To children, the world is their canvas. Every surface in the house, every sidewalk or driveway – becomes a playground for their special brand of messy creativity. A dusty, dirty, muddy car is no exception. We've all seen nasty-looking cars covered with epithes of juvenile advice: “Wash me! Clean me! Fix me!” with smiley faces, squiggles, and underlines adorning their admonitions. Well, when it comes to selling your vehicle, the kids have it right. If you want to sell your car, you have to clean your car. You have to make sure it's ready.

I have a relative who is preparing to sell her house. The other day, her realtor came out and nit-picked every square inch of the property. “Fix this! Clean that! Plant something! Mow the lawn!” – these were the things she was hearing. Her realtor knows that in this market, if her house is going to sell and sell quickly, it has to look right. It has to curve ugly. It has to present the right image.

The same thing is true of your vehicle. If you are going to sell your car, sell it quickly, and get top dollar for it in this tough market – your car has to have “curve appeal.” It has to present well. It has to have the right image. Now is not the time to cut corners. If you're serious about selling your car, you have to nit-pick every square inch of it and make sure it's right.

Here's what to do. Take your car to a mechanic and have the mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection on it. Chances are, the person who is going to buy the car is going to want to do it. So it pays to know in advance what the mechanisms are going to find. Yes, it will cost you about $ 40 or so. But remember, if you're going to set your vehicle apart from the pack and sell it quickly for top dollar, you need to know what the potential issues are with it. At that point, even if you do not want to deal with those issues yourself, you at least have the information you need to overcome potential obstacles to the sale.

Speaking of taking your vehicle to a mechanic, you also need to make sure that the maintenance on it is up to date. Nothing is a bigger turn-off to an interested buyer (except some damage on the Car Fax) than seeing an out-of-date oil-change sticker in your window. Most buyers in this market are buying a vehicle to hold on to for a while. So if you're going to sell yours for top dollar and quickly, you need to convince them that it is not going to fall apart as soon as it leaves your driveway.

Once you are comfortable with the overall condition of your vehicle and have its maintenance up to date, it is time to wash it. This wash and clean-up should not be done by you, unless you are super-picky about your vehicle and have it in a very good state of cleanliness in the first place. This should be a professional detail job. And it needs to be thoroughly done inside and out, including the engine compartment. Every inch of your vehicle should gleam in the afternoon sun. Remember, the goal is curb appeal and presentation. It should be clean enough to distract passing motorists and cause an accident so that you have buyers right at your door-step. OK, maybe that is too extreme, but you get the idea. The average buyer will decide within the first 15 – 30 seconds if your vehicle is something he or she wants to pursue further. Everything after that is either trying to escape you or justifying the purchase in their mind. So the first impression is the most critical part of the sale. Everyone who sees your vehicle should have the same first impression: “Wow!” If you can achieve this, you are well on your way to a sale.

Remember this, too. The number 1 buying motive for anything is how it looks. I recently bought myself a new laptop. It came down to a choice of 2 models. Both had all the memory, speed, screen size, and other features that I needed. One was $ 579 and the other was $ 649. Which one did I buy? I bought the more expensive one, of course. Why? I liked how it looked and felt in my hand better than the other one. It makes no logical sense, does it? Both computers would have worked fine for me. I chose the one that looked better to me, and I spent more money to get it. What is true of laptops is true of anything else, including vehicles. People buy what they like, not what they need. They use the need to justify the like. And the most important part of the like is how what they're buying looks and feels to them.

So, as is so often the case, children can teach us an awful lot. If you want to sell your vehicle quickly for top dollar, take their advice and “Wash Me!” You'll be impressed with the results.