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How To Best Clean Your Car For A Trade-In?

You know how they say "first impressions are lasting impressions"? Although we've learned how not to judge a book solely by its cover, it's hard to follow through when the cover is so jarring in relation to its contents. Even if it's a Pulitzer prize-winning book, would you really be interested in the cover itself is bland and uninspiring. It turns out that the art of trading in or selling your car is no different. 

If a potential buyer were to stumble upon your car with a "FOR SALE" sign on it, they may be more than slightly put off if it's dirty. Imagine the dullness of the paint, with scratches and dents aplenty, even if the machine underneath is practically pristine. Should a buyer be willing to stomach the sore sight of your car, you may still lose a lot more in resale or trade-in value. For what... Aesthetics?

Indeed, looks are just as important when it comes time to sell your car, as is whether it's actually running, or whether you've been attentive to its servicing. So, if you're planning to sell or trade your car in anytime soon, make some serious considerations to bring out the buckets and soap for a good scrub. An hour or two of work could, in effect, enable you to net a fatter profit on your car.

An Old Myth

First, let's debunk an old tale that's passed on across the generations - "you don't need to clean out your car before a trade". This is very untrue, and may hurt your chances when it comes time to have it appraised, or if the would-be buyer is keen on making an offer. The reason why that argument has existed in the first place is simple because; why would you have it cleaned when it's going away?

True, you'll soon no longer have to worry about your car anymore, so it - at first glance - does make a bit of sense why you really needn't have to care for how it looks. However, there are a few good reasons why you should absolutely pay close attention to how your car is presented in regards to its appearance or if there's any exterior damage, to net you the best possible trade-in or resale value...

  • If your car is nice and squeaky clean, it will give off the impression to the buyer that you've taken good care of the car. As such, they'll instinctively think that you're also sympathetic to the car's needs in general elsewhere, such as tending to oil changes and its fluids, replacing the tyres, and all the other maintenance checks. This should make them feel more comfortable to put in a higher bid, knowing that they'd probably be getting a well-cared for car.
  • Having your car be presented as cleanly as possible - regardless if it's to a private buyer or a dealer - may influence their financial planning with your car post-trade in. If your car is an absolute mess, they'll have to spend precious time and money - which they aren't keen to spend - to have it rinsed up after the sale. What money they could've given you for the purchase, will now be taken off the table to be spent on getting it polished up.
  • As we mentioned earlier, first impressions matter. Altogether, the way that you're presenting your car will allow the buyer to make a mental note of your personality. If they think you're sloppy - as is shown by how filthy your car is - they may think that you've been careless with the car. Perhaps you haven't shown interest in it? As a result, they may not make a high offer, costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars in potential earnings from the exchange.

How To Have Your Car Cleaned?

Right, now that we've settled on WHY you should have your car cleaned thoroughly, we'll now get into HOW you can proceed. There are a few ways that you can go about this, varying in difficulty and thoroughness. This will, of course, differ on your circumstance, and how disgusting your car is, but are all nonetheless important steps in restoring your car's sheen. So, let's take a look...

LEVEL 1 - Cleaning And Waxing

The most basic here is getting your car cleaned, as you would do normally. The first step here is to get rid of loose junk inside the car. Stuff like paper towels, chips, plastic bags, or other large items that might've been left behind somewhere. Then, get the vacuum cleaner out and suck out all the loose debris and particles. The carpets are the first things that you should look towards.

Leaves, dirt, pebbles, and all that can go away now. After that, point it to the harder to reach areas such as in between and under your seats, or the tiny folds in the cushions. Remember to clean out all the compartments too, such as the glove box, centre console, cup holders, and so on. If it's too small of a spot to get into, you can use a cotton swab or Q-tips. Then, wipe down all the interior trim.

This includes the windows, as well. Once the interior of the car is spotless top to bottom, get out the buckets, sponges, and hoses to have your car's bodywork washed up. All you need is a simple car washing shampoo, so there's no need to go overboard with cleaning products. And be sure to take your time, and ensure that you're thorough to give it as close to a showroom finish as possible.

LEVEL 2 - The Details

Getting your car detailedis a step above just merely having it washed, which is enough on its own. But it's worthwhile if you have the time and patience. Once you have the car all nice and clean, you can have it polished and waxed to give its paintwork that shine it deserves, and once had. Then, you can bring out the special products to gloss the tyres, and mind all the brake dust on your wheels.

If you'd like to be even more complete in cleaning your car, pop open the engine bay and have that cleaned up, too. Do be careful not to just dunk a bucket of water in there and start sponging. You'll need some high-quality degreaser to get all the oily grime off. With a brush in hand, you can then start removing the chemical residue around all the belts and hoses, slowly and cautiously.

Once you're done with that, perhaps the head- and tail-lights need defogging. They can turn yellow and dulled out after a while. Thankfully, you can have this cleaned out right quick with just a bottle of toothpaste! Oh, and don't just restrict yourself to looks. The smell of your car is important too, so use proper deodorisers to start shooing away all the old, musky scents.