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Car Clinic - Selling Your Car

How to prepare your car for sale

You’ve decided to sell. Tempting as it is to rush to offload your present car quickly, hold hard. A few hours spent preparing it for sale will, we promise, add hundreds of pounds to its value.

If you have decided to sell it privately, then devoting time – and a little cash, even – is a no-brainer. We’ll bet that you wouldn’t buy a grubby car, cluttered with the previous owner’s belongings – so why would you expect anyone else to?

And even if your plan is to part-exchange your old car with a dealer, it’s a cert he’ll offer more if the car is clean and neat. If it’s tidy enough to sell as it is, that’s his time and money saved.

Admin

Do the admin

Start with the paperwork. Check that the V5C, or owner’s registration certificate is present and shows your details correctly. If it doesn’t, fill in the changes and send it off – the address is on the form. Without this, selling is close to impossible. If it’s all A1, though, put in an A4 ring binder (Tesco sells these for 97p) using a clear plastic folder to keep it neat.

Add other papers – garage repair receipts, bills for tyre and battery replacements. If the car’s older than three years, don’t forget the current MoT test certificate. If it hasn’t long to run, should you get a fresh one?

Add in past MoT papers, too (if you have them. Otherwise you can search for and print the car’s MoT test history online. File everything in date order, starting with the newest, first.

Find the owner’s handbook and wallet pack. Check that the service book has all the stamps that it should – get the garage to stamp any sections they may have missed.

If the owner’s handbook is missing, consider buying a replacement from your main dealer – or look on eBay for a second-hand one

Clearn car

Getting your car really clean

Washing by hand using car shampoo gets better results than a trip through the local machine car wash. Details matter: work hard on the door openings, wheels and underbody to get it clean. If the car is filthy, wash it twice, rinse and dry using a chamois or microfibre cloths.

Check bonnet

Under the bonnet

But while the bonnet is raised, check and top up the engine oil, coolant and screenwash. If you don’t know how, look in the vehicle’s handbook for guidance.

Next, polish the paint - lightly. But don’t go overboard with tyre blackener, bumper clean and other lotions and potions. There is such a thing as an ‘over-prepared’ used car. If yours looks ‘too’ shiny, that can arouse suspicions when you mean to impress.

Turning to the inside, remove all your belongings and vacuum thoroughly, including the boot. If the seats and carpet look mucky, borrow or hire a carpet-shampooing machine. If the interior smells musty, this will also freshen it. Leave windows open to aid drying.

Don’t use fabric freshener to mask smells or in-car fragrance gadgets: they’re a real love-hate thing.

Scrub the ash tray (if fitted) and wipe the dash and headlining. Clean the windows and mirrors and a tip here is to use balled-up newspaper to buff them to a shine.

In the boot, remove all clutter, vacuum the carpet, then check that the spare wheel and tyre are inflated. See that the jack is in place and that the wheel brace (for removing the nuts that hold it on) is present. If the wheels have security locking nuts, ensure that the nut to release them is present.

What we’ve just described takes a couple of hours if you keep at it. But if you’re too busy (or just hate car cleaning) then £100 spent with a professional valet firm will repay itself come sale time.

Time for snaps

Time for snaps

Photograph the car inside and out, ready for the advert (which we’ll come to later). Take plenty of pics using a digital camera and not the one in your phone, unless it’s top quality. Take them in good daylight and check as you snap to ensure that they are in focus.

Once you’ve buyers lined up, you’ll need to give a ‘freshen-up’ wash before they call to inspect. But while this is a great idea, don’t leave it so the car is still wet when they show up.

Chucking a bucket-ful of water over a car is an old trick to disguise dull, faded paint. Savvy buyers know this and so may be falsely suspicious.

Of course, once cleaned your car may look so good that you’ll wonder why you ever wanted rid of it. If you decide to keep, you’ll be happy – and we’ll have helped you save a fortune…

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