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How should you prepare your car before selling it?

Taking a few extra steps to prepare your car for sale can help sell your car faster and at a higher price, while giving the buyer less chance to haggle.

Nimisha Jain

Words by: Nimisha Jain

Andrew Woodhouse

Additional words by: Andrew Woodhouse

Last updated on 28 November 2022 | 0 min read

Top Tips
  • Clean the car inside and out
  • Make sure everything works
  • Gather together all the car’s paperwork
Preparing your car for a sale is an important investment in time and – possibly – money. Not only could it mean that you sell your car more quickly, but it might also mean you get more money for it.
A little extra time spent on preparing your car can help save a lot more time in finding a potential buyer and selling the car.

Five top tips for preparing your car before sale:

1. Clean your car

The very least you should do is to make sure your car’s clean and tidy inside and outside.
Simple things like clearing out the glove box and door bins can make your car all the more attractive to a buyer. General wear and tear are expected to some level when buying a used car, but if the car looks dirty and smells funny, it can make the buyer suspicious of how well the car had been maintained by the previous owners. You can clean the car yourself with a detailing brush or a vacuum cleaner or consider getting a professional valet which can help save you time and be a sensible investment.

Some common areas to clean in a car are:

• Floormats – a hose or a pressure washer can help remove dust and grime followed by a good wash using soap water and a sponge • Car seats – remove stains using an upholstery cleaner. If you have leather car seats, make sure you use products that are safe for the leather. • Smell – an odour remover can quickly get rid of any car smell • Paintwork– a sponge and soapy water are good enough to clean your car’s body, make sure you don’t scrub too hard as that can damage your car’s paint. • Wheels – use a long-bristled brush to get grime off your car’s tyres

2. Check if your car requires any repairs

Go around the car and check that all the electrics work – everything from the lights and wipers outside to the stereo, air-con and displays inside.
Make sure that all fluids in your car are topped up, including: • washer fluid • coolant • brake fluid • engine oil • power steering fluid • radiator fluid • transmission fluid You should also check that the tyres (including the spare, if your car has one) are in good condition and that all the mechanical bits and pieces are in good working order. If you come across any minor problems or damage, it’s worthwhile getting them fixed. Broken headlights, large dents, or scratches can put off a buyer, especially if the damage is very noticeable on the car. Fixing these minor damages usually only requires a little time and money to repair and can help in increasing your car’s sale price value. If you’ve had any modifications done to your car, you may want to consider getting them removed is they’ll decrease the value of your car. If your car requires any major repair work, it may be best to leave it with the buyer. Serious reparations can often end up costing more than the value they’d add to your car’s sale price. Related: Is it worth the cost of carrying out minor repairs

3. Check your car’s MOT status

If your car has an MOT that's due to run out soon, consider getting a fresh one done.
This is not just because a clean bill of health will make the car more appealing to potential buyers, but also because any obvious problem provides the buyer with the perfect opportunity to try and beat you down on price. Related: Complete guide to MOT tests

4. Gather all your paperwork

Finally, don’t forget that preparing your car involves more than just the car.
• Gather together all the paperwork you have for the car – purchase receipts, MOT certificates, and details of any services or repairs that you’ve got done in the past • A detailed picture of your car’s history on paper makes your car look more valuable and attractive to a potential buyer • Paperwork helps in providing the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the car has been looked after. Related: Documents required to sell a used car

5. Get a free car valuation

Once your car is taken care of and you’ve got all the paperwork together, you should estimate your car’s value with a free car valuation. An accurately priced car is likely to sell faster, and knowing how much your car is worth can help you weigh up your options.
You can get a free estimate using our car valuation tool. Auto Trader’s car valuations use data from across the automotive industry and this data is updated daily to provide you with an accurate and up-to-date value for your car. You’ll know, within minutes, how much your car is worth.