By Ali Koomen, who spent over a dozen years in the car dealership busines, provides her expert insights

Once you’ve made the decision to sell your current vehicle, the first thing to do is to completely empty the vehicle of all personal belongings. Be sure to check under the seats, inside the doors, glovebox and trunk. Take an honest evaluation of the vehicle, paying close attention to first impressions. If you’re noticing a flaw, so will the buyer.

Gather all receipts to show what work has been done on the vehicle and to prove that the car has enjoyed routine maintenance. If it’s a newer vehicle that’s had all work done at the dealership, your service advisor should be able to give you a print-out of the service record.

The five best places to spend money repairing and replacing are as follows:

TIRES. . .Insert a penny upside-down between two treads. If any of Lincoln’s head is visible, the tires are worn. Replace the tires with the least expensive ones available. Even if the buyer plans to buy fancier tires, if the ones that are on the car are in good shape, he cannot expect the $200-400 discount he would if the tires are in worn condition.

GLASS. . .If the windshield is cracked and your insurance covers the replacements, get it taken care of before putting it on sale, or expect an immediate $500 discount request from buyers. If the glass has been chipped, have it chip-repaired and keep the receipt to show the buyer that it’s not going to segue into a full blown crack any time soon.

MISSING/WORN PARTS. . . Hubcaps, antennas, mirrors, floor mats, windshield wipers, knobs for the radio, gearshift and the like can all go missing or become over-worn. Some buyers will look for any excuse to talk the price down. Making minor replacements like those listed above need not be over-costly, and paying attention to small details like this can help earn more money on the sale.

MINOR DENTS and SCRATCHES. . . Don’t attempt to paint-match scratches. It is next to impossible to find the exact color, and if the vehicle is not buffed immediately afterward, the touch-up will be noticeable. If the car only has one or two very minor dents, it can probably be left as is, but more than that may call for a visit to a paintless dent repair shop. Repairmen use suction cups and soft hammers to pop the dent out at a cost that is significantly lower than an auto-body repair shop might charge.

CLEANING AND DETAILING. . . After all the cosmetic flaws have been repaired or replaced, have the car detailed inside and out. If the vehicle has a large engine that is part of the selling point, have the engine professionally steam cleaned, too.

When the vehicle is show-worthy, visit a website like or for a suggestion of what the vehicle is worth (for tips on how to use KBB or Edmunds, see KBB price explained and Edmunds price explained). Compare these prices with those in recent classified ads (search for similar cars on sites like to get an idea of what sellers are asking for), and you should be able to come up with a fair and profitable selling price for your vehicle.

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