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What to do before you sell your car

If you’re selling your car, you obviously want to maximise the amount of money you get for it. Follow our tips to help you prepare your car for sale.

Preparing the car for sale

Appearances matter: potential buyers will be more attracted to a clean, well-presented car than something that looks as if it hasn’t been a cared for. 

Spend some time giving your car a thorough wash (and wax). Invest some cash in some proper car cleaning products, rather than just using some washing-up liquid in a bucket of water. There will be a noticeable difference. A coat of wax – or a washing solution that contains wax – is an extra process, but it will deepen the shine of the paintwork and does add another level of bling to the appearance.

Putting a few hours’ work in could boost the value of your car. If you don’t have the time to clean your car yourself, get it valeted professionally: it will cost a few quid, but it will look pristine when it's done.

Car interior cleaning 

The interior of your car is just as important as the outside of the car, so you need to pay as much attention to cleaning it. 

Take all of your belongings out and get serious with a vacuum cleaner. Get into all the nooks and crannies with the nozzle attachments: this is especially important if you’ve been carrying kids or dogs in the car. Don’t forget to hoover the boot, too.

If a vacuum doesn’t clean the carpets properly, try using carpet shampoo. You might also want to spend a little money on something like a cheap new set of car mats, which can really help smarten up an older car. It’s simple but effective.

Don’t bother with fabric or air fresheners. Not only are their odours a matter of taste, but they can create suspicion that they’re masking something unpleasant.

In the boot, make sure it’s all neat and tidy. If you have a spare wheel, make sure it's properly inflated and in good condition. Make sure that the jack is in place, along with the wheel brace (for removing the nuts) and the key for the locking nuts. If you don’t have a spare, ensure the tyre repair kit is in place.

Under the bonnet

You also need to show that the car has been well maintained, so check the oil, brake fluid and coolant levels, topping them up, if required. Do the windscreen wiper blades need replacing? If so, the £20-30 it will cost you to get a new set will be worth the investment. The electrics also need to be in full working order, as well as all the bulbs in the headlights, rear lights, fog lights, reversing lights, indicators and brake lights.

While the bonnet is raised for checking fluid levels, give the engine bay a once-over. It doesn’t have to sparkle, but making it clean and tidy does suggest that the car has been looked after.

Fixing defects

Check that your tyres are in good condition, ensuring that they’re properly inflated and have legal tread depth, with no cracks or splits that the buyer will want to knock money off for.

While you’re looking at the wheels, it might also be worthwhile repairing any damage to alloy wheels. There are lots of companies that refurbish or repair alloy wheels, so you spending as little as £50 could make a huge difference.

You could also consider touching up any chips and scratches on the bodywork. Some minor scratches can be fixed with whitening toothpaste (no, really), or a specially developed scratch removal product (it will be called something like a paint renovator or similar). Anything deeper will have to be done professionally, but it might be worth spending the money.

If you have a small chip in your windscreen, you should be able to get it repaired under your car insurance without it having an effect on your no-claims discount.

Getting paperwork in order

Make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork in order before you sell your car.

The service manual should show that the car has been serviced according to the correct schedule, with all the stamps proving it. Any receipts or bills for any work done are also very useful.

You should have the V5C, known as the logbook, which you’ll need when you sell the car. Without it, nobody will hand over any cash.

You must also have a valid MOT certificate, which shows that the car is legal to drive.

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