8 Easy Fixes to Boost Your Car's Re-Sale Value


Are you ready for a new car? Great. But is your current car ready to be sold?

You may not think fixing it up is worth the time and effort (can't the new owner do that?), but those old tires, stained seats, and burned-out tail lights could cost you money.

According to Lauren Fix, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Car Care Council, the value of a mid-range car can be increased by $2,000 or more if you just spruce it up by making some quick and easy repairs. "If you can brag about your car's new brakes or high-quality tires, it will probably sell much quicker," she says.

Here are eight ways to make your car look as close to "like new" as possible, and get hundreds — or thousands — more when you sell it.

1. Polish up the Front

Nothing says "beater car" like a cracked windshield and blown-out headlights. But fixing lights just means a quick trip to the auto parts store, and as a bonus, they're generally inexpensive to replace. If yours are dingy, buy a headlight-cleaning product that will leave the plastic light covers bright and clear.

In the case of windows, the cost of repairing chips and cracks on the windshield is typically low relative to the amount that potential buyers will mentally deduct from your car's overall price if you leave the damage as is. So, even if it seems a bit costly, the up-front cost of fixing your windshield will probably be more than compensated for in the final re-sale price.

2. Clean up the Interior

It's easy to clean and vacuum your floor mats if they're dirty. But if they're worn through or soiled beyond repair, it's also cheap and easy to swap them with new ones, which should cost no more than $30 at the auto supply shop.

For the rest of your interiors, clean and treat the leather, and vacuum and scrub the carpeting. But don't use household cleaners — the materials in your car are different than those in furniture and carpets. Spring for cleaning products made for the job.

3. Shine Your Wheels

Nothing makes an old car look newer than shiny, lustrous wheels, so take time to clean out the dirt and grime, and use a tire-shine product on the sidewalls.

Then, check for wear and tear. If your tire treads are noticeably worn, at least replace them with some matching used tires (they can cost as little as $30 per tire). If you're not going to replace tires that are fast-approaching their use-by date, then expect to knock off a significant amount — at least $300, probably closer to $500 — from your asking price.

4. Make Easy Repairs

Look all over your car — inside, outside, and under the engine — to see what first impressions you can improve. Is the key fob battery dead, or a tail light burnt out? Those are easy replacements that don't cost a lot.

Make sure there are no warning lights glowing on the dashboard. If the "windshield washer fluid low" light is on, that's a no-brainer — top it off. If the "check engine" light is on, then get it checked. It could be a simple, inexpensive fix. If it costs more than you want to spend, at least divulge the problem to potential buyers — being honest goes a long way.

5. Wax On, Wax Off

If your car's paint job is faded, all you need is wax and polish to restore some shine — and car value. But if your car's value is in the upscale range — above $40,000 — it may be worth paying a professional detail shop to clean and polish it thoroughly. The difference between super-clean and dingy could be thousands of dollars.

6. Erase the Dents and Dings

While it probably isn't worth investing in serious body work, some parking-lot scratches can be polished out for an affordable amount. Check with your car insurance company or Angie's List for reputable firms that specialize in dent removal. A huge dent in your car is worth spending $100$200 on to get removed, because it could get you a few more thousand in the sales price, says Lauren Fix of the Car Care Council. But if you go for cheap or shoddy bodywork, that could actually reduce your car's value, she adds. "You would be better off disclosing that the car needs some body work."

7. Consider Springing for New Brakes

If your car is a luxury model, new brakes are worth the cost. If it's a mid-range or economy car, consider knocking off $100$150 from your asking price, instead. But if the brakes are really bad — squeaking every time you come to a stoplight — then pony up for replacements. Squeaky brakes will stay in a potential buyer's mind more than anything else about your car.

8. Get Your Car's Info in Order

Okay, you you've had your car maintained regularly and the battery is practically brand new — but can you prove it? The selling process really starts with rounding up your paperwork. That's why you should keep a folder of maintenance and repair records on your car. Besides providing evidence, an orderly folder shows that you really cared about your vehicle. If you don't have your service receipts, ask your dealer, regular mechanic, or oil-change center if they can print a statement that summarizes your visits.

Also, get a vehicle history report from CarFax or Experian to present along with the car. Besides showing the vehicle's ownership history, it'll prove your car was never in an accident.

If you can show buyers all your maintenance and service records, that — along with all the inexpensive fixes you've made — will go a long way towards giving your car's next owner peace of mind.

What inexpensive fixes have you made prior to selling a car?

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Guest's picture
Casey Jones

Great advice on selling an older car. Perhaps I should look into having some quick auto repair work done on my vehicle to increase its value. It would be awesome if I could sell it for more.

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