11 Tips on Cleaning Up Your Car Before Selling

A Clean Car is a Well-Cared-For Car

I know that personally, if I’m going to spend my hard-earned money on a car, I would want to know that [that] car was well taken care of, and a clean car shows that the owner cares for the car.

The first thing that I, as the potential buyer, would notice is the condition of the exterior of the car: the dings, smudges, scratches, and even bug splatters would decrease what I perceive the value of the car to be. So, before even putting your car up for sale, make sure to thoroughly clean it using some of the points that we’ll cover in this article.

You know the saying; “Don’t judge a book by its’ cover”? Well, unfortunately, everybody does it. When your potential car buyer comes over to take a look at the car, you don’t want him/her to get a bad first-impression of you and your car. If you spend some time cleaning up your car, then not only will the percieved value of your car be higher, but the buyer will also have less things to pick at when negotiating the final price of the car with you.

Preparing the Exterior of Your Car For a Sale

Since the exterior is the first thing that a potential buyer will see, this is going to be the first thing you will want to focus on cleaning up. Here are some tips on cleaning up your car’s exterior to give it that extra shine and catch the potential buyer’s attention:

  • Get the car washed before a potential buyer comes to take a look at it; a clean car shows that the owner takes care of it.
  • Polish Your Car To Remove Defects in the Paint. Not only will this get rid of the swirls in the paint and small scratches, it will also make your car’s color *pop* (in a good way).

    Here is the difference between the original paint (center), a buffed and polished section (left side) and a section with just the polish applied (right side):
    buffing and polishing your car - before and after

  • De-Fog your Headlights. Since your headlights are one of the main features of the car, you want to make sure that they don’t look like junk.If they look foggy, you can buy this stuff and de-fog your headlights in 5 minutes with a little bit of elbow grease, clearing up your headlights substantially and giving your car a much better (almost newer) look.
    clearing up foggy headlights - before and after
  • Fill in Rock Chips. This is especially important if your car is a darker color. You can Find Touch Up Paint here at an affordable price and instructions on how to properly apply touch up paint here.
  • You can also Pretty Up Your Tires with this tire foam and shine to give your car’s tires a sleek look, which makes your car stand out a bit more.
  • Clean Up You Engine Bay. Every car buyer is going to want to take a look under the hood, and having a dusty/dirty/ugly engine bay can give the car buyer the impression that the car doesn’t get serviced often. Make sure that your engine bay isn’t hot before attempting to clean it up (you don’t want to burn yourself!). It’s generally a good idea to wait a few hours after driving before cleaning up your engine bay, to let things cool down.

    engine detailing - before and after
    Image Credit: This image was spliced from two images on DetailedImage.com

Preparing the Interior of Your Car For a Sale

The interior of the car is just as important as the exterior of the car. For some car buyers, it may be more important than the exterior. Especially since they’ll spend a great deal of time inside the car, commuting to and from work.

The interior of a car also tells quite a bit about the owner and how well they cared for their car, so let’s go over some things that will help your car’s interior tell a good story:

  • Vacuum The Carpets and Seats of your car to get rid of any crumbs, hair, and any other debris that might have collected there. A potential car buyer will see the clean interior and assume that you actually take care of the car and feel much better about sitting on clean seats during the test drive.Also, don’t forget to vacuum your floor mats and carpets. This is especially important in the winter, when leaves and dirt might get on your shoes and find their way into your car.
  • Clean out The Door Pockets and Center Console of receipts and anything else that you might have stored there. This will give the car a much cleaner look and make those storage areas seem bigger (now that they’re not cluttered anymore).
  • Wash Your Windows from the inside and out. Clean windows aren’t something that a potential car buyer will notice right away, but that’s definitely better than them noticing dirty/smudged windows.
  • Clean up your Door Jambs of dust and debris. This isn’t one of those things that a potential car buyer looks at, but a clean door jamb makes your [clean] interior really stand out. You can usually clean these with a wet rag and a bucket of water and soap.
  • Wipe Down Your Dashboard to remove dust. I personally use Armorall Dashboard Wipes for this and they make my dash look great! They also work on door panels and center console (Works on Leather/Vinyl/Plastic).

If you follow these 11 quick tips, then not only will you have a cleaner, more pleasant vehicle, but you will find that your clean car also gets a much better response from anyone interested in buying your car.

Do you have any other tips that I might have missed? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment section below.


  1. […] the subject (your car) looks good. In order to pretty up your car, you should take a look at these 11 tips on cleaning up your car before a sale. After you’ve cleaned up your car, we can move on to taking pictures of it for your sales […]

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