The things you need to know about a pre-sale detail when you are getting ready to sell your car.


In this guide we talk about some things to consider when you are getting your car, ute, motorbike, truck or any vehicle ready to sell, trade or even and end of lease return. We talk about what areas are important and what is not, and how to impress your buyers so that your car will be the one they fall in love with, and get the money in your pocket sooner.
Craig from Revive Detailing Gold Coast has been detailing cars to get them ready for sale for many years, for both private clients and motor dealers across the Gold Coast. He has a great understanding of what buyers will be looking for when purchasing a used car, so why not use his experience and advice to get the best price possible for your next sale.


If I’m looking to sell my car, and I want to get top dollar, I know I need a detail. What is necessary and what is a waste of money?

The reason that you’re going to want to get your car detailed before you sell it is not just to increase the value of your car, but to make the sale of your car happen faster. When a prospective buyer is looking at the pictures on the internet or trader magazine, and your car looks like it’s old or simply not taken care of, the perceived value of that car is going to be lower than if they see a car that is spic-and-span clean.

When buyers see a car that is clean inside-and-out, they’re going to think, “Wow, this is a car that has really been kept up.” This perception of a clean car also translates over to the engine. When you have a clean car, the buyers looking at purchasing that car automatically think that you’ve also maintained the engine, the wheels, the rims, the brakes, etc.  It’s a psychological play on the full maintenance of your car. 

It starts on the inside with what people can actually see, and then it automatically triggers their brain to think that you maintained the engine and all the other components of the car as well.


Should I worry about having the engine cleaned?


When people are looking at buying a used car, one of their biggest worries is… has this car been maintained mechanically? Just like when they look at the car it’s clean, they want to see the engine to see if it really is what you said it was, and if the engine is caked in grease, dirt, and mud, they start to lose confidence in you, and therefore the vehicle.


So that cleanliness from the other parts of the car translates in their mind to the engine compartment of your car.  Again, it plays to “Wow, they must have taken the time actually to clean the engine compartment of the car.” Most people don’t take the time and don’t pay the money to have the engine compartment cleaned. When it is clean, the buyer thinks, “They must have spent the money to get the oil changed every 10,000 km’s, and they must’ve spent the money to get the brakes redone and new tyres, etc.”

It’s a huge selling point for a potential buyer coming to look at your car, and it gives you the confidence to say, “Hey, let me pop the bonnet for you so you can check out the engine.” Boom!

What about the boot?  Do I need to worry about having the boot cleaned?

The boot is very important, just like the engine.  A potential buyer’s going to be going over every aspect of the car, and if you leave anything to chance, chances are the person’s going to go, “Hey, can you pop the boot?” And if your boot is a mess… well… that doesn’t help us erase the suspicion that you were not maintaining the car. So yes, the boot’s important too.


What about mats?  Do I just buy new mats or do I have the old ones cleaned?

It really depends on the condition of the mat. Usually, if it’s a tan car or tan mats in the car, and if they’re really beat up or if there’s a wear spot where the drivers heal has been digging in, I usually suggest just replacing the mats.

But here’s the important part – buy the right mats for the car. Buy the mats that are identical (or as close to as possible), to what came with the car originally. They can usually be purchased for around $100 sometimes less, but it gives the appearance of the car as still fresh, still new. I think it’s worth it in some cases to just buy new mats.

If your interested in buying some new mats, I have had some customers purchase some amazing quality factory fit mats from www.fitmycar.com.au which are not only great quality mats, but are a fraction of the price the dealer would charge you.  As an added bonus, you can even choose the colour combination that best suits your car, including the colour of the edging and the stitching.


Should I get the whole interior shampooed or do I have my detailer do a really deep vacuum?

This will depend on the condition of the car.  If the car has had minimal use, maybe just one person, no kids, you might be able to get away with a really light interior clean-up, that includes a deep vacuum.

But more often than not, I would go and just get everything shampooed and leave nothing to chance.  When you get that deep cleaning on the car that’s what puts you in a position to get top dollar.



When a detailer uses a lot of interior dressing to make everything shine, doesn’t that collect a lot of dust and look bad when I’m presenting the car to be sold?

First off, a lot of interior dressings have a UV protectant in it. That will protect your dash against cracking and fading. It can also looks really nice.  The problem is if you go to the local car wash, or a detailer that uses cheap products and is just looking for a quick turn-around, and uses the shiniest stuff possible, that will attract a lot of dust, and in my opinion cheapen the look of the car. You want to have the car look as new and natural as possible and not look like your trying to cover anything up.

So, when it comes to selling the car, I still suggest a dressing, but I recommend a low gloss or even a mat shine – aiming for that new car look and feel to your dash and doors. But be sure to steer away from any silicone based dressing, that will attract dust in no time.


What’s the difference between spots and stains on the interior of a car?

Spots can be cleaned. Stains can only be made less visible.  As an example, spots tend to be about the size of a 50-cent piece. Stains usually come from a big spill of something that leaves a permanent residue. Most stains we can typically reduce in visibility by 65%-75%, but if you look close enough, you will always see the residual mark of the stain.



