By Michael Clark

Perhaps it was the latest mechanical meltdown that was the last straw. Or maybe your hatchback has become woefully inadequate for transporting your Sea-Doo. Whether it’s a life change, family expansion, or see-through floorboards, most of us will be faced with the disposal of a few vehicles in our lifetime. Whether it’s a trade-in scenario for a new vehicle, or putting a “For Sale” sign in the windshield, here’s a few tips that should grab a few extra dollars at the dealer, or your driveway.

  1. Assess the situation: whether it’s a TL or a Tempo, you are the expert as to your vehicle’s issues. What you have learned to adapt to can be the first thing that piques the interest of a used car sales manager, or a curbside tirekicker. A simple checklist of what works, doesn’t work, or just plain annoys you is a good place to start.

  2. Dollars and sense: the last thing that you may be thinking of when selling or trading a vehicle is a budget to make it more saleable. In most provinces, a vehicle can be sold to a private party in “as-is” condition. In the eyes of a potential purchaser, this makes the car as enticing as a colon exam. Safety certification, and emissions tests, where applicable, will only help a private sale. This is usually not a requirement for a trade-in. The analysis of a used vehicle at a dealership is anything but technical. The used car manager does a quick walkaround, drives the car around the block, then flips open his Black Book and assesses a value. In the dealership scenario, you will want to address the vehicle’s cosmetic condition, and any driving anomalies that would present themselves during a test drive.
  3. First impressions can be costly: most of you reading this right now probably have at least one fast food bag in your back seat, coffee splash goo in the cupholder, and floormats with more ground-in dirt than the jeans in a Tide commercial. This is not the time to visit the Auto Mall, or even to scrawl a sign for the windshield. It’s time for a deep clean. There are countless reconditioning outlets that can power-buff, shampoo, and detail your vehicle to the point where you wonder why you’re selling it in the first place. Basic detail packages start at about $150 on average. Deluxe packages may be a consideration for the particularly grungy.

    Even a good driveway bath can do the trick. Take an afternoon and scrub like you’ve never scrubbed before. A rental carpet shampooer can easily breathe life, and a fresh scent, into a soiled interior. Address any stains with a spot remover. Old toothbrushes are a great tool for cleaning dashboard and console recesses. Don’t forget under the hood – a dirty engine compartment screams neglect, regardless of service history. Touch up any stone chips or scratches. A handy tool is a plastic dental cleaning pick. These picks have miniscule soft heads which keep the paint blobs down to a minimum. Bribe your dentist, or try an auto body supply shop. Vacuum out the trunk and cargo areas, especially of pine needles from Christmas trees past. A quick spin in the dishwasher can freshen up a smoker’s ashtray (throw the butts out first). If the lighter is particularly dirty, buy a universal replacement or a plug from an auto parts store. Odour absorbers can help mask Labrador accidents and baby spit-up. Remember, perception is everything.

  4. Is it for sale or not? Whether trading-in or selling, your vehicle should be a few license plate screw turns away from becoming someone else’s problem. (Oops, I meant ownership). This means that all of your personal belongings, such as jumper cables, ice scrapers, and rear deck Troll collections, should be removed. If possible, remove the vehicle from the family fleet for a private sale. Have all of the paperwork, such as ownership transfer documents, and 2 copies of a pre-written bill of sale ready for signatures.
  5. Advertise with love: it may sound hokey, but how you scribe your ad for your vehicle can definitely affect the number of messages on your answering machine. You could be the worst vehicle maintainer on the planet, and yet being the vehicle’s original owner seems to carry more weight. Accident-free is another major plus. When applicable, list off any major service that has been done in the last year, as well as safety certification and/or emissions compliance. When presenting a vehicle at a dealer, leave photocopies of any recent major service on the passenger seat, with a topsheet listing the fix-its.

You’re probably asking, “how much more will I get?” My crystal hubcap is a little hazy right now on specifics. The reward may not necessarily be bidding wars on your driveway, or hundreds over book value being paid on Dealership Row. Ultimately, these measures are more about reducing the hassles of disposal. Which, as they say, can be priceless.