How to prepare your car for resale: complete guide

If you want to sell your car quickly – and for a nice profit, you need to make a few preparations so that the buyer will see it in the best possible light.

In this complete guide, we’ll take you through the various checks and fixes you can carry out on your motor to get it looking and running its best. We’ll also look at the various ways to increase the resale value of your car.

If you’re struggling to sell your motor in its current state, a little TLC and a few well-placed repairs could make all the difference.

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DIY checks and maintenance

You should occasionally check your car over for any mechanical and safety issues, irrespective of whether you intend to sell it.

If you find any minor DIY fixes, addressing them proactively will help to ensure they don’t develop into anything more serious. Small blemishes such as scuffs, dents, scratches and rust spots can be fixed relatively easily – and doing so can elevate your car’s kerb appeal.

Don’t forget to check your tyres are inflated correctly - and make sure that the tread is comfortably above the legal limit. You should also check the fluids; top up or replace your engine oil, coolant, brake and transmission fluid as necessary.

Illustration of a boxster car

Car servicing

If you maintain a comprehensive service history for your car, this signals to prospective buyers that the vehicle has been well cared for throughout its life.

Before selling your car, make sure that all the servicing documents are in order. This will give viewers the full picture, informing them of any oil changes, tyre rotations and repairs that have been carried out.

If you’ve lost any paperwork, it may be worth piecing together your car’s missing service history. Seeing this documentation will help to assure buyers that the work has been done by reputable mechanics.

Haven’t had your car serviced in a while? Getting this done before putting it on the market can help to assuage any doubts about your car’s safety and reliability.

Cleaning, valeting and detailing

Cleaning your car with professional products or having it valeted can make your car seem more attractive to buyers. As a general rule, you should avoid using household cleaning or DIY products, as they could damage your car’s paintwork.

Here are a few pointers on how to wash your car in preparation for resale:

  • When cleaning your floor mats, use a hose or a pressure washer to remove any dirt.
  • When cleaning car seats, use an upholstery cleaner to get any stains out.
  • Make sure to use leather-friendly cleaning products if you have leather upholstery.
  • Get an odour remover to get rid of any unwanted smells.
  • To clean paintwork, use a sponge and soapy water, but don’t scrub too hard as this may spoil the paintwork.
  • Finally, when cleaning your wheels, use a long-bristled brush to get the dirt off the tyres.

Paperwork and documentation

Make sure you have all the necessary documents to sell your car including:

  • The V5C logbook.
  • The owner’s manual.
  • Servicing paperwork.
  • Purchase receipts for parts and labour.
  • MOT certificates.
  • Warranty and insurance paperwork.

Of all the documents listed above, the V5C logbook is the most important.

If the logbook is missing, selling your car can be difficult, as this document plays an important role in the car ownership transfer process. A missing V5C logbook will significantly reduce your car’s value. Therefore, if you can’t find this document, we strongly recommend ordering a replacement from the DVLA.

Illustration of a various documents needed to sell car

Mechanical checks and repairs

Check that all the electrical components are functioning correctly. If they are not, you need to decide whether it’s worth having them repaired. Bear in mind that in some cases, large repairs can work out more expensive than the car itself.

You should also check the fluids, top them up as necessary - and ensure that there are no leaks. When leaks are present, you may notice weak or uneven braking. Any leaks should be rectified before you sell your car.

If you are selling a car that has electrical faults and/or leaks, you must signpost this to the buyer to avoid potential legal repercussions.

MOT status

It is your responsibility to ensure that your car has a valid MOT before selling it.

To check your MOT status, enter your reg number into our free MOT check tool. If you have less than six months’ MOT cover remaining, it’s a good idea to get your car retested. This will help to reassure potential buyers that your car is free from mechanical issues.

If your car has failed its MOT and it is not feasible to repair it, you must be fully transparent with the buyer about the vehicle’s MOT-less status. If it could be argued that you attempted to deceive them, you could find yourself in legal trouble.

Personal belongings

Make sure you’ve cleared out any personal belongings before showing your car. This way, you won’t lose anything of importance at the point of sale. What’s more, a clutter-free car will be much more appealing to prospective buyers.

Determining the best time to sell

If you want to maximise your profits, you should ask yourself, when is the best time to sell my car?

The answer to this question will vary depending on what type of car you have:

  • Convertibles are in high demand in spring and summer, as drivers like to take advantage of the warm weather, but less so in the wintertime.
  • In winter and autumn, demand for SUVs and off-road vehicles tends to increase, as they handle inclement weather better than most other cars.
  • You should avoid selling a used car in March or September when the new number plates are launched. Second-hand car sales typically drop at these times, so you might not get the best possible price for your motor.
Illustration of a calendar

Deciding how to sell your car

It’s important to choose the best way to sell your car. Popular selling methods include:

  • Selling privately: This is worth considering if you’re dead set on maximising your profits.
  • Selling to webuyanycar: If you’re after a quick, hassle-free sale and don’t want to meet punters and dealers, webuyanycar can help. Simply enter your reg number into our free car valuation tool, then book an appointment at any of our 500+ UK branches. Finally, drive to your appointment; if you’re happy to sell, we’ll help with the paperwork and send the money to your bank.
  • Selling to a dealership: If you’re keen to get behind the wheel of a new model quickly, you can part-exchange your car at a dealership.
  • Selling at an auction: This can be a great way to find the right buyer for a rare, classic or collectable motor.
  • Scrapping your car: If your car is damaged beyond repair, the best option may be to scrap your car.

Setting the right price

No matter which selling option you choose, you should evaluate your motor with an online car valuation tool. This will help you understand what is (and isn’t) a good offer for your vehicle.

Bear in mind that you can expect to get a higher price on the private market than you would at a dealership.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Having the bodywork repaired can increase your car’s value and saleability. This might include repairing the alloys and windscreen – or rectifying any dents and scratches.

However, make sure these repairs are economically viable before going ahead with them - and bear in mind that any repair costs will eat into your profits.

Absolutely. Servicing your car can increase its value because it demonstrates that the car has been well maintained. Ensure that you have receipts for each service to show to potential buyers.

If your car has less than six months’ MOT cover, getting it tested can help to reassure buyers that everything is in good working order.