7 ways to increase your car's 'curb appeal' when selling
A few small actions, like keeping paint shiny and bright, can make your car more appealing - and valuable - at sale. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Nancy Thorgaard)
We've all heard about the importance of "curb appeal" when selling a home, but it works for cars, too. If you're in the process of selling a car, remember the importance of making certain that potential car buyers get a favorable first impression when they see your ride.
Here are seven quick and inexpensive ways to improve your vehicle's curb appeal.
1. Check the tire pressure
One of the first parts of a car that a potential buyer will notice is the tires. And one of their first concerns about taking on expenses will be to wonder if they'll need to buy a new set of tires right away. Make sure your tires are properly inflated to avoid worries that the need for a new set of tires is imminent. Depending on the value of your vehicle, if your tires are worn you might also consider whether purchasing a new set of tires is a cost-effective measure to help the car sell.
2. Keep it clean
The last thing a potential buyer wants to see is a vehicle covered with dirt or caked with mud. Even a four-wheel-drive vehicle will sell better when it's kept clean. If your vehicle is parked and unused during the sale, washing it every few days might be sufficient. If you are driving the vehicle during the sale process, you might want to wash it daily. Keeping your vehicle clean is one of the most cost-efficient ways to improve its curb appeal.
3. Make sure all lights work
It takes only a few minutes and at worst you might spend a few bucks. Making sure that your car's headlights, brake lights and turn signals are all in working condition is another inexpensive way to make sure a potential buyer isn't immediately turned off when they begin examining how well your car runs. A dead headlight can indicate that you haven't properly cared for your vehicle overall.
4. Top off all fluids
Maintaining the fluid levels for automotive accessories like the power steering fluid and window washer solvent is a subtle but important way to convince a potential car buyer that your care for your vehicle has been impeccable. Most auto service providers or oil change specialists will include this service when you purchase an oil change, so if your car is nearing another oil change interval consider taking care of everything with one stop.
5. Organize your service paperwork
Speaking of oil changes, car buyers today want some assurance that a vehicle has been cared for properly. Nothing can be more convincing than seeing a neatly organized stack of service receipts that show the oil has been changed and the tires rotated at their regularly scheduled intervals. Your stack might also include receipts that show services such as a radiator flush or tire alignment, as well as equipment purchases such as air filters, brake pads and wiper blades.
6. Detail the interior
For newer vehicles, investing in a professional interior detail may pay big dividends in how quickly you sell your vehicle. For less than $200 in many cases, a professional detailing can rejuvenate carpets, seat covers and dashboards, as well as bring back that "new car" smell.
If you're selling a relatively older or well used vehicle, its resale value might not justify the cost of a professional auto detailing, but there's no charge for spending a little elbow grease of your own. Take the time to clean the interior of the vehicle as thoroughly as possible, making a conscious effort to reach deep into the cracks and crevices that often get skipped during your typical car-cleaning sessions. Areas to focus on include washing and shampooing the carpet and floor mats, dusting the dashboard and controls, and getting rid of personal clutter such as CDs, loose change and papers.
7. Repair chips and scratches
For newer vehicles, especially luxury models and sports cars, consider having dings, dents, chips and scratches repaired, as well as any noticeable damage like cracked spoilers or air dams.
Depending on that age and condition of you car, some visible damage such as dented bumpers or broken fender panels may not be worth repairing, since the cost to do so might be greater than the return you will realize at sale time. But small mars such as light scratches and dings are easily reparable by auto detailer or body shops, and doing so can go a long way toward making your vehicle more attractive.