8 Ways to Get the Best Car Resale Value

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

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Want to sell your vehicle at the best possible price?

Selling a vehicle is in many ways like selling a house. You want to do everything you can to maximize its resale value, including extensive cleaning and major repairs.

A lot of people assume that there isn’t much they can do to boost their car resale value. Whether they’re thinking about trading their vehicle in or selling it to a dealer, they think that a car of a certain condition will have a fixed price.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth! You have plenty of power over your car’s resale value as long as you put in some time and effort.

Read on to get more insight into obtaining the best car resale value for your vehicle, no matter its condition.

1. Tackle the Interior

Many car owners believe that what the inside of a vehicle looks like isn’t too important when it comes to determining its resale value.

However, one of the first things that dealerships and buyers pay attention to is the vehicle’s interior. After all, this is where future car owners will be spending most of their time.

It’s essential to make your car’s interior as spotless, comfortable, and shiny as possible. This will help you make the most of your car resale value.

You may balk at the idea of cleaning or even replacing a lot of your car’s interior. But you’ll be surprised at what a little bit of effort can do in the process of selling your vehicle.

When tackling the interior of your vehicle, think big and small. Let’s start by diving into the big ticket items first.

The Basics

Start with a solid and thorough vacuum of the entire vehicle interior. This is absolutely critical if you are a pet owner and have a lot of dog or cat hair to get rid of.

Use an industrial or shop vacuum if possible, rather than a standard house vacuum. These are more powerful and can suck up those stubborn hairs and dust particles. Make sure you also use the hose or extension part of the vacuum to get all of those nooks and crannies.

When vacuuming, take out what you can. You may even want to remove the seats to really give your vehicle a thorough cleaning.

Next, tackle the windows.

Use Windex or some other glass cleaner to get rid of any fingerprints, dust, or oil on the insides of all windows. You’ll also want to clean the outsides of these windows, but we’ll get to that.

Inspect your vehicle’s interior for any stains, whether in the carpet or in the vinyl. You can get rid of stains with a small amount of dish soap mixed with a little hot water. Try using a vinegar and water mixture.

Clean the interior plastic of your vehicle with auto wipes so that every surface is dust-free. You may also want to take a warm rag and wipe down seats depending on the material.

The Details

Lastly, make the inside of your car smell amazing. Use an air freshener, particularly if it is a high-quality one that smells professional.

DIY car air freshener could also involve some orange peels sprinkled throughout the car for a day or two. Essential oil mists and car-specific sprays are a good choice too.

Lastly, freshen up car mats by taking them out and washing them in your driveway (if they’re made of plastic). Vacuum non-plastic car mats.

If your mats are in a state of disrepair, go to your local auto store and purchase some replacements.

Refrain from smoking in your vehicle for at least two weeks before selling it. You may also want to look into professionally cleaning your vehicle’s interior to get rid of tobacco odor.

2. Take Care of Minor Repairs

To boost your car resale value, make sure it has all of its minor repairs taken care of ahead of time.

What constitute minor repairs? Anything that doesn’t involve massive mechanical repairs or changes. You can handle these issues yourself, or make a quick trip to the mechanic.

Minor repairs can involve taking your vehicle to a mechanic to turn that “Check Engine” light off. Maybe your left blinker has been a little bit iffy in performance in the last few months. You may want to fix the sun cover that’s been flopping around lately.

Remember to check for windshield wipers, squeaking belts, sticky gas pedals, and window issues. Also, inspect the air filters and replace them if it’s time to do so.

Taking care of minor repairs means that you don’t have to break the bank to improve your car resale value. Dealerships in particular will want to purchase vehicles that don’t require a lot of work before they’re ready for resale.

Lastly, inspect your car for any dents, dings, or scratches. While these issues may take a little more time and money to take care of, improving them can significantly increase your car resale value.

Chat with your mechanic about scratch repair. In many cases, some scratches can be buffed out in a few seconds, or painted over for a small fee.

3. Make the Outside Gleam

Your vehicle’s exterior is definitely important when it comes to determining a car’s resale value. You want to make a good visual impression on your potential buyer, so make sure the outside of your car is spick and span.

Take your vehicle in for a thorough wash before visiting a dealership, auto salvage yard, or potential buyer’s home. You may want to have it professionally cleaned so that no soap spots appear.

It’s also important to wax the outside of your car. Waxing a car’s exterior can make it look very much as it did when it came out of the manufacturer. You can do this job yourself with minimum effort.

