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Selling a Used Car: How to Maximize Value

GMC Sierra Pickup Truck

If you’re in the process of selling a used car, you can maximize its value by taking several low-cost steps ahead of the sale. In doing so, you’ll make your car more marketable and the process will be smoother and more profitable.

How to Maximize Used Car Value

1. Repair dings and dents.

Unaddressed dings and dents diminish the value of your car. If the indentations are small you can handle the job yourself by investing in a small dent repair kit composed of glaze, mixer and sandpaper. More ambitious projects require an investment in body filler, hardener and matching auto paint, in which case a visit to your local body shop may be a better solution.

2. Wash and wax your car. Cleaning car interior

There’s nothing more appealing to potential buyers than a vehicle that is clean and shiny. Not only should you wash your car, but following up with a wax will only bring out the finish. Don’t stop there: Detail your car like the professionals and you’ll maximize its value.

3. Check the lights.

Tend to your car’s lighting by replacing all burnt out interior and exterior bulbs. If your vehicle is older, there’s a good chance the headlight covers are glazed. Not only do they look bad, but lighting is diminished and that’s a safety issue. A simple wipe down is not enough — applying car wax following a thorough scrubbing and washing should be sufficient. For tough jobs, a headlight restoration kit does the trick.

4. Replace worn mats.

If the car mats are worn, that’s one thing. But tears and holes mean they’ve long since past usefulness and should be replaced with a new set that matches or is better than the original.

5. Clean the seats and carpets.

Thoroughly vacuum the interior, paying special attention to every crevice and cranny to lift out dirt. A vacuum attachment or a small hand-held device does the trick. As for using a cleaning solution, be careful if your seats are made of real or imitation leather — turn to your owner’s guide, using only the solution recommended by the manufacturer to clean delicate materials. Remove stains, fill holes and mend tears for a full restoration.

6. Perform an electronics check.

If you own a late-model car, there’s a good chance it has tech features older cars don’t have. Here, you’ll want to ensure that everything is in working order. First, connect to each USB and auxiliary audio port to ensure they work. Second, turn on the infotainment system. If it needs to be updated, accept your manufacturer’s download. Third, if you have a navigation system, clear out the addresses — that’s information a new owner shouldn’t have. You’ll want to remove your HomeLink access code. Finally, press the CD player’s eject button — you may have left a CD inside.

7. Check the tires.

The most costly update for preparing your car for sale could be the tires. If they’re worn with tread grooves of 2/32 of an inch deep, they should be replaced. Not only is the car unsafe, but it is likely to flunk your state’s inspection. While you’re at it, check the spare, particularly if it’s the original tire and has never been used or replaced. Invest in a new spare tire, if necessary.

Once your car has been prepared for sale, you’re ready to find a buyer — and with a clean car to show, you’ll have a stronger negotiation position.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on selling a used car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Matt Keegan.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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