Should You Repair Your Car Before You Sell It

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Selling a used car involves a good amount of preparation, which often includes minor repairs. 

Minor repairs usually include anything from replacing worn-out wiper blades or brake pads to touching up paint, smoothing out door dings, and so on. Whereas major repairs include major body work or heavy mechanical repairs. The process of selling a car that needs major, costly repairs is a very different story. It really all comes down to what you expect to get out of the sale.

So, the real question isn’t whether or not you should repair your car before selling but what to fix on your car before you sell it. Everyone wants to get the most possible for their used car. but there are just some car problems not worth fixing.

The Importance of Fixing up a Car Before Selling

There’s really only one successful way to sell your car these days if you don’t plan to trade it in at the dealer — and that’s via online marketplaces. However, online marketplaces are quite competitive in that most online car shoppers aren’t going to waste their time on a used car with obvious wear and signs of damage. If you’re going the marketplace route, NOT fixing up your car is one of the worst selling mistakes you could make!

For example, if your car has noticeable scratches, a broken bumper, or a cracked window, you may struggle to find serious buyers.

These types of repairs aren’t costly and don’t take a long time to fix. However, prospective buyers will find these things inconvenient. What’s more, they’ll likely expect a much larger discount to make up for the cost of repairs they’ll need to do. They may even see these surface blemishes as a sign of neglect. This may cause distrust as they wonder what type of condition the car is in mechanically — and no one wants to end up with a problem vehicle.

What to Fix on Your Car Before You Sell It

If you’re unsure of what constitutes a worthwhile fix before selling your car, the rule of thumb goes like this: The cost of making repairs on your car should not outweigh its potential impact on the resale or trade-in value.

black car with headlights on going through car wash

In other words, if the repair in question costs $1,500 but your resale value will only increase by a few hundred dollars, then it’s not worth it. Therefore, you’ll want to stick to general maintenance and minor repairs.

General maintenance includes:

  • Washing and detailing
  • Rotate the tires
  • Oil change/tune-up
  • Top off fluids

Minor repairs include replacing the following:

Burnt Out Lights

Don’t put off replacing burned-out tail lights, brake lights, signals, etc. Working lights are the bare minimum of ensuring your car is in good working order.

Worn Out Windshield Wipers

Wiper blades wear out more often than you would think. Having old windshield wipers that do more smudging than actual cleaning can make a bad impression.

defective windshield wipers

Squealing Belts

Every vehicle has a rubber belt system that works to power the engine’s accessories (cooling system, alternator, water pump, etc.) If the belt is making noise, it’s likely stretched out, cracked, or torn — and you don’t want that noise to cause concern for your potential buyer!

stack of worn out tires

Worn Tires

If the tires are wearing thin, then replace them. New tires will not only add to the car’s aesthetic but they’ll ensure that it drives well.

Worn Out Battery

This one is really important because a dying battery can affect how your vehicle performs. It’ll also get to a point where it won’t recharge and your potential buyer will have a car that won’t start.

Bad Alternator

The alternator is what generates your car’s electric power while charging the battery. If the alternator dies, the car won’t start. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix that you can most likely do yourself.

Body Touch-Ups

If your car has chips or scratches, you’ll want to have them touched up before taking photos. A car that has a body in mint condition will retain a higher resale value.

Squeaky Brakes

Brakes have two components that wear down from use over time — the pads and the rotors. They make loud noises (by design) when it’s time for a replacement. They’re also an important safety component, one that a potential buyer will take seriously.

car getting squealing brakes replaced

What Not to Fix on Your Car Before You Sell It

red car raised for underbody work and tire replacement

Now, what about the big-ticket items? Should you make major repairs before selling your vehicle?

The short answer here is usually no, it’s generally not worth making very major repairs to your vehicle before selling it.

These are issues that tend to cost thousands of dollars, and your car’s resale value likely won’t make up for the difference. It’s best to cut your losses and sell the car as-is — at a lower price, of course.

Where Can I Sell My Car As-Is?

There are plenty of people out there that will still buy a car in need of major repairs. Whether your car is in perfect condition or needs a little love, you can use Motobyo’s free valuation tool to get an honest and fair market price for your car — as well as a quick cash offer! Don’t forget to take advantage of our complimentary comprehensive  inspections to make sure everything is ready to go for the selling of your used car!

Find Out What Your Car is Worth Today!