If you’re not up for it, hire a professional to hand wax your car. Prices for this service will vary based on location, type of vehicle, and more.

Before you clean up the outside of your car, inspect the bumpers and fenders for any damage. You’ll want to take care of any minor repairs here in order to target that car resale value.

4. Don’t Forget about the Tires

It will be difficult to sell your vehicle for a good price if its tires are shoddy. Spend some time analyzing your car’s tire health and making sure it has a solid set of wheels for resale.

If your car’s current tires are close to balding, or already there, it’s probably worth it on your end to replace them. Sure, this is a big investment, but it can do a lot for your car resale value.

In case the tires are fairly fresh and safe, fill them with the right pressure before bringing the car into a dealership or auto salvage yard. If you aren’t sure about what pressure to use, inspect your vehicle’s manual.

If it’s been a while since your tires have been rotated, make an appointment at a local tire center to get this taken care of.

You’ll also want to ensure the tires look snazzy. You guessed it – they deserve a polish too! Clean the tire rubber and the hubcaps. You can do either with a baking soda or vinegar and water solution.

You can also purchase tire cleaner anywhere in town to make sure your tires look good.

5. Check the Lights

In order to maximize your car resale value, make sure its lights are functioning and clean.

Start by testing out the interior lights. If any of these isn’t working anymore, replace the bulbs. You can find replacement bulbs easily online or at your local auto store. Plus, they’re easy to install!

Check to see that all brake and headlights are working. Test your blinker lights to make sure they function well.

Replace any of these lights immediately if they aren’t functioning perfectly.

You’ll also want to clean your lights. Use Windex and a paper towel to clean them thoroughly.

If your headlights are foggy or blurry, you’ll need to spend a little more time making sure they shine clearly. Luckily, you can invest in a defogging kit for less than $20 and take care of this job yourself.

These small things can dramatically boost your car resale value.

6. Check the Battery and Belt Health

Inspect all belts and hoses for bulges, tears, or other visible damage. If anything looks in immediate need of attention, it’s worth a trip to your mechanic or dealership for repairs.

You can boost your car resale value by making sure it has a high performing battery. Check the battery for corrosion, and remove any with a simple solution of baking soda and water.

If it’s time to replace your battery, do so before you bring the car in for assessment and resale. Batteries aren’t too expensive to replace, especially if you purchase them from a warehouse like Costco or Sam’s Club.

In case you aren’t sure how to check your car’s battery or belt health, your mechanic can assist you. Book an appointment so that he can look over everything and advise you in what repairs to make.

7. Monitor Fluids

To maximize your car resale value, bring it in with all of its fluids in tip top shape. Make sure that it has the windshield cleaner filled to the top.

Check your brake fluid and coolant levels as well, and replace or refill as necessary. If you aren’t sure what fluids your car requires, look into the car’s manual.

Next, check your vehicle’s oil before you prepare it for resale. If it’s been a while since you’ve replaced the oil and filter, now is definitely the time to do it.

As a pro-tip, put synthetic oil into your vehicle so that the next owner can enjoy a longer stretch of time before having to change the oil again.

8. Keep Records in Order

Getting your car ready for resale is a lot like getting ready for a job interview. You want to put your best foot forward, and not just your vehicle’s performance and health.

It’s also essential to keep all of your records on hand. This way, the dealership or individual purchasing your vehicle will know exactly what repair work you’ve done. It also helps increase the car resale value.

You may want to type up your own personal notes on oil change dates, battery replacements, and more. You can also obtain a car report that details significant vehicle repairs from your DMV.

This is important if you are selling your vehicle privately. Many dealerships will be able to pull up your car report there. Regardless, it’s better to be prepared.

Make sure you have all documents for your vehicle’s registration, title, and insurance history in order before taking your car in.

Maximize Your Car Resale Value

It’s definitely possible to ensure you’re getting the best offer for your vehicle, whether you’re trading it in, selling to a dealership, or striking a deal with a friend.

Make sure you spend some time cleaning up both the interior and exterior of your vehicle, prioritizing small details. Take care of any minor repairs, and ensure that your car’s tires are in excellent condition.

You may also want to take your car into your local mechanic to check its battery and transmission performance. He can also advise you on other repairs you may need to make before selling so that you get the highest car resale value.

At Cash Auto Salvage, we offer clients a fast and easy way to sell their vehicles for cash, no matter what condition they’re in. What’s more, we buy all cars, and we want yours!

Get your free cash quote today! Or find the closest Cash Auto Salvage location so that you can stop by for more information.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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