by Armando Martinez

The Benefits of Detailing a Car Before Listing It For Sale Privately

Although getting your car detailed involves a small investment of time & money, the resale benefits that it can provide make it worth the effort. A car that looks and runs like new will sell faster and for a higher profit. If you're wondering whether you should detail your car before selling it, here are a few reasons to consider doing so.

Increases Sale Price

Detailing your car is a simple way to increase its value before listing it for sale. A clean, attractive car tells a prospective buyer that the vehicle was cared for and is therefore more likely to be in good condition, inside and out. A properly detailed car can look like new, and any buyer who can get a new car for a used price will jump at the chance. Things like damage, cosmetic issues, dirt or staining, needed repairs, or odors can all reduce the amount that a possible buyer is willing to pay for your vehicle, so taking care of these things in advance can net you a tidy profit.

Limits Depreciation

The reason that cars depreciate is because of the wear and tear they undergo from regular use. Driving a car wears out its parts, damages aesthetic features like the paint, and overall reduces its reliability over time. Detailing addresses certain elements of wear and tear on a vehicle. Keeping a car clean and in good repair reduces the likelihood of future equipment failures or cosmetic issues, slowing the depreciation influenced by those issues. It’s a good idea to get your car detailed regularly; however, this is particularly important right before listing it for sale, so that it’s in the best possible condition for prospective buyers.

Catches Buyers' Attention Quickly With More Attractive Images

When car brands advertise their cars, they do it with flashy images of bright, shiny new vehicles. Even though your car isn’t brand new, you can still bring in more buyers by including attractive photos with your listing. Detailing your car gets it back to that shiny, clean, new-looking state, subconsciously causing buyers to connect it to those professional ads they’ve seen. Everyone wants a brand new car, but not everyone can afford one, so if your car looks new but is offered at the price of a used car, buyers will jump at such a deal.

What Should You Detail?

Detailing a car doesn’t mean that it has to be in mint condition, but it also isn’t as simple as a wash and a vacuum. There are a few steps you should take to ensure your car is in prime condition for the next owner.

Wash and Wax the Exterior

Washing dirt and debris off the car's exterior is the first step. But adding a wax coat can help prevent the exterior from collecting new dirt in the meantime. The wax layer is smoother than just paint, so new dirt just slides off instead of sticking. Wax also protects the body from rusting by creating a layer between the car and any moisture from humidity or precipitation. In the winter, a barrier of wax also keeps road salt and other chemicals from eating away at the paint and causing further damage. Plus, waxing a car makes it extra shiny and more attractive in pictures and in person!

Restore Headlights and Seats

Dirty, cloudy headlights just aren’t as bright as clean ones. The clear covers over the lights get scuffed and dirty as you drive due to being hit by bugs and debris from the road. UV damage can also make the headlights cloudier. Using a proper cleaner to remove dirt and debris and fill in scuffs and scratches can make headlights shine like new. Bright headlights are safer, so potential buyers will see clear headlights as more attractive when deciding whether to purchase your vehicle.

If there are any stains or spills on the seats or carpets, make sure to scrub those out as much as possible. Clean the fabric with a designated upholstery cleaner to get out all the grime without damaging the fibers. Leather seats need to be cleaned with specialized leather polishes, as other cleaners will harm the leather and cause it to crack or discolor. If there are serious stains, you might have to take the car to a professional detailer who has the equipment to remove them thoroughly.

Clean the Interior

A shiny exterior might pique a buyer's interest, but if the interior is a mess, they might just as quickly turn you down. Start by removing any of your possessions from the car so that it’s ready to go when they buy it. Clean out any trash and vacuum up crumbs and other debris from the seats, floors, mats, consoles, and any other nooks and crannies you can find.

If the car has any odors, such as smoke, mildew, or pet smells, make sure to clear those out as much as possible. People spend a lot of time commuting and completing daily errands, and no one wants to do these in a smelly car. Just hanging an air freshener may not be enough. A thorough cleaning of all fabrics and surfaces should help, but more work may be needed for stronger smells. Try using an odor-trapping spray like Febreze. In a pinch, charcoal or baking soda are good at absorbing odors, but might not be enough for particularly strong ones. Professional detailers may also be able to help with this issue, or may be able to recommend ways to take care of it yourself.

What Else Can Increase the Car’s Value?

Going the extra mile to get the car in its best possible condition can add even more value to your sale. In addition to basic detailing, you can take a few more steps to really make your vehicle stand out.

Repair Any Damage and Perform a Regular Maintenance Check

Prospective buyers will look at the mechanical condition and see any kind of damage or repairs needed as an additional expense they’ll have to incur after buying, making them want to spend less on the initial investment for the car. They may even ask you to lower your price on the basis of needing to pay for the repairs. If you fix any repairs or damage before you list the car, you may be able to increase the price of the car to cover the repairs. You may even be able to charge a little extra for alleviating the buyer's need to repair the car. Either way, a car with no repairs needed will sell faster than one with known problems.

Upgrade Outdated Parts or Wheels

If there are newer, better, or safer versions of the parts or wheels on your car, it might be a good idea to upgrade them. Buyers will pay extra to have a car with the latest technology because it makes them feel safer and makes the car more reliable. Research which parts can be easily replaced with upgrades, and talk to a dealership or certified mechanic about those that will add the most value to your car.

Perform Any Necessary Paint Touch Ups

Chipped or damaged paint is more than just a cosmetic issue. Although having a clean, solid paint job will make the car more aesthetically pleasing to buyers, it also prevents some of the issues created by damaged paint. The paint job on a car is designed to keep the metal frame underneath from rusting or getting damaged. Vehicle paints are designed to protect the metal from moisture and salt that can wear away the frame over time, making it less reliable. Vehicle paint is also much easier to clean than the rough metal underneath.

This article was written by Armando Martinez. Armando Martinez is among the nation’s experts on automotive titling, registration, DMV services and document operations. With nearly two decades of experience across a broad range of financial services functions and some of the largest names in auto, from Wells Fargo to Uber, Armando combines vision and ingenuity with a wealth of information so auto shoppers and sellers can learn from his experience.