Cleaning Up Clunkers for Cash

Sprucing up an old car can mean big savings when it comes to selling your car.

Sept. 7, 2009 — -- There are a lot of good deals to be had if you're in the market for a new car, but you still want to make sure you get as much as you can for your old car.

There are some really simple things you can do to increase the trade-in value, or if you'd rather hang on to your car as long as possible, there are plenty of inexpensive things you can and should do now to avoid astronomical repair costs later.

After some cross-country trips and years of daily commuting, Meghan Rathmann would be the first to say her 2003 Volkswagen has become a pit, inside and out.

"It's definitely seen some years," Rathmann said. "It's getting gross and dirty and old and I just hate it. Makes me want a new one."

But before putting her time-ravaged clunker up for sale, though, Rathmann did what more and more Americans are doing: giving the car a quick makeover that could mean a much higher value for potential buyers.

Companies, like, have cropped up to help drivers keep their old cars in good shape and ready for the market.

"A properly maintained car, it's resale value is sometimes 30 to 40 percent higher than a poorly maintained car," said's editor in chief Jon Guzik. "So it really is worth it to do the little things to keep your car running better."

For just about $100, Rathmann's car got wash solution, spray-on wax, scratch removal gel, fuel injector cleaner and new oil, a handy car vacuum, interior detailing wipes and new floor mats.

Cleaning Up for Cash

When the makeover was complete, Rathmann said it looked "amazing" and her hatred turned back to love.

"It's so sparkly. I looks beautiful. I love this. I can't wait to drive it," she said.

Ann Leach and her fiance, John Holland, turned to after grime and small dents scarred their beloved 2003 Mazda minivan.

The couple went for a more extensive, and more expensive makeover.

The car got a professional cleaning, dent and window repairs, a dvd player, a cooler, a trash can and a rear-view camera for safety.

All said, the total cost was $1,152.48 to turn their clunker to like-new.

The resale value of the car before the makeover was about $3,500, but afterwards, it jumped to nearly $6,000.