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Before You Sell Your Car, Do These 4 Things to Get More Money

Buying a newer, more advanced vehicle is always exciting — but before you do, you need to decide what you’ll do with your current car. For instance, you could trade it in at a dealership, sell it or donate it to charity for a nice tax deduction. If you plan to sell or trade it in, there are a few things you can do to get the most money for your vehicle that could pay off big.

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If you’re looking to sell a car on your own, you can list it on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Sites like Kelley Blue Book let you place an ad for an additional cost.

See below for four things to add to your to-do list before selling a car if you want to get more cash toward your new car. For another money tip, here’s a sneaky factor to quickly boost your credit score.

Get your car fully detailed by professionals before you sell it

Would you pay the same amount for a dirty car versus a clean one? Probably not, and car dealerships are the same way. So instead of getting your car appraised while you still have crumbs in the driver’s seat from your morning breakfast sandwiches, get it detailed first.

Detailing is more than merely cleaning your car: Professionals will make cosmetic fixes and use high-tech coatings to make your car look like new. Your entire car will get a deep clean, including seats, floors, windows and the entire exterior of the vehicle. The detailers may also touch up the paint.

It costs roughly $200 on average to get a medium-size vehicle detailed, according to Autotrader, but a car that’s in tip-top shape can earn you more when you go to trade in a vehicle.

interior of a carinterior of a car

Get the inside of your car detailed so it looks like-new.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Finish any minor repairs before you sell or appraise your car

Does your car have an oil leak or a cracked windshield? It’s best to get those problems fixed before taking it to a dealership for an appraisal or listing it for sale. Minor automotive repairs can be taken care of at a mechanic shop and can help prevent buyers from trying to get your car for a lower price.

Repairing common problems, including windshield damage, small dents and minor engine issues, before an appraisal by the dealer can net hundreds of dollars more on your trade-in, according to a KBB representative. 

“If you fix minor dings for $550, that could potentially be the difference of an estimated $1,000-$3,000,” Renee Valdez, senior advice editor at Kelley Blue Book, told CNET. This is because the dealer won’t need to spend that money to make the repairs.

Double-check your car’s maintenance to get top dollar for it

Before getting an estimate of your car’s value, make sure that your car’s maintenance is current. You don’t want to show up to a dealership with bald tires, squeaky brakes and oil that needed to be changed 5,000 miles ago. 

A regularly serviced car shows that you’ve taken good care of your vehicle and that there aren’t hidden problems. Bringing your car’s maintenance up to speed can help you make more money than if you brought it in as-is. 

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Get a quote for your car before trading it in at a dealership

Make sure you know exactly what your car is worth before taking it to a dealership or listing it for sale online. You can use tools like Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer or the Carfax Sell My Car tool.

Kelley Blue Book Instant Cash Offer doesn’t guarantee you more money for a car, but the tool will save you time by not having to drive around to different dealerships and compare offers. Participating dealers are required to honor Instant Cash Offers as long as the information and condition you provided about your car are accurate.

With Carfax Sell My Car, you can determine the value of your car by filling out an application. Then, you can select local dealers to get free appraisals and cash offers. The offers are good for three days, and you’re not required to sell your car if you don’t like any of them.

For more CNET Money Tips, check out four options if you can’t pay your credit card bill on time and six tips for running on a cash-only budget.

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