How to Clean a Car Before Trading It in

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Even the most knowledgeable used car salesman will give you more money for a trade-in if you take the time to clean your car beforehand. By having your car detailed inside and out, you show the car dealer that you're serious about getting a good deal on the trade-in value.

  • Clean your car before trading it in by thinking about the first impression it will make when a car dealer takes a look at it. Walk around your car and note the biggest problems, such as worn tires, filthy rims, torn upholstery or minor dents and scratches. Whatever you notice first will probably be the same thing the dealer notices, so take the time to fix these items first.

  • Remove all of your personal items from your car before you trade it in. It will be easier for the dealer to visualize how your trade-in vehicle will be sold to another buyer if it's clean and unfettered with infant car seats, loose debris and especially bumper stickers. Pay special attention to the glove compartment and trunk as well--it's surprising how many people show up to the car dealer with a trunk full of luggage and other personal belongings.

  • Have the car completely detailed inside and out before trading it in to a dealer. Remember, a clean car shows the dealer that you really took good care of it, and that it is much less likely that you're hiding any real problems with the vehicle. You should have the carpeting and upholstery shampooed, the wheels and tires cleaned and dust and grime removed from all those nooks and crannies in the dashboard.

  • Repair any minor dents or scratches if you can before you clean your car. The dealer will deduct much more money on the trade-in value for your vehicle for each defect than if you simply had these items fixed in advance at a local body shop.

  • Take your car in for service and maintenance before trading it in. By having the oil changed and the fluids filled, you're showing the dealer that you cared about this car, and that it is probably in excellent condition. In addition, if you have the engine compartment steam-cleaned, you may impress the dealer even further.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're a smoker, you may want to take some extra time to eliminate the smell of smoke from the interior of your car through the use of ozone treatments, deodorizers and disinfectants.

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