Preparing your car for sale

If you’re selling your car, one of the best things you can do to obtain the highest price is to make it as attractive and presentable as possible. This doesn’t just mean giving it a good wash, but also making sure all the mechanicals and your paperwork are up to scratch too.


The extreme to which you go depends on whether you’re selling privately or via a dealer and also how much your car is worth. A dealer has their own resources to carry out work on the car at a much cheaper rate than you, so there’s no need for you to spend $250 on a detail when they have access to their own in house, or to spend $1,000 on panel repairs when it would cost them $300.


When selling privately, however, the new owner will want to drive away in something shiny and clean that doesn’t require any further work. If they’ve done their homework, they would have requested a vehicle inspection, which would outline any work required and the approximate cost of completing the work. This cost will come straight off your asking price.


So what do you need to do? We’ve put together a Sale Preparation checklist which lists everything you need to if you’re selling privately, or via a dealer.


Sale Preparation Checklist

Private Dealer
Servicing Get up to date.

Make sure your services and logbook are completely up to date. If your car is due, overdue or has missed a service, it will show up on a vehicle inspection report and reduce your asking price accordingly. It also makes a buyer suspicious about what else could be wrong with the car.

Don’t bother.

It will be beneficial to have a squeaky-clean logbook service history, but you can’t change the past.

Worn tyres Replace.

Bald tyres are the clearest sign of an unloved and unsafe car. They’re easy to replace and will make your car easier to sell. ‘New tyres’ in a car ad is a good selling point.

Don’t bother.
Repairs Fix.

Do you know of any repairs required? Is your car making any strange sounds, blowing smoke or doing anything else it shouldn’t be? If so, get a repair quote. Anything mechanically wrong with the car will show up in a vehicle inspection report, and any strange symptoms make buyers suspicious about what else might be wrong. In most cases it’s worth spending the money, unless the repair bill outweighs the value of your car.

Don’t bother.

It will reduce your asking price, but to a lesser extent than selling privately as the cost to do repairs is less for the dealer than for you. They’re also unlikely to thoroughly inspect the car for all faults. However, they will lose confidence if several serious repairs are required, particularly if these are coupled with a poor service history, which will reduce your car’s value further.

Scratches and dings Fix if worth it.

These will be picked up in a vehicle inspection report and will reduce your asking price. A buyer is likely to perceive the cost of repairs to be higher than what they actually are and will factor in the inconvenience when negotiating on price. The worst case is that they will go elsewhere. Obtain a quote to fix these prior to selling and decide whether the cost, effort and time off the road is worth it.

Don’t bother.
Maintenance Give your car a once over.

If you’ve just had your car serviced, then any decent mechanic would have done this for you.

Otherwise, pump up your tyres, make sure all your lights are working and check that the air-conditioner is blowing cold air. If you have an older car and your mechanic has advised to check the oil and other fluid levels in between services, then do this as well. Also make sure the spare tyre is in good order and in the correct spot, as well as the tyre jack and changing kit.

Give your car a once over.

It’s a good idea to do this before visiting a dealer as well. It will only take you a few minutes. If your car has a blown globe, for example, it shows the dealer the car is uncared for and it will make them suspicious about what else is wrong with the car.

Clutter Get rid of it!

Remove any excess rubbish or stuff from your car such as umbrellas and CD cases. Definitely get rid of the empty cigarette packets and coke cans. A messy car suggests a neglected car and will reduce your price.

Cleanliness Get your car spick and span.

Ideally you should look to get your car professionally detailed inside and out. Have the upholstery and the carpets cleaned and the car waxed and polished to remove any minor scratches and swirl marks. Your car will instantly look and feel newer. You may want to downgrade this to a good wash if you’re car isn’t worth much. If you’re a smoker or dog owner definitely have your car deodorised. You may not smell it, but non-smokers and non-dog owners will, making your car very hard to sell.

Lift the bonnet and give your engine bay a once over if needed. This means clearing away any leaves, debris and cobwebs. It does not mean washing your engine, as this could cause serious damage.

Give your car a good wash and vacuum.

For smokers and dog owners, also have your car deodorised or at least air it out for a couple of days, wash any smoke and dog grime off the windows and clean out the ashtray.

Paperwork Have ready:

●      Registration papers.

●      Finance details if applicable (financier and amount owing).

●      Logbook and owner’s manual. In an older car where the logbook has been misplaced, it is essential to have a record of repairs and services for at least the last two years.


●      REVS check. This reports any finance owing on a vehicle and whether it has been written off or stolen. It also compares your car with others on the market. If your car compares favourably, it will help you negotiate a top asking price. Having a REVS check ready to go also makes a buyer’s life easier and your car more attractive. If you don’t produce a REVS check, a buyer likely will. A REVS check will cost you $37 and is available at

Have ready:

●      Registration papers.

●      Finance details if applicable (financier and amount owing).

●      Logbook and owner’s manual.

 To find your local mechanic to help get your car ready to sell, head to our service areas page.

About the author

Janelle Gonzalez is the owner of Blue Toro, Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise, one of the fastest growing automotive repair businesses in the country. She is an advocate for the hard-working mechanics who want an ethical and profitable way to better support their families. Her mission is to disrupt the automotive repair industry by exposing the rip-offs and returning to old-fashioned service values that car owners want.

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