Whether you sell your car yourself or trade it in to a dealer, you will want to do the little things - and maybe fix the big things - to boost your car's value.
Most potential buyers will expect the bare minimum of car prep when they look at a used car. "Unless your car is a rusty bucket of bolts, a professional detailing job is always worth the money," says Richard Homan, senior vehicle evaluation editor at KBB.com. "If you don't want to spend the money for a professional job, be sure that you at least wash and wax your car and change the oil."
As for the big things, the final price you set for your car should increase with any mechanical or cosmetic improvements. "Most used-car buyers don't want to think about fixing their car. So if you can brag about your car's new brakes or high-quality tires, it will sell much quicker," says Homan. Just remember to gather the paperwork for any major work and create a file of receipts to show potential buyers (as covered in Step 1).
Depending on the nature of your car's problems, it can be worthwhile to get them fixed. A few examples:
- 1. Lights -- Lights are generally inexpensive to replace, and they're important to a buyer. "A quick stop at the auto supply store and a Phillips screwdriver, and you're usually in great shape," says Ingle.
- 2. Windshield chips/cracks --The cost of repairing a windshield is usually less than the amount that buyers will mentally knock off the price if you leave the damage as is.
- 3. Brakes -- If you're selling a luxury vehicle, new brakes are worth the cost. For non-luxury cars, it's only a deduction of $100-150 from your asking price.
- 4. Tires -- Buyers are advised to check a used car's tire treads to get a sense of overall wear and tear. If your treads are worn or uneven, at the very least replace them with some matching used tires (as little as $30-$40 per tire), otherwise the buyer will often expect a significant discount ($300-$700), depending on the model.
- 5. Dents, dings & scratches -- If you have more than four or five dings, especially if they're glaring to the eye, hire a dent wizard. "Dent removal experts can be very affordable - often charging only $100 to remove several dings," says Ingle. "You will be saving the buyer the headache of taking it to the body shop." For a major dent where a panel needs to be repaired, it makes even better financial sense to fix it, Ingle advises.
Next Step 5: Set Your Asking Price
Keep in mind that dealers can get body work done at big discounts, so if your car needs extensive repair, you may want to consider trading it in.