A little TLC and some well-timed attention to detail can pay off when it comes to upgrading a vehicle before selling it. You want to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make your time as lucrative as possible and easy upgrades that don’t require significant expenditures can add a surprising amount of perceived value to an investment car.

There’s no better time to enhance a car than right before you sell it. It might seem counter-intuitive to invest more money into upgrades immediately before parting company. But small investments can realize large returns—if you know which ones pay off. The following improvements are affordable, easy to handle, and can maximize your resale profits.

Less Can Be More

You can opt for extensive upgrades that cost a lot of money. But you want to be sure that your investment makes sense and will increase the resale value of the car enough to be worthwhile. Bonuses like new leather interiors or a high-end sound system might not be the best option to secure maximum return on investment. That kind of modification to an iconic classic can detract from its value.

The kind of basic, no-nonsense improvements listed below