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How to Prepare Your Car for Sale

Regardless of whether you're planning on selling your car to a private party or dealer, you MUST take the time to prepare it properly so you can get the maximum price possible.

This means making sure the car is spotless inside and out, and that all small repairs and blemishes have been taken care of.

Doing so can easily put an extra $1,000 in your pocket.

Step 1: Mechanical Inspection

If you really want to be thorough and plan on selling the car to a private party, your first step should be to take your car to a mechanic for a full inspection. This will usually cost between $100 and $150 - but make sure they spend at least an hour on the vehicle.

If your car needs expensive repairs, you'll find out about it. Unfortunately, you may realize your car isn't worth as much as you thought.

You'll also be one step ahead of the buyer. Most will want an inspection anyway so if you're honest about the problems up front, you will instill more trust in the buyer.

If the buyer opts to have the car inspected themselves, their list of recommended repairs may differ from yours so it will help to show them the results from your inspection.

Step 2: Gather All Records

Collect all of your maintenance slips and records and stash them all in one folder. If you're missing some, call the shops and ask them to print out a copy for you - most will do it for free, but some do charge a small fee.

Step 3: Clean the Car

This is the most important step. Make sure your car looks spotless inside and out.

Psychologically, buyers will think you maintained the car well as long as it looks good. Use this to your advantage.

If your vehicle is regularly stored in a garage, it can be smart to have it professionally detailed. This will usually cost around $100.

The alternative is to wash and wax the vehicle yourself. Also be sure to remove all junk from the inside and trunk. Check every little nook and cranny.

Clean the windows, both inside and out. Make sure all the upholstery is clean and remove any spots if you can. For dog hair, sticky tape can do wonders removing them from hard to reach spots. If you have damaged or worn items that are highly visible (such as cracked windshield, worn tires, broken tail light), it's best to repair or replace them before trying to sell the vehicle.

If you have minor surface damage, such as paint scratches or chips, it's best to try to touch them up. Don't repaint your vehicle, since most buyers will think it's been in an accident.

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar No-Haggle and Edmunds Price Promise are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

Gregg Fidan

About: Gregg Fidan


Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.

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