Preparing Your Car

It’s a fact: scruffy, smelly cars don’t sell. Make the time to give your car a good clean and not only will it be easier to sell, you may be able to ask for (and get) a higher price. To buyers, a car that is clean looks like it has been cared for. And you can achieve this by simply polishing the interior and washing and waxing the bodywork. Of course there is the option of getting the car professionally valeted. That saves you time and elbow grease, but it eats into your profit. Or a few pounds in the local garage jet wash is money well spent. Spending time polishing up the finer details on a classic or luxury car may pay off, but on the vast majority of models it really isn’t necessary.

Minor bodywork defects

Minor car-park scrapes and thumbnail-sized dents are not a problem, especially if the car is four- to five-years-old. However, if the car is just a couple of years old and a prestige marque then getting dents repaired professionally is your best option. Make sure that all the 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. Important points to remember are:

  • DO fix and or replace broken trim. Make sure doors can be opened easily/quietly
  • DON’T buff black bumpers to a high gloss, or over-polish bodywork

Under the bonnet

Every buyer wants to look under it even if they don’t know what is going on. They expect to see a tidy but relatively grimy unit. Don’t be tempted to pressure-wash your engine because you could kill the electrics and you could also put off buyers who may be suspicious of an overly-shiny engine. Make sure that the battery is secure and not caked in corrosion. The bonnet stay or hydraulic supports should be in good working order.

  • DO check fluid levels, battery condition, bonnet opening, smooth engine running
  • DON’T pressure-wash or over-prepare by polishing hoses

Inside the car

Cars invariably don’t sell quickly if they have been home to a smoker or a dog so you will have to work hard to get a neutral aroma. Vacuum, scrub out the ashtray, clean the roof lining and wash or even replace the floor mats. Clean the dashboard, but don’t be tempted to get a gloss finish, this looks tacky.

  • DO get rid of smells, personal items and use domestic carpet cleaner for the upholstery
  • DON’T buff the dashboard

Wheels and tyres

You can be certain that buyers will kick these, so check their condition. Alloy wheel refurbishment is costly, but parking scrapes and chips on a relatively new car look bad. Otherwise they should just be clean. Missing wheel trims instantly make any car look scruffy and must be replaced. Worst of all don’t ‘cheer up’ old tyres with a lick of tyre paint, it fools no one!

  • DO replace illegal tyres and replace missing wheel trims
  • DON’T use tyre paint

Get your paperwork organised

You have got the car sorted, but one of the most crucial parts of used car preparation is getting all the documentation in order. Indeed you can’t register a car without the V5 now and any used car without this piece of paper is going to be almost worthless. Buyers like to see the paperwork neatly presented and not in a messy torn envelope. Get a zip-up plastic wallet and put in the V5, at least the most recent MOT, the owner’s manual plus any invoices for work done and any relevant warranties.