Selling your own car was once a simple proposition: Put an ad in the paper, drop a “For Sale” sign in the window, and then wait for the calls to start coming in. Unfortunately – for sellers, at least – selling your own car is a lot harder today. The advent of the Internet means that prospective buyers can easily compare your vehicle to others, looking at everything from price and mileage to equipment, the condition of your tires, etc. If you want to get a good price on your car in today’s market, you’ve got to be smart. In addition to following our previous advice on the topic (see 8 tips for selling your car yourself), you also need to think about making a great first impression and – oddly enough – the weather.

for sale - '73 volkswagen superbeetle
Image ©Robert Couse-Baker Рclick for details.

Here’s more detail on both of these tips:

First Impressions Count

It’s a simple fact: you’ll get more money for a clean, polished car. While washing a car you’re trying to sell is obvious, most people don’t think to give their used car a good detail when trying to sell it. In addition to a wash, you should:

  • Wax the paint job, taking care not to get wax on any plastic trim pieces.
  • Polish any chrome surfaces. Note: Be sure to check to see if a chrome part is actually chrome – metal polish is bad for chrome plastic parts.
  • Power wash your wheels as well as the insides of each fender well, and also the undercarriage. Just be sure to do this when the vehicle is cool, because you don’t want to power wash your wheels when the brakes are warm (you can warp your brake rotors).
  • Use a combination wheel cleaner and tire shine to dress up your wheels, but make sure you wipe down your tires with an old rag before you drive. Otherwise, the tire shine “goop” will get on the rest of your car as you drive.
  • Use an interior cleaner to shine up the plastic parts in your car, but just like your tires, take a few minutes to wipe down these surfaces with a clean towel, removing any excess goop. No one likes to grab a door handle and end up with a greasy hand.
  • Spray some Febreeze or other air freshener underneath the floor mats and underneath the driver and passenger seat. This way, the car smells great, but it’s not overpowering.
  • A toothpick is great for removing gunk between two plastic interior pieces, just be gentle. A can of pressurized air is also helpful for this task.
  • If you can afford to have the carpets and cloth interior shampooed professionally, do so. Just be sure you can park your car somewhere with the windows open for a day or so after you have it shampooed, as it needs time to dry out.

Finally, consider cleaning your engine. A little bit of engine degreaser can go a long ways, but don’t over do it. Most sellers forget to clean their engine at all, which means you don’t want your engine to look too clean…if it’s sparkling, people might think you’re hiding something. Just clean it well enough that someone can open the hood and look around without getting dirty.

Leave a Paper Trail

In an age when wrecked cars can be re-done to look practically new, a solid paper trail can make a sale. You may not have been meticulous about record keeping, but it’s time to gather up all the information you have available. If you recently had the car serviced or repaired, being able to prove that to a prospective buyer can make all the difference.

You don’t have to provide the records in any specific way; a folder full of neatly-organized paperwork will usually do. This applies both to trading your car in at the dealer and to selling privately. Every buyer wants to know about the car’s past history, and they’ll usually pay more if you can provide it.

Watch the Weather Forecast

Buyers are fickle, and you never know whether they’ll ignore a vehicle or leap on it. One interesting fact, however, is that some cars sell better in specific weather.

If you’re selling a convertible, post your ads when the weather is expected to be sunny, clear and pleasant. Be sure to park the car where prospective buyers can see it. You may be surprised by the number of weekend drivers that stop by to ask if they can take your car for a spin. If your used car has four-wheel drive, post ads in the winter or early spring, especially just after the roads are cleared from a heavy snow fall. Put up notice for minivans, sedans and other practical family cars when school is starting up.

These tips are relatively simple, but you might be surprised by the number of people who don’t follow them. Simply making sure that your car is appealing to a buyer and knowing what it’s worth can produce higher prices and quicker sales. Think about who you’re selling to when you write your ad, be willing to negotiate, and don’t forget that while you may no longer want your car, your prospective buyer feels differently.

Guest Author Martin Kane is a car lover and freelance journalist, who writes advice on how to sell used cars. Click here to find out more about how you can get a good price for your used car.

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