Selling Your Car? Follow This Checklist To Get The Best Price

Price My Car

If you’re selling your car, it’s fair to assume that you want to get the best possible price. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ensure that it’s an attractive buy. Now, that doesn’t just mean giving it a good wash, it also includes ensuring all your mechanicals and paperwork are in order as well.

What you specifically need to do actually changes depending on whether you’re selling privately or via a dealer. For instance, there’s no point spending money on a thorough detailing if you’re trading in because dealers have access to this service in-house, so it won’t affect the price they’ll pay. When selling privately, however, the new owner will want to drive away in something shiny and clean that doesn’t require any further work, so detailing will definitely help.

The key is knowing when to go the extra mile versus when you’re wasting your money. The checklist I’ve put together below details everything you should consider when selling your car, including how things differ when it’s a private sale versus through a dealership.


Private Sale: Make sure your services and logbook are completely up to date. If your car is due, overdue or has missed a service, it will show up on a vehicle inspection report and reduce your asking price accordingly. It also makes a buyer suspicious about what else could be wrong with the car.

Dealer Trade-In: Don’t bother. It will be beneficial to have a squeaky-clean logbook service history, but you can’t change the past.


Private Sale: Bald tyres are the clearest sign of an unloved and unsafe car. They’re easy to replace and will make your car easier to sell. ‘New tyres’ in a car ad is a good selling point.

Dealer Trade-In: Don’t bother.

Private Sale: Do you know of any repairs required? Is your car making any strange sounds, blowing smoke or doing anything else it shouldn’t be? If so, get a repair quote. Anything mechanically wrong with the car will show up in a vehicle inspection report, and any strange symptoms make buyers suspicious about what else might be wrong. In most cases it’s worth spending the money, unless the repair bill outweighs the value of your car.
Dealer Trade-In: Don’t bother. It will reduce your asking price, but to a lesser extent than selling privately as the cost to do repairs is less for the dealer than for you. They’re also unlikely to thoroughly inspect the car for all faults. However, they will lose confidence if several serious repairs are required, particularly if these are coupled with a poor service history, which will reduce your car’s value further.


Private Sale: Fix them if it’s worth it only. These will be picked up in a vehicle inspection report and will reduce your asking price. A buyer is likely to perceive the cost of repairs to be higher than what they actually are and will factor in the inconvenience when negotiating on price. The worst case is that they will go elsewhere. Obtain a quote to fix these prior to selling and decide whether the cost, effort and time off the road is worth it.

Dealer Trade-In: Don’t bother.



Private Sale: Give your car a once over. If you’ve just had your car serviced, then any decent mechanic would have done this for you.

Pump up your tyres, make sure all your lights are working and check that the air-conditioner is blowing cold air. If you have an older car and your mechanic has advised to check the oil and other fluid levels in between services, then do this as well. Also make sure the spare tyre is in good order and in the correct spot, as well as the tyre jack and changing kit.

Dealer Trade-In: Give your car a once over. It’s a good idea to do this before visiting a dealer as well. It will only take you a few minutes. If your car has a blown globe, for example, it shows the dealer the car is uncared for and it will make them suspicious about what else is wrong with the car


Private Sale: Remove any excess rubbish or stuff from your car such as umbrellas and CD cases. Definitely get rid of the empty cigarette packets and coke cans. A messy car suggests a neglected car and will reduce your price.

Dealer Trade-In: Exactly the same as private sale.


Private Sale: Ideally you should look to get your car professionally detailed inside and out. Have the upholstery and the carpets cleaned and the car waxed and polished to remove any minor scratches and swirl marks. Your car will instantly look and feel newer. You may want to downgrade this to a good wash if you’re car isn’t worth much. If you’re a smoker or dog owner definitely have your car deodorised. You may not smell it, but non-smokers and non-dog owners will, making your car very hard to sell.

Lift the bonnet and give your engine bay a once over if needed. This means clearing away any leaves, debris and cobwebs. It does not mean washing your engine, as this could cause serious damage.

Dealer Trade-In: Give your car a good wash and vacuum. For smokers and dog owners, also have your car deodorised or at least air it out for a couple of days, wash any smoke and dog grime off the windows and clean out the ash tray.


Private Sale: Have these documents ready:

  • Registration papers.
  • Finance details if applicable (financier and amount owing).
  • Logbook and owner’s manual. In an older car where the logbook has been misplaced, it is essential to have a record of repairs and services for at least the last two years.

Optional extra:

  • REVS check. This reports any finance owing on a vehicle and whether it has been written off or stolen. It also compares your car with others on the market. If your car compares favourably, it will help you negotiate a top asking price. Having a REVS check ready to go also makes a buyer’s life easier and your car more attractive. If you don’t produce a REVS check, a buyer likely will. A REVS check will cost you $37 and is available at

Dealer Trade-In: Have these documents ready:

  • Registration papers.
  • Finance details if applicable (financier and amount owing).
  • Logbook and owner’s manual

When you’re selling your car, it’s easy to get fixated on the new one coming your way and forget about the one you’re moving on. When people trade in at the dealer even moreso. Ultimately though, the checklist above can add quite a lot to your sale price as well as ensuring a much quicker sale.

For more auto related tips and tricks, head to The Blue Toro Blog.

Written by Janelle Gonzalez

Corporate escapee and mechanic’s wife Janelle Gonzalez has spent the last 24 years in garages, pit lanes and on road trips. Living a double life - corporate by weekday, trackside on the weekends - she shares her husband’s passion for cars. She has now turned her skills to building Australia’s first national mobile mechanic franchise. Her mission is to help Australians trust mechanics by educating car owners and returning to good old fashioned service values, while changing the lives of mechanics and their families.

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