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Ready to sell your car? Here’s how to prep it for max profit

SHARE Ready to sell your car? Here’s how to prep it for max profit


This story is sponsored by KSL Cars. Learn more about KSL Cars.

So you’re ready to move on. You’re listing your beloved old ride on KSL Cars.

Now’s the time to think like a marketer — to make your car as appealing as possible — and also think like an investor — so you know what money to put into it that you can get back out.

We’ll start with the simple stuff. First, clean it up. Get all your junk out and pull off your bumper stickers so buyers can picture it as their car, not yours. Vacuum it and get out the upholstery cleaner. That stain you’ve gotten used to is an eyesore to someone else. Scrub the tires to get them good and black.

And wash the underside. First, it’s honest to show if there’s any rust; and second, you don’t want anyone mistaking dirt for rust. Shine up the glass, too. If your paint’s a little oxidized, give it a good rubbing out. A little muscle goes a long way. A bottle of rust treatment stops it from spreading and turns out-of-control orange into in-check black.

Air that baby out for a day or two. Air fresheners can only do so much…

Now, some financial decisions. Skip replacing tires unless they’re dangerous, because you’re not going to get that money back. Even if you knock a couple hundred bucks off the price, you’re still ahead letting the next owner buy tires 1/8" from now. And truck tires? No way.

What about maintenance basics like oil changes? If you’re bragging about perfect maintenance, keep it current. If you’ve been terrible about maintenance, do an oil change. It’ll show it’s had one, and if anyone checks your oil when looking it over, it’ll be a healthy amber, not questionable-history black goo. Scrub dust and corrosion off the battery with a toothbrush, which is plastic so it won’t arc. Then get yourself a new toothbrush.

If you can get a good price on headlight restoration, or, better yet, do it yourself, we say go for it. It can really transform your car from kinda old-looking to shiny-new up front.

For bigger issues, remember you’re going to get a lot more money for a car if the buyer can drive it home. After a good diagnosis, do the math and estimate to see if fixing problems is worth it. We found Passats on KSL with engine troubles listed for thousands less than ones that run well. If your car is running, it’s also open to a much larger group of buyers, not just mechanics and buyers willing to take a risk.


Finally, the photos. Do these right after you clean it up. You can find the best light either in the morning before the sun hits your car directly, or on a cloudy day. Your phone will work just fine, but hold it horizontally. You can include dozens of pictures on a KSL Cars listing so show buyers lots of angles and detail shots. Show the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let potential buyers see everything before they call you, set up an appointment, and come see it. That’ll save both your time. Good pics could turn a browser into a buyer.

That’s it. A little marketing and a little investing and you’re all set to sell. Just be careful you don’t get your old ride looking too good; you might be tempted to keep it.