Fall On the Road

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Curb appeal applies to cars, too

"Curb appeal" is a term often associated with selling a house. Homeowners selling their homes want to improve their home's external appearance so it creates a stronger first impression when prospective buyers first pull up to the curb for an open house or a visit with their realtor.

But while curb appeal is often uttered in real estate parlance, the term also is applicable when selling cars. Private sellers want to make their vehicles look as nice as possible, giving it the kind of curb appeal that impresses potential buyers the moment they see the vehicle. Improving a car's curb appeal typically doesn't require as much work as doing the same for a home, but the following are a few ways sellers can improve the look of their vehicles in an attempt to impress prospective buyers.

• Give the car a good wash. The easiest way to improve how a car looks from the outside is to wash and wax it. Sellers should make this part of their vehicle maintenance routine until the car is sold. If you're driving the car while you're attempting to sell it, wash and wax the vehicle each week. Always wash the car before a prospective buyer is scheduled to come over and take a look. Spray detailers can be used to give the car some extra sparkle.

• Don't forget the interior. While a car's exterior contributes heavily to a buyer's first impression of the vehicle, the interior also bears heavy influence on any potential buyers. Vacuum the vehicle's interior, including both the floorboards and the seats, and clean the windows and windshields from the inside. Once the cupholders have been vacuumed, clean them with a damp cloth to remove any coffee stains or spots where something may have melted. A dirty interior may make buyers question if the rest of the vehicle, especially what's under the hood, was properly maintained, so be sure to include this easy step as part of your curb appeal routine. Clean the interior as necessary until the car is sold.

• Park the car in the garage. Whether you plan to keep driving the car every day until it's sold or intend to keep it parked until the right buyer comes along, try to park the car in your garage or in some place where it's protected from the elements. This prevents any additional damage from harsh weather and ensures a freshly washed car won't succumb to falling leaves or other debris that may necessitate another washing.

• Clean under the hood. While it's easy to notice the buildup of dirt and grime on the interior and exterior of the vehicle, it's not as easy to notice any such buildup under the hood. And while sellers may not see such unsightly buildup even when they open their hoods, buyers almost certainly will. Plastic covers are typically placed over the engine on many late model vehicles, and these covers can accumulate grease and debris over time. A spray cleaner or detailer can remove such buildup to make what's under the hood as visually impressive as your freshly cleaned interior and exterior.

• Clear out the trunk. No buyer wants to pop the trunk and see your golf clubs, beach chairs and cooler. When selling a car, remove all of your personal items from the trunk. This shows prospective buyers how much trunk space your vehicle is equipped with. In addition, an empty trunk will make the car lighter and, as a result, more smooth to drive, something buyers are sure to notice when they take the car out for a test drive.

The term "curb appeal" is just as applicable to selling a car as it is to selling a home, and sellers can improve their chances of selling their used vehicles dramatically if they take steps to improve the curb appeal of their cars and trucks.