In the world of second-hand car shopping, looks are everything. The specs are important, as are the mileage and the year of manufacture. But even if your car goes from zero to sixty in three, nobody will buy her if she looks like junk. It may help to do some basic car repairs in preparation for selling your car. Maybe put in some new wheels and get rid of the most obvious squeaks. A basic trip to the garage could add hundreds of dollars to her price.
But even with her running like a dream, she needs to look the part. She can act pre-owned, but she should look pre-loved. It should be obvious you took good care of your car – not for sentimental reasons, but for cold hard cash. So after the car has had her underbody repaired, she can have a fashion make-over by way of pre-sale wash. You don’t have to repaint her – that wouldn’t make financial sense. But you can make her look good as new.
All about the wheels
Focus on the bits of her body that buyers will pay the keenest attention to. Almost everyone kicks car tyres when they’re walking around a car lot, though most of them don’t know why they’re doing it. It’s a bit like shaking a watermelon and placing it next to your ear at the grocery store. You have no idea what you’re supposed to hear exactly, but you can’t not do it.
Back to the tyres. You’ll already have replaced them or maybe re-treaded them, though new ones are better. Spruce them up more by shining the chrome wheel caps and shining the wheels and mud flaps to a gorgeously glossy black that makes them look even newer. While you’re down there you can oil the rubber bits and do a quick under-body wash to get rid of accumulated mud. Many of those bits have never seen soap. A good wash and rinse restores them to their showroom glory. You can shine the plastic bits too, with the right detergent.
Wash the inside and outside of the car body using soft brushes and washcloths. You can do a surface wash for the engine as well. It’s not enough to just soap and rinse – you need to dry the car. Air drying leaves water marks that can morph into stains, so get a piece of chamois and go over the car in circular movements, making sure every drop of moisture is soaked up. Beyond washing and drying, you can give the car’s body some sparkle.
Seal of approval
There are several options here. You could start with paint correction, buffing out or covering up minor blemishes like rust spots and scratches. Have this done professionally, because rust has an alarming rate of spread. Once the car is fully coloured, you can do a full wax. If done properly, your car can turn several shades brighter and has an appealing glossy shimmer, even if it was originally a matte tone. If you want to keep her matte, skip the wax treatment.
Either way, top off with a layer of paint protector that will keep that ‘new car look’ longer by protecting the body from lime, dust, acid rain, bird droppings, and floating gravel. When you’re giving your pre-sale cleaning instructions, make sure you ask your detailer a lot of questions. Many of them will take the automated wash approach, which means they’ll neglect the interiors. Your car could be pretty as a picture, but eventually, your buyer will open the door and get a whiff of the unwashed interior, then your deal is done.
So fresh so clean
Washing interiors is an intricate and laborious task, so it’s best to break it down into stages. Use a checklist if you need to. You can find one online, print it out, and tick as you go. It’s the only way to ensure you don’t forget bits that are easy to overlook, like ash trays, vents, door jambs, and window rubbers. These should all be cleaned and shined. Wash the windows, inside and outside, as well as the mirrors, front and rear windscreens.
Take out all the car upholstery – mats, carpets, rugs, seat covers, anything removable. Shampoo, rinse, and dry them, or clean and condition them if they’re made of leather. Then vacuum the now bare interiors and boot, making sure you get between the seats. This is the best way to remove car smells, because they’re often caused by smelly things stuck in the car’s crevices. Don’t forget to clean the inner car roof as well.
Clean the inside panels of the car – that’s the doors, the dashboard, the floors, and the non-fabric surfaces. They accumulate a lot of dirt and you rarely remember to wash them during your regular car treatments. Finally, deodorise the car. Use something like the Purifier, a patented odour-removal system that uses ozone to dispel not just smells, but also bacteria and allergens, giving your car a bona fide new-car smell.