It’s that time of year when people across the country are putting together their holiday wish lists. Ads on TV glorify gifting shiny new vehicles with big red bows. And, while you may desire to surprise a loved one with a new car, truck, SUV, or crossover, it just may not be in your budget. Instead, consider giving a pre-owned car. Used cars, despite the bad rap, can often fill specific needs more directly, from lower cost, to higher value, to greater availability.
Whether you’re actually buying a used car or passing one down the family tree, you’ll want to be sure to give the vehicle a little TLC prior to its big reveal.
Here are a few tips to make used cars look new:
1. Give it a Wash
Washing the vehicle is the first step. Using quality citrus oil soaps and gloss finishes can make a big difference. Clean the wheels before moving on to the body and save yourself the annoyance of water spots when you start detailing the exterior. Many car care brands sell kits that include proper soaps along with other essential cleaning items.
Tip: Use high-quality microfiber cloths to avoid any scratches or swirling in the paint. You can find these at most automotive and department stores.
2. Restore the Paint
Tiny dirt and grime particles can get stuck in a car’s clear coat, especially with used vehicles. Try using a clay bar (link opens in new tab) – a plastic, malleable, clay-like material that works great for removing dirt and particles from the surface of your vehicle’s paint job. A clay bar can remove hard water stains, paint overspray, and more to achieve a car paint restoration. Start by rolling the clay bar into a ball in the palm of your hand and pressing it flat. Next, simply run the clay over the vehicle’s exterior to lift away the dirt.
Tip: Remember to use plenty of lubricant when going over the surface of the car – most will come with lubricant. Doing this will ensure a smoother finish and even prevent future scratches!
3. Wax On, Wax Off
A clay bar will remove any surface wax on the vehicle, so it’s imperative that you reapply a fresh coat of wax to protect the paint from the elements. Use a high-quality wax when detailing the vehicle. Your trusted mechanic or a nearby auto shop can guide you to the right product. Always keep in mind: Car maintenance can go a long way in ensuring stellar exterior appearance for years to come!
Tip: Make sure to wax in a circular motion to apply the coat and reverse the direction to remove. Wax on, wax off, and the vehicle’s exterior is sure to shine.
4. Clean the Trim
Many parts of a vehicle’s trim are made of plastic and need special treatment for cleaning and protection. Using a degreaser will help restore trim surfaces including vinyl and rubber. If the vehicle’s trim is composed of black plastic, automotive stores carry products that help prevent plastics from becoming dull or faded.
Tip: Use this time to add some sparkle to the wheels and pick up some foaming rim and tire cleaner.
5. Detail the Interior
Quality interior detailing is key when gifting a car. Be sure to follow these routine steps for DIY car detailing:
- Step 1: Make sure to check under the seats and in all the nooks and crannies to make sure the interior is spotless. Use an old toothbrush to get into all of the spots you can’t reach with a cleaning cloth.
- Step 2: Use interior wipes or spray to make it shine like new. An unused coffee filter (link opens in new tab) can be a particularly effective tool.
- Step 3: Vacuum the interior, paying extra attention to crevices. These areas are prone to collecting crumbs, dirt, and grime.
- Step 4: Apply UV protectant to the dash and interior trim to preserve that clean car appearance.
- Step 5: Wash windows using a streak-free car window cleaner. If the vehicle has tinted windows, be sure to use an ammonia-free cleaner.
- Step 6: Double-check door jams for excess moisture and dirt underneath the panels. Over time, too much moisture can cause your door sills to rust prematurely.
Tip: Consider adding an emergency car kit, because you never know when you might pop a flat or have mechanical issues.
Whether your vehicle is brand-new and still has that showroom glow or gently used and shining from your gentle scrubs and elbow grease, a gifted car is a great present that will make all the difference for your special someone. Don’t forget that your gift will need auto insurance. Reach out to a Mercury Insurance agent to learn about vehicle coverage options and get a free quote. An agent can also assist in adding the vehicle and driver to an existing policy.