For car sellers: How to detail a car before getting it sold

Updated Aug 09, 2022 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

If you plan to sell your car at the best deal possible, make sure it looks perfect. Read for some tips on how to correctly detail your vehicle before selling it!

When you decide to sell your vehicle, the first impression counts. It does not mean that you will focus solely on the car's exterior. It's not enough that the paint of your car looks clean and shiny.

Do not forget that interiors should be detailed too. Remember that potential car buyers are looking for vehicles that look decent and presentable. They wouldn’t want to see food crumbs in the nooks of your vehicle’s interior or a smelly pair of socks.

If you plan to sell your beloved four-wheels at the best deal possible, make sure it looks good and presentable inside and out. To help you out, prepared some tips on how to correctly detail your vehicle before selling it.

1. Detailing your car

Many people confused detailing with cleaning, but these two are entirely different from one another. Cleaning means removing grime and dirt, and it is just an aspect of detailing.

On the other hand, detailing means checking all the nooks and crannies of your vehicle and ensuring that it is free from dirt, dust, soil particles, pollen, grease and many other harmful elements that damage and lessen the value of your car.

car detailing

Detailing includes getting rid of imperfections such as rust, scratches, and stains

Additionally, detailing includes getting rid of imperfections such as rust, scratches, and stains. After detailing, every part of your car is vacuumed, cleaned, shampooed, conditioned, waxed, and polished. Want to know how to detail your vehicle like an expert? Read on to find out.

>>> FYI: Car Waxing, Detailing & Polishing: What’s the Difference?

2. Inspect your car

A thorough inspection is an initial step in auto detailing. Do it under a bright light or direct sunlight. It will allow you to see better any scratches, chipped paint, swirl marks, hazing, dull patches, dents, cracks and other blemishes in the car's exterior. No matter how small the area is, do not skip it. Remember that every detail matters.

man inspecting a car

A thorough inspection is an initial step in auto detailing

3. Wash the exterior of the car

Ruining a perfect car finish is easier than you think. You are already destroying the finish of your vehicle if you wash it incorrectly. You will see scratches and swirling patterns which is proof that you didn't wash your car the right way. It might be because you fail to rinse it properly or you utilized a somewhat rough detailing material.

How to clean your vehicle

Use the 3-bucket rule. To avoid confusion, label each bucket with numbers 1,2 and 3. Put grit guards on each bucket. The first two buckets should only have grit guards and water.

The last bucket should contain color-coded microfiber towel/wash mitts for the different parts of your car, car wash shampoo, and grit guard. It's recommended to use quality wash mitts that can be bought in large hardware stores.

3 buckets to wash car

Use the 3-bucket rule

Soak the microfiber towel on the third bucket. Start at the centerline of the car and work the way down. Rinse the cloth in bucket 1, and then do the same in the bucket 2 before you dip it again in a bucket 3.

Repeat the process in the different parts of your vehicle. Make sure to utilize the right microfiber towel for every area. Instead of using a microfiber towel, you have to use a soft-bristled toothbrush.

man cleaning the wheels of the car

Don’t forget the hubs and tire wheels

Don’t forget the hubs and tire wheels. Fill the third bucket with the mixture of one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and one gallon of warm water. Soak the microfiber towel (use a sponge for hubs, tires, and rims only) in the bucket.

Next, squeeze out any soapy water left then use it to scrub the tires. Remove all dirt and grease. And again, remember to wash it in the first two buckets first before dipping it back in the third bucket.

>>> Do you know how to do a better car exterior maintenance during the wet season in the Philippines?

Dry the car’s exterior

When drying the car exterior, we suggest you use chamois. It will thoroughly dry the surface off, and it will not leave swirl marks. Most retailers will suggest Aion Plas Chamois, which used to be known as Kanebo Plas Chamois. You can find and purchase it at Auto Detailing/ Car Wash shops at Banawe St. in Quezon City or any Ace Hardware store.

Streaks sometimes occur, particularly in the glass. To make things easier, dry these parts in a couple of directions. You should also practice doing a last wipe in the interior glass all the time. To this in a horizontal manner, and wipe the exterior glass in a vertical way. Doing so will allow you to identify if the streak is on the exterior or interior portion. It will save you time when removing the said marks.

Man wiping the car

When drying the car exterior, we suggest you use chamois

Apply wax on the car’s finish

Always remember to only apply wax in your car’s finish during a cloudy day or in a covered area, or else it will quickly harden and will be harder to wipe off. Leave it on for a few minutes. You can use this time to detail the interiors of the car.

When you see that the wax is already settled, utilize a buffer in the application process and a chamois or dry towel when removing it. But if you don't know how to wax your car, you can leave the buffering part to the pros.

Cleaning the interior

Before vacuuming your vehicle, you should first use an old stiff plastic brush for the car's floor mats and a softer brush for the seats and door panels. These tools will loosen dirt and grime in your interior. When you finish brushing, it's now time to vacuum the dust off. If you're dealing with pet hairs in your car's carpet, you can purchase lint-free fabric available in most home improvement stores.

>>> Grab your attention: Tips & Tricks to get rid of bad smell in your car.

old stiff plastic brush for the car's floor mats

You should first use an old stiff plastic brush for the car's floor mats

Clean the gauge and dash area using a microfiber or lint-free cloth. Avoid using abrasive cleaners and towels on the gauges and instrument cluster because they're made of soft plastics which quickly get scratched.

Utilize canned air when cleaning hard-to-reach areas. When cleaning headliner, avoid too much moisture because it will weaken the adhesion. Brushing it gently will do.

>>> Checklist: 10 must-have car care products.

To eliminate smells, use a mixture of ozone machine and anti-bacterial spray. Placing potato and apple in a Bounce dryer sheets (can be purchased at S&R) is also a cool trick to absorb odors. Take note that it’s tougher to eliminate cigarette and pet odors in the car. There are several methods you can use when trying to remove such odors.

Usually, it will take you 3 to 6 or more hours to completely detail your vehicle. If you have a hectic schedule and don’t have time for car detailing, you can leave it to the experts.

Hanna Sanchez

Hanna Sanchez


Hanna is one of the most competitive swimmers in the country during her day. It was not long before she discovered her passion for the automotive industry as well. Nowadays, she balances her passion through writing as well as coaching.

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