DIY Car Reconditioning Guide

If you want to sell your car for top dollar, making it look as good as possible is one of the most important things you can do. That means cleaning it inside and out.

If you want someone to pay top dollar for your car, you'll need to get inside their heads. Buyers will expect their purchase to be as pristine as possible. Even though it may only cost you a few hours of work and a couple hundred bucks in materials, making your car look immaculate could net you several hundred or even thousands of dollars extra compared to a dirty car.

You'll need more than just a regular wash and vacuum. You want to go the heavy detail or even full reconditioning route.

Of course, the easiest route for reconditioning a vehicle is to have a professional do it. That could cost a few hundred dollars, so DIY is a common option.

Why Recondition a Used Car?

As previously mentioned, buyers paying top dollar for a used car expect the vehicle to be as perfect as possible. They want it to be as clean as it was when leaving the dealership. And they don't want to have any work hanging over their head once they get the keys.

Having a clean car that is "like new" and ready to go without any work needed will raise the value by hundreds or thousands of dollars. "Like New" status typically means everything is clean, there is no major work to be done, very few nicks/scratches/other cosmetic damage, and everything is included that was originally with the car (extra keys, owners manuals, lock nuts, etc).

With some a few hours of work, some elbow grease, and a few specialized materials, you could net yourself a lot of extra cash when selling your used car.


The exterior is the first impression the buyer gets of your car, so making it perfect is critical. If you want to get the most out of your car, you're going to have to give it more than a simple wash. To make your car "like new," you'll need to take a few extra steps.

  • This step is simple and familiar enough. Here are some tips to get the best results when washing your car:
  • Wash your wheels and tires first. This way, you aren't getting road grime all over your clean car.
  • Use a high-quality wash mitt and microfiber towels to wash and dry to avoid scratches
  • Use the two bucket system: one to soak your wash mitt with soap and one to rinse it
  • Use car-specific soap. Household detergents can damage your finish.
  • Wash top to bottom. This will keep you from spreading dirt and grime all over and scratching the finish.
  • Don't park in direct sunlight. This can increase the chances of water spots.

If you don't already have the materials listed above (wash mitt, microfiber towels, car soap), the investment will pay off because you'll be able to use those materials over and over.

Remove Contaminants

Once all of the visible dirt and grime is washed off and the car is dried, it's time to take things to the next level.

If you were to run your fingers over the paint at this point, things would feel pretty smooth and clean. Unfortunately, there is microscopic dirt and other particles that are embedded in the paint. These particles not only keep your paint job from looking its best, but they can also lead to oxidation and rust.

The traditional way to remove these oxidants is a clay bar system, but there are many alternatives including towels, mitts, and other putties. These options will pick up the contaminants that keep your paint from feeling smooth as glass.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions and be sure to use the recommended lubricant to keep from scratching the paint of your car. Once the paint has been gone over with the clay bar, you should be able to feel a difference. Now the car is ready to be polished.


Polishing your paint not only makes the car extra shiny, but it also gets rid of minute and micro scratches. Using a polishing compound and either a polishing towel or power polisher will give your finish an incredible shine and smoothness.


After applying the clay bar and polishing your paint, you'll need to protect all of your hard work. There are many options available including wax. sealants, and ceramic coatings. Each of these acts as a barrier between the outside world and your paint.

Waxing is typically inexpensive and easy to do but does not last as long as a ceramic coating. The ceramic coating costs more, but it actually forms a semi-permanent bond with the paint and lasts much longer.


The inside of a vehicle is just as, if not more, important to get spotless. This is where buyers get very impressed with the work you do. A "like new" interior is really what sells the cleanliness of a car.

To get your car ready to sell, it will take more than a simple vacuum. A little extra effort can bring in a lot more money.

Hard Surfaces

The hard surfaces of a car's interior can be the most difficult to clean due to the many parts and pieces that need attention. Many of these surfaces are made of vinyl, plastic, glass, or leather, so they will need cleaning supplies specific to the material.

The first step is to remove dust, dirt, grime, and debris. Vacuuming or dusting is typically enough to get the majority out of the way. After that, you will want to get more detailed with cleaning. Using the right cleaning chemicals for the particular material and a soft cloth, wipe down everything to remove the gunk that has accumulated over the years.

Be sure to clean the inside of the windows to cut down on the windows fogging up.

Here are some more tips to remember:

  • Use a small brush to clean the air vents
  • A small flathead screwdriver wrapped with a thin cloth can be used to get into creases
  • Use a quality microfiber cloth to keep from scratching the interior
Soft Surfaces

Seats and carpets will typically require a deep clean in order to be ready to sell. Carpets and cloth seats will need to be vacuumed and shampooed to revive them back to new. Leather and vinyl seats need to be wiped down to remove grime and dirt. With leather seats, a leather conditioner needs to be wiped into the material.

With these tips, some time, elbow grease and a few dollars, you should be able to command top price for your used car. If you want to make the selling process even faster and easier with zero hassle, Click Here to fill out some information about your car and we will contact you about it?