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8 Tips to Get the Most Value When Selling a Vehicle by Detailing


We all know that having a car look its best can get you a better price when you go to sell it. This is why, as detailers, For Sale Prep details are so popular. However, what are the main things to do? What areas should you focus on? What may look nice but wouldn’t increase value? Let’s discuss.

  1. The first, and main, thing is for the car to be clean. This doesn’t just mean a good wash either. Often times buyers will look in certain areas to get an idea of how the car was cared for. The gas tank door, underside of the hood, hood and trunk struts, wheel wells, etc. Seeing these clean portrays that this car was well maintained and cared for enough to keep these things in mind that you would not normally see day to day, or that wouldn’t get cleaned at a drive through car wash. Also make sure to do a thorough vacuum and remove all pet hair. Clean the steering wheel, turn signal knob, vents, etc. Clean the engine bay and dress the rubbers. Just clean everything.



  2. Make sure all the exterior rubbers and plastics are properly cleaned and protected so that are nice and black. Nothing screams a neglected vehicle more that grey, oxidized plastics. You can clean with Meguiar’s D101 and a Boar’s Hair Brush and an All Purpose Microfiber then protect with Poorboy’s Trim Restorer for a non-greasy finish.
  3. Make sure to polish the exhaust tips, if applicable. With Poorboy’s Metal Polish and some #0000 steel wool it takes just a few minutes an make a huge difference.
  4. dirty-exhaust-tip


  5. Clay and decontaminate the vehicle. Using CarPro PolyShave Block and Iron-X, if needed. Again its quick and will not only make the car look better, but feel better as it will be smooth, which will go a very long way.
  6. If necessary polish the headlights. This is a little more involved but will give you a huge return on investment as it will greatly improve the look of the vehicle.
  7. Take good pictures. With how good phone cameras are these days, there’s almost no reason you can’t get some good pictures of your car. Crouch down a bit to be at the car’s level, move things out of the shot and don’t have your shadow or reflection in the shot. You would be amazed at the kind of pictures people take when listing a car. See this example.
  8. bad-for-sale-picture

    Now see this, of the same car, but taking a couple extra minutes to get a good shot.


    Which are you more inclined to buy?

  9. Remove swirls. This comes with a caveat as it really depends on the kind of vehicle. For example, if you are selling a 2008 Prius with 150K miles, the amount of money or time you would spend to polish it would not get you a return on investment. The market for this vehicle doesn’t care as much as the mileage is so high that the total value of the car is too low. However, if you are selling a Ferrari Stradale, yeah that better look perfect.
  10. Protection. It is important to put some wax or sealant on to not only look better, but make the paint feel smoother as well. Don’t put a ceramic coating on it and expect to get more money for it. Adding a ceramic coating is still pretty niche and having the person who wants your specific car, in your area and also happening to want to pay to have it ceramic coated, is very low. Even if they were, they would pay what you paid if you have it done by a detailer. So just put a good sealant on it like my favorite, HydrO2 and you’ll be good to go.

Good luck with your sale!

Ian Martinez
Gloss Angeles
Irvine, CA
Instagram | YouTube

7 comments on 8 Tips to Get the Most Value When Selling a Vehicle by Detailing

  1. Yar Mosnar says:

    Never thought about some of the areas people look at. Many I do automatically but I thought it was just me. Very much agree with the Meguiar’s recommendations, but haven’t used Poor Boys myself. Looks like something I should have in my tool cabinet.
    I’ll be trying it out. Please keep up the practical great articles Ian.

  2. Dave says:

    Good article; thanks. The unintended consequence of this work will be that some people will decide to keep their car, as it now looks so good!

  3. Tim Goins says:

    I agree with. I put the extra on the engine. Ever since the 80’s, when I am selling my vehicle. After looking at the vehicle and they pop that hood (SOLD). Thanks, tim

  4. Pops says:

    Unless your detailing a high end car where you will have a chance of seeing your money again. Try to use products you already have. Many you can use for multi purpose applications instead of seeing your return go down by being lulled into that one trick pony magic solution that you can’t live without. Lower end cars are only going to bring so much if they have a show car ceramic finish or not. Clean the car inside out, top to bottom, nice polish and a sealant. Good time to finish that can of wax sitting on the shelf. Let it go spend all that money you saved on your new ride.

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