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Should You Detail a Car Before Selling?

Everybody wants to get as much money as possible from their car when selling or trading it in. 

But is detailing a car actually worth it when it comes to resale value?

Yes, You should detail your car before you sell it. Overall, the cost and time involved in detailing a car are worth it because you will get more money for a clean vehicle. Also, detailed cars tend to sell faster than their dirtier counterparts. 

In this article, I will discuss what detailing is, why you should have it done, and the costs involved. 

I will also talk about other ways you can increase the resale value of your car. 

What Does it Mean to “Detail” a Car?

A woman with pink hair is brushing the headlight of a black car.

Detailing a car involves more than just a simple trip to the car wash. 

Rather, detailing is the act of restoring a car so that it is as close to like new as possible. 

And because of the skill required, detailing isn’t really something you can do yourself unless you truly know what you are doing. 

Thus, it’s best to take your car to a professional to have it detailed. 

What Does Detailing Involve?

A professional detailer will perform all or most of the following services: 

  • Hand washing the entire exterior of the car – A hand wash gives you a much better clean than an automated car wash ever can. 
  • Paint claying – The detailer will use clay to remove contaminants and residue from your car’s exterior. 
  • Polishing – Polishing gets rid of minor scratches and imperfections in the paint.
  • Paint sealant – Paint sealant makes your car look shinier 
  • Waxing – Waxing a car preserves the clear coat over the vehicle’s paint to protect it from corrosion. 
  • Vacuuming – The detailer will vacuum the entire interior of the car, including the seats, carpet, and trunk. 
  • Scrubbing – Detailers will hand scrub the fabrics in your car to remove stains. 
  • Glass cleaning – Glass cleaning involves getting rid of smears on your glass surfaces. 
  • Surface wipe down – All the surfaces in your car will get a thorough wipe down to remove stuck-on dirt. 
  • Perfuming – The detailer will finish the job by adding a good-smelling scent to your vehicle’s interior. 

Is a Detailed Car Worth More?

Yes, a detailed car is worth more. 

Overall, you can expect to get about 10% more for a detailed car. 

Thus, if your car is worth $20,000, you can likely get an extra $2,000 if you get it detailed. 

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Car Detailed?

A woman's hand holding a dollar bill near a white wall.

Of course, if you’re trying to decide if getting your car detailed is worth it, you’ll need to know how much detailing costs. 

On average, a car detail costs between $160 and $170. 

However, depending on the detail package you choose, the final price may be higher or lower. 

Will Detailing a Car Make it Sell Faster?

Well, there is no guarantee that getting a car detailed will make it sell faster. 

But, I can say that, overall, a detailed car does usually sell faster than a non-detailed vehicle. 

And that makes sense when you look at it from the buyer’s perspective. 

When people go out to buy a used vehicle, they typically aren’t as picky as someone who is purchasing a brand new car. 

Thus, they will most likely be open to a wide range of vehicles. 

That means there is often a lot of competition when selling a used car. 

So, getting your car detailed will make it stand out from other vehicles, which will make buyers more interested and more likely to buy from you. 

Should I Detail My Car Before I Trade it In?

A man in black is cleaning the interior part of a car.

Whether you should detail your car before you trade it in depends on the vehicle’s condition. 

If your car is reasonably clean, detailing will probably not raise the price. 

The reason for this is that the dealership you trade your car to will almost certainly detail the car anyway before they re-sell it. 

However, if your car is very dirty, you may get a higher offer if you detail it first because the dealership will recognize that they will have to spend less money to clean it up. 

Can I Detail My Car Myself?

While you can detail your car yourself, it is better to get a professional to do it. 

Professionals have a lot of experience getting a car to look as near perfect as possible. 

But, if you don’t want to spend the money getting a professional detail performed, doing it yourself is the next best thing. 

Just remember, though, that detailing a car yourself can be a long and tedious process since you need to ensure you thoroughly clean every part of the car, inside and out. 

Also, you will need to conduct an adequate amount of research before detailing a car if you don’t have experience doing so. 

Because, for example, you want to make sure you use the right cleaning products on your car, or you can cause damage to fabrics and hard surfaces. 

Should I Clean Under the Hood of My Car Before I Sell It?

A woman is holding a yellow microfiber cloth while standing in front of a car with its hood open.

If you want to get as much money as possible from your car, you should clean under the hood. 

However, you should not do so if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

If you do, you could damage crucial parts of your vehicle or hurt yourself. 

Thus, for most people, it is best to have a professional cleaning service clean up under the hood. 

Will a Detailer Clean Under the Hood of My Car?

Generally, cleaning under the hood is not part of a standard detailing package. 

But, most detailing companies will clean the components under the hood if you want them to do so. 

Yet, you will almost certainly have to pay more for this service. 

How Else Can I Raise the Value of My Car Before I Sell It?

There are several ways to raise the value of your car before you sell it, but in the following sections, I’ll just stick to the easiest methods to increase resale value. 

Find All of Your Car’s Paperwork 

Of course, many people don’t keep all the paperwork they’ve ever gotten regarding their car. 

Yet, if you can find anything concerning repairs or maintenance, this can help you sell your car for more money. 

This type of documentation proves to potential buyers that you have worked to take good care of the vehicle. 

Make Repairs 

Even the slightest issue, like a busted taillight, could put off prospective buyers. 

So, get any repairs done before you sell the vehicle, especially if they’re things you can fix for cheap. 

Remove Bumper Stickers 

There’s a good chance the next owner of your vehicle won’t care about your political bumper sticker or stick figure family. 

Thus, if you try to sell your car with these stickers and decals, buyers may be turned off because they might see them as a pain to remove. 

Therefore, you should go ahead and take them off yourself. 

But, just be careful you remove the stickers properly so that you don’t damage your paint. 


If you are selling your car, you should definitely have it detailed. 

Getting a car detailed increases the price you can sell it for and will likely make it sell faster.

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