7 Tips to prepare your car for sale

Prepare Car for Sale - Shift

Make your car beautiful (as possible)

Preparing your car for sale is super important if you want to maximize your sales price. A buyer is going to probably make up their minds about whether or not they want to buy your car as soon as they look at it. Whether looking at a picture of your car online or in person, you will only have a few moments to convince the person to take a closer look. So whether you choose to sell to a “private party” through a listing on craigslist, opt to trade-in to a traditional dealer, or use a full car selling service like Shift, it is very important to make sure your car looks clean and appealing.

Here are some tips to prepare your car for sale and increase it’s curb appeal!

1) Clean up your car

Let’s start with the most obvious: clean your car. Simple, yet you will be surprised how many cars are put up for sale without proper cleaning. This has to be more than just spraying the car with water. It’s the little things that could make your car look appealing and push people over the fence with hopefully a good offer. Consider the following:

  • Wash & vacuum your car.
  • Clean out your car of your belongings. Your entire car and trunk should be empty of all belongings.
  • Wipe down your wheels and hubcaps.
  • Wipe down your dashboard with car cleaning products so it looks new.
  • Wipe down your mirrors and windows inside and out.
  • Wipe down leather seats with a leather cleaner.

If you don’t have the time or are too lazy, you can always get it detailed or use a service that does it for you.

Clean Car Trunk - Lexus IS
Source: shift.com

2) Consider some minor upgrades

Small upgrades may be easily worth the money. You’ll be surprised how many things can be upgrade for $20-$70. The minor inconvenience could be well worth it if you are able to sell for hundreds more. Perhaps you can put in new seat covers, replace old car mats with new ones, replace an old headlight that just wont clean up, or get a steering wheel cover. Consider anything that will make your car look newer and more attractive. Small investments can pay off big time.

Car Inspection Repair
Shift mechanics doing a car inspection

3) Get your car checked out

Check the condition of the car with a mechanic. You’ll want to say with confidence and with a report that your car is running smoothly without any problems. This could make a huge difference for a buyer on the fence or a buyer trying to make a quick decision. It will bring him or her peace of mind particularly if you are trying to sell to someone directly. It will also give you peace of mind to know this buyer isn’t going to come back a week later, fuming because something broke down or a warning light came on. You may also want to get a vehicle history report to show the buyer that the title is clean and the odometer reading is accurate.

4) Minor car repairs may be worth it

First of all, larger repairs may be necessary if you have warning lights or have problems with key areas of the car such as your brakes or ignition. But outside of critical repairs, some minor repairs may be worth it when trying to maximize the sell price of your car.

Consider getting quotes to fix large, visible dents or scratches. Visible dents can significantly lower the value of your car in the minds of buyers, particularly if it is in very noticeable areas such as the door or hood. People are more likely to be more gracious about scratches and dents on your bumper or on the lower rim of your car.

Consider other highly visible items to repair. Is your headlights broken? Is there rust from scratches that makes the car look old and worn? Is your bumper lopsided or not straight? Do you need replace headlight bulbs or issues with your power windows or aux cable holes? Is your car making an odd sound that you cannot explain? These kind of visible fixes can make a big difference in how a buyer evaluates your car.

Generally, non-visible repairs like new brakes or tires won’t make too much a difference in the offer price.

5) Unique Upgrades & Modifications

Keep in mind that a sleek, expensive modification to your car may seem awesome to you, but may not be what a buyer is looking for. You may have put in $2000 worth of modifications, but if the buyer does not value that modification or worse, doesn’t like it, it will not help with the car price. If you are lucky enough to find a buyer who is looking for the exact type of modification then you are in luck! However in many cases, you will not retain the value of expensive 3rd party modifications. You may even want to consider having the mods removed if you feel you can get better value selling the mod separately or if you want a larger pool of interested buyers. Of course, your decision will be based on your modification and whether it has wider appeal.

This is particularly important when trying to do a trade-in at a car dealer or getting it appraised by an online service like Shift. As dealers both buy and sells cars, it needs to consider the needs of the buyer and has to be able to vouch for the modification. Thus it is not uncommon for dealers to devalue modification or outright reject cars with too many serious modifications. You may feel like your modifications are great and installed well, but keep in mind that a dealer can’t guarantee it’s quality and performance to the buyer and the buyer has no guarantees other than your word. Something to consider when gathering quotes and deciding on how you want to present your car.

6) Vehicle Age & Mileage

You may not be able to take back or change the age or mileage of your car, but you can be sure to sell it at the right time. Do not underestimate the psychological power of numbers. The value of your car can depreciate significantly when it hits specific milestones such as 100,000 miles or 10 years of age. If your car is nearly certain milestones, consider reducing your use of the car and selling it sooner than later. You may find the offer prices to be more attractive when you come under such milestones.

7) Paperwork is important

Having poor paperwork can really hurt car’s sale price as well as increase the hassle of the transaction. It’s important to gather and have all your maintenance records, your title, and lien release papers ready at the point of sale. Be sure to review your documents early and correct any issues before engaging a buyer. This way you don’t lose out on a sale or be negotiated down due to the extra hassle and wait.

Let’s do this

Some of these tips seem simple but it’s the extra effort to prep your car for sale that will help contribute to getting a good offer for your car. If you are planning to sell your car directly to a private party, it’s imperative to go through these steps to maximize the value of the car. If all of this seems like a lot of work or you find yourself too busy to go through the process, consider an all-in service such as Shift to help handle the entire selling process. Get a quote on Shift, schedule a pickup, and everything from inspections, repairs, paperwork, car wash to test driving with buyers will be taken care of. No dealer, no DMV, and no hassle. Good luck selling your car!