new buyers to give the tyres a little kick when checking them, so make sure they’re in good condition. Although they should be clean, avoid ‘cheering up’ old tyres with a lick of paint. It fools nobody.

Repairing alloy wheels can be costly, but it doesn’t look good if you have parking scrapes and chips on a relatively new car. And missing wheel trims should definitely be replaced, as it makes any car look a bit scruffy.

  • DO replace illegal tyres and missing wheel trims.

  • DON’T use paint on your tyres.

Get your paperwork organised

Once you’ve got the car itself prepared, it’s time to get all your documents in order.

Consider keeping your paperwork neatly labelled and presented in zip-up plastic wallets. It’ll create a far better impression than having it lumped together in a torn envelope. Include your most recent MOT, the owner’s manual, plus relevant warranties or invoices for any work done to the car.

Above all else, make sure you have your vehicle log book (V5C), as the buyer will need this to register the used car. Without it, your car is going to be almost worthless to them.

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