Car Choices: Repair those dings or sell as-is?
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We’re covering the motorist’s entire journey in our Car Choices series: from research to purchase to insurance to looking after your vehicle. And we're up to Part 10! Click on the Read More links below to see our previous nine parts.
There comes a time in every automotive relationship when it’s time to say goodbye to your current vehicle and move on. You need to make a change and so you have to find somebody who’s at the right stage in their life for your current ride.
But what do need to do to get your vehicle ready to sell? It’s a mix of business and beauty, and the emphasis you put on each will depend on the age of your car, the time you’re prepared to invest and the importance of maximising the residual value of the vehicle that has (hopefully) served you so well.
When you’re getting to the pointy end of a deal, you don’t want to be rushing around trying to find important documents you’re sure you left in the kitchen draw last January.
- Part 1: Buy new, used... or 'nused'?
- Part 2: Should you buy or lease?
- Part 3: Petrol or diesel?
- Part 4: Tips for insuring your vehicle
- Part 5: Online car buying vs purchase in person
- Part 6: Dealer or dealer? They're not all the same
- Part 7: Navigating accessories & upsells
- Part 8: Servicing, dealer or private?
- Part 9: Is driver training a must-do?
Gather together every piece of paperwork that relates to your car, so a potential buyer can see that everything’s in order. That can include everything from registration papers to Warrant of Fitness inspection results to general service history. It all gives a buyer confidence that you’ve looked after the vehicle, what problems have popped up and the fact you’ve had them rectified. Plus any recall fixes, for example.
This is also partly about presentation, so make sure everything’s organised in a way that makes sense to you (because you’re the one who’ll be fishing though it trying to find stuff when required).
But also keep it all in a plastic sleeve or folder that you can hand to an interested buyer to inspect; it’s way better than shoving a fistful of crumpled bills their way.
It’s also great if you still have the original handbook (that may be less likely with an older vehicle) and any other guides – some cars have separate instructions for the audio/infotainment system, for example.
In a business sense, these are good resources for any new owner. But it also sends a message that you’ve cared about the car, which will make for a more confident potential buyer.
There are people who take pride in the appearance of their vehicle and people who, well, really don’t care.
But even if you’re in the latter group, getting your car looking good is essential if you’re serious about selling. Not just to create a good impression, but also a potential buyer can see you’re not trying to hide any damage under the dirt and grime.
Serious stuff first: should you “refurbish” by fixing dents, paint scrapes and kerbed wheels? That’ll depend on the value and age of your vehicle because you have to balance the cost of the work against the potential gain in sale price. But there’s no doubt a sharp-looking vehicle will be much more saleable.
Every repair is different, so there aren’t set costs. But there are plenty of companies that offer “paintless” dent removal (ie: they don’t repaint the surface) and that could be as little as $150-200 per panel.
Refinishing paint is a lot more costly, but minor repairs are do-able for less than $1000. Not that you necessarily need a professional: for surface scratches you’d be amazed what you can achieve with a good old-fashioned cut and polish. There are even now polishes that can approximate different paint colours.
Kerbed wheels really irk car people. They look bad but they also suggest a lack of care/skill on the part of the current owner. Fortunately they are pretty easy to repair and refinish. Expect to pay $100-$300+ per wheel – not cheap, but a pristine set of alloys can really improve the selling appeal of a car.
Even without refurbishment, you should still make sure your car is clean and tidy, inside and out. Put aside a few hours and you can do this yourself with a few basic products, but again – that’s not for everybody.
There are plenty of grooming services that will undertake anything from a basic wash to a professional-quality groom, interior shampoo and even an engine steam clean. Expect to pay $100-$200 for a really good clean inside and out, but it’s not hard to hit $500 if you start ticking boxes for extras like headlight restoration (yes, they can do that and the result is great on an older car) or a proper machine cut and polish.
If you’re selling privately, that probably means you’ll use a listings service like DRIVEN.co.nz. So that absolutely means you need good photographs, which is where so many sellers really let themselves down.
It doesn’t have to cost anything because any modern mobile phone will take great shots. You just need a little technique.
Start with a clean car and pick the right time of day; early morning or late afternoon are best, as the sun is lower in the sky and you’ll avoid hard/harsh light and shadows, to showcase paint and shape.
Avoid taking pictures in your driveway if you can. Stay away from trees (bad reflections) and choose a nice open space and clean background - an open car park, for example.
It’s up to you what angles look best for your car, but make sure the sun is behind you and shining on the surfaces you’re shooting. It’s usually best to photograph a vehicle with the phone/camera around the height of the headlights, which gives the car more personality and is usually the most flattering angle. Basically, that’s how you make a car look “cool” in a picture. And give the lens a clean/wipe, too.
Also, stand back just a bit and zoom in, to avoid distorting the car with a wide-angle image.
The interior is really important because potential buyers will want to see it in detail. Get the car out of the sunlight for that (preferably with it directly behind you, so the whole cabin is shaded). When shooting the dash, be mindful about your legs in the shot, and things like a straight wheel may not be a deal breaker, but they look better – like not having coffee cups or junk in the console.
You don’t need to go overboard with the imagery – just the basic front three-quarter, profile, rear and interior will do the trick if they are of really good quality. But if you reckon your car has some cool details, include shots of those too. Don’t forget – you’re selling a dream!
Now you’re ready to sell; next week, in our final part, we’ll look at the choices of getting the best price and speed of sale, either by private, trade-in or dealer purchase.