It’s finally time to sell your trusty set of wheels. Now, before you seek out Sebastian – your Cardian Angel – there’s a few things to keep in mind before you sell. First of all, you may be emotionally attached and place a high value on your ride, but it’s important to remember that used car buyers don’t value your good memories. However, we’ve complied a list of things they do value to help you maximize your selling price before ultimately making the decision to part ways.

Fix or ignore?

Odds are there are a few issues needing attention on your vehicle. The older the vehicle, the more issues are likely to pop up as the vehicle ages. Some of them can be left for the new owner, with the understanding that the vehicle’s asking price is lowered slightly to accommodate for the new owner having to spend money on the repair. On the other hand, there are some issues that should be fixed before the sale. Let’s look at a few of those.

  • Safety – This is a no-brainer. Anything that could cause an accident after it leaves your driveway should be addressed. Tires, brakes, or engine and transmission issues that cause driveability problems should be fixed before the “For Sale” sign goes up.
  • Emissions and longevity – There are a few maintenance items that need replacing every so often. A vehicle will still run with a bad oxygen sensor or with old transmission fluid. It doesn’t have to be changed today, or even this month, but not changing it and selling the vehicle isn’t the nicest thing to do.
  • The cheap and easy – Dented rear quarter panel? Okay, that costs a bit and is quite an involved process to repair. Leave it. Broken side marker light? That’s a whole ‘nother story, as they are under $10 and can be swapped out in under a minute. Plus, it’s cosmetic, and a missing side marker might make a buyer question what else you slacked on.

Now let’s look at what you can leave for the next owner.

  • License tag due next month? Not your problem. You might want to mention it to the next owner, but if it’s theirs when it comes due, it’s not your problem. Same for safety or emissions inspections.
  • Door dings, scratches, minor cosmetic flaws. The daily grind wears on any vehicle, and minor issues are to be expected. Taking care of minor rock chips on the front bumper will make your vehicle look nicer, but you won’t earn back the cost of the repaint.

Sweat the details

Once the vehicle is in solid running condition, it’s time for a detail. Sorry, letting the rain take care of it won’t cut it this time. You want potential buyers to be instantly in love with your vehicle, but no one loves a filthy car. Spring for the full hands-on detailing service at your local car wash. This might cost as much as $200, but is absolutely worth it in wow-factor.

Or, do it yourself for roughly $30 in supplies and 2 or 3 hours of work. Just realize you will have to clean every nook and cranny, like into the door jambs, cowl area, and under the spoiler, and then wax it all. The cabin matters just as much as the outside, so vacuum the interior and get rid of any stains. Your goal is to make it look new, or at least better than the other cars for sale online.

Picture it

When it’s time to sell, don’t just take a few cell phone pictures and think its good enough. Use a real camera for its flexibility and settings. It doesn’t have to be a high-end Leica that’s worth more than your car, just any dedicated DSLR should be fine.

Then hit the local scenic spot; whether that’s a lake, park, ocean, or mountains, find somewhere with a beautiful background. Anything but your driveway. On a sunny day early in the morning or evening, take flattering shots by walking around the vehicle and finding complimentary angles. Go low for dramatic shots on sporty cars, or chose a high angle that makes a blocky truck or SUV look even tougher. Buying a vehicle is partially an emotional reaction, so try and trigger an “I want that!” response through your photos.

Find the value

Does your vehicle have all the options? Tell the audience about it. Someone may be looking for a car with leather, navigation, heated seats, and all the rest versus the stripped base model. Even if it’s not loaded up, odds are there is some unique angle you can sell from. Low miles, unique color, upgraded wheels, unusual options, and the last year model made are all worthwhile talking points. Find the value in your ride, and tell the buyers about it and why they should want it.


If you are looking for a couple more talking points, there some things you can do to upgrade your options. Spending money on modifications is usually a loss. Usually. However, you can add value to your vehicle by spending some money on it, but only in very limited ways. For example, let’s use the popular Ford Escape. A 2012 model with 100,000 miles can differ in price by $248 depending on whether it is equipped with navigation. That’s just one option, and it might be easy and cheap to add this option to your Escape before selling it to increase its value.

Know what it’s worth

How do you know what your Escape is actually worth? By using Carvana’s Cardian Angel car valuation tool, you can learn the true value of your vehicle in two minutes time. At the end, decide if you’d like to apply the value of your car towards a new Carvana purchase, sell your car to us and receive a check in the amount of your vehicle’s value, or simply walk away from the process with us equipped with a transparent and truly accurate valuation of your automobile.

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