The time has come to sell your (old) pride and joy – and get it ready for its next doting owner. But preparing your car for sale goes beyond removing all the five cent coins (and mystery fluff) from the ashtray – and the scratched-beyond-recognition Savage Garden CDs from the glovebox.

    Properly preparing your car before selling will lead to a smoother experience – and attract a better quality buyer who will pay a higher price.

    If you want to sell your car, click here and receive a price quickly.

    So where do you start?

    Remove everything from the car

    Return the car to as it was when you first got it. Consider it as much a spiritual cleansing process as a practical one.

    Sort out any remaining finance

    Are you still paying off a car loan? Contact your lender to discuss options. Ideally, you’d pay the car loan off in full before advertising. Many buyers are scared off by encumbered cars.

    Get anything fixed that needs to be fixed

    Hopefully, you’ve taken good care of your car and kept it in roadworthy condition – but if not, it’s your first port-of-call.

    Roadworthy condition means it’s safe to drive on public roads. A car in roadworthy condition is also a car that’s been looked after by its owner – one that will attract a better buyer, and will sell for more.

    If you don’t know how to check your car for general roadworthiness, drop by a reputable local mechanic and ask them to give it a once-over.

    They’ll check the tyres have plenty of tread; that all the exterior lights work; that the horn works; that the seatbelts are in good condition, not frayed or split.

    In some states you don’t have to get these things fixed, but something like two nearly-bald tyres does give a potential buyer haggling ammo – which will drive down your final purchase price.

    Indeed, in Victoria and Queensland, you don’t have a choice: proving roadworthiness is required when selling a registered car. It’s the same in the ACT, although for cars older than six years only.

    Once the car is roadworthy, whether you fix cosmetic things is up to you. Dings, scratches and other minor, repairable blemishes reduce the value of your car. If you don’t get them fixed, drop the price slightly.

    Get it serviced if its been a while

    This is presuming your car is in roadworthy condition. If it’s a near-new car and you’ve stuck to the scheduled service intervals with religious fervour, you needn’t worry. But if it’s a bit older and out of warranty, and you can’t quite remember the last time you had the oil changed, it’s worth getting it serviced. Savvy buyers will ask.

    Consider removing any aftermarket accessories

    If you’ve got a sports car or off-roader, chances are you will be better off financially returning your car to as stock a form as possible. Remove those big, 20-inch forged racing wheels and pop back on the factory 18-inch items (presuming they’re still in your garage).

    Take off that expensive bull-bar and winch, and pop the original front bumper back on. Sell the aftermarket gear separately – it’ll be more effort, but you’ll likely make more money overall. People like to customise their cars with their own things.

    Clean the car before selling

    What message does it send to a prospective buyer if the wrapper of that McChicken you ate six months ago is festering in the rear footwell of their future pride-and-joy-to-be? Not a good one, obviously.

    If you’re short on time, take your car to a hand carwash if that’s an option. Get them to do the inside and outside and engine bay. Seriously consider having the paint polished. A full professional detail may cost a few hundred dollars but it will add potentially thousands to the price of the car.

    If that’s not an option and you’ve got a bit of time, give the car a basic wash. Find a shady spot, hose it down first, then use a bucket and sponge with some car shampoo to do the exterior. Dunk and rinse the sponge often as dirt and grime builds up. Car shampoo from the supermarket is fine – you don’t need anything fancy. Don’t use dishwashing liquid.

    Once you’ve washed the exterior with the shampoo, rinse it down again. Then use a chamois to dry the exterior and you’re basically done. One small tip: get some aerosol tyre shine while you’re at the supermarket and spray the tyres after you’ve finished washing. Very few car-washing things give greater reward for the effort. (Only spray the side of the tyre – do not spray the bit that touches the road. Unless you like crashing.)

    If you have an abundance of time, polishing the paint is worth doing – especially if your poor car’s paint has not been treated to such pampering for a while. A basic car polish, some microfibre cloths and time is all you need. Standing back and admiring the extra shiny, reflective paint afterwards is worth an hour or two of effort – and will make your car look a million dollars in the photos. (Or at least a thousand dollars, depending on what you’ve got.)

    The interior is just as important. Remove everything, including the floor mats. Vacuum thoroughly and do the floor mats separately. Wipe all surfaces down. If you want – or if you need – consider extra cleaning of the seats to remove those suspicious stains, whether they’re fabric or leather. Your local auto accessories stores will sell an abundance of products doing exactly this.

    The engine bay is also worth cleaning. Wiping all visible surfaces with a damp microfibre cloth, or multiple cloths, can make a major difference. It’s best to avoid hosing down your engine bay unless you know what you’re doing.

    Get your documentation in order

    If you’ve managed to keep a full service history, ensure you can prove it – with a service logbook full of stamps, ideally. This does wonders for your car’s value. Track down the car’s user manual and you’ve got all the documentation you need. Read our guide on what other documentation you might need to consider when selling your car.

    You’re ready to go

    Take some great photos, write the ad, figure out the price and then advertise – and all you need to do is watch the enquiries roll in. Prepare your hanky for farewelling your car as it drives off into the sunset, to its next chapter.

    If you want to sell your car, click here and receive a price quickly.

    Dylan Campbell
    Dylan Campbell is a Contributor at CarExpert.
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