What about door panels and cup holders?  What can a detailer do for those?

They can clean them really good of course! A lot of times, especially if you’re talking about a pre-sale detail, the first thing a potential buyer of that car is going to do is open up the door and look at the door panel. If there’s a lot of elbow grime or your knee rests up against the door panel, and that’s dirty, or where you grab the door handle to get out of the car every time, and that’s dirty, the detailer can fix those issues.

The nice thing about door panels is most of them are plastic or vinyl which can be easily cleaned.  Also, they often don’t show much wear, other than just the dirt and grime which is an easy fix.


What about rips and cracks in the seats?

Usually detailers won’t be able to take care of that. That would be more of a leather repair or upholstery repair. The question that gets asked a lot of the detailer is, “My leather’s cracked, can you repair it?” This is where detailers will get in trouble because, with leather seats specifically, they start to show signs of wear. Wear is not a rip but more of a wrinkle in the seat. It’s actually where the dye of that leather seat has worn down, and that can’t be repaired.

It will look dirty if the wrinkle is really bad. And it’ll look dirty because the color of the dye in the seat has worn out. Where detailers will get in trouble is they won’t explain that to the customer. Then they’ll go really aggressive on that wrinkle, and that will make it worse and worse, the more aggressive they go.


What about scratches on the outside of the car?  Is that something that a detailer can fix?

Yes.  And the rule of thumb is that if you can feel it with your fingernail when lightly dragged across the scratch, it most likely can’t be repaired by the detailer.  But anything that your fingernail can’t catch on can be fixed by the detailer, providing it’s not going to compromise the paint. Sometimes it may be better (and cheaper), to just minimize the appearance of the scratch, rather than trying to remove it completely, but your detailer should be able to advise on this upon inspection.

Be careful of the detailer that has the super confident attitude that they can remove every single scratch.


I’ve heard about this clay bar stuff, what is it and do I need to have that done?

The technical term would be “mechanical decontamination.”  Basically what that means is if you run your hand across the paint and it was really rough and pimply, it would take out the roughness of the paint.

All these little things that fall from the sky, like little particles, that are in the air, and they land on your car’s surface. Over time, they begin to embed themselves into the surface of your car.  So what a clay bar is going to do is gently lift all those particles out of your car’s paint.


Do I need to have that done if I’m doing a pre-sale detail?

I would suggest it because, again, potential customers are going to be looking at the car and they may just run their hand across the side or feel for the smoothness of the paint.


The right side of the pic above shows the condition of the plastics before a quality trim restorer was applied. The left shows the final results.

Are detailers able to make the black plastic trim on the outside of my car look black again, and not faded and gray? 

Yes, and this is huge for a pre-sale detail. Faded plastics can make the car really show its age. So if you can revive that black plastic, again, it just makes the car not look so old. That’s the new thing within the past few years that’s been introduced to the detailing industry. Bringing that black trim plastic back to life.


Are yellow headlights and foggy headlights fixable?

They are, and a lot of customers don’t know that that’s fixable.  It is just an oxidation build-up on the outside of the lens. The plastic is polycarbonate, and polycarbonate tends to oxidize. Most will think that it’s on the inside of the lens and really it’s on the outside, and a detailer can definitely fix that.


Is a $99 car wash special the same thing as having a professional detailer do the job?

Frankly, when you take your car to the car wash it just becomes another number. Knowing that every car wash is different, I would suggest looking to your past experience with their attention to detail. Most, because of the nature of the business, are not as hyper-focused on your car as a detailer is, either by himself or with another guy, will be when that’s all they have to focus on – your car.

A car wash is primarily looking to have your car washed and cleaned, while a detailer is ensuring that they’re getting every nook and cranny of your car, hence the term “detail”.


Of course, let’s get to the money question. What should I expect to pay for a pre-sale detail? 

Now, this is different from a full detail you might want on the car that you are driving, for a pre-sale detail, I would expect to invest anywhere from $150 to $250.  It’s essential that you explain to your detailer what you want to be done and why you want it done. They can help you determine the services your car needs so that you minimize your out-of-pocket expenses for this when selling your car.


If the detailer wants to charge me more than I am comfortable with, should I just have certain services not done, so I can keep my price down to where it makes sense, since I’m just trying to sell the car?

Yes, I think there are definitely areas that you can skimp on.


What would those areas be?  If I’m trying to keep the cost down, what should I get rid of and not worry about the quality of?

For starters, you could avoid waxing the car. You could avoid having the clay bar done to the car.

If you just washed the outside of the car, that could save a significant amount of money.

If no one really uses the back seat of your car, you don’t need to get the back shampooed. Just vacuum that out really well and maybe have the detailer focus on the driver side and the passenger side front.

I want to make sure to point out that it’s not to say that those aren’t important, but if you’re trying to keep costs down, those are areas that you can skimp on.


What should a customer ask a detailer before they hire them to do a pre-sale detail?

They should ask them to do an evaluation of the car so that they’re not just getting a generic number and a generic price figure. The customer should ask the detailer to do a free evaluation of the car and give them a breakdown of everything that will be included in that detail.


Happy Selling!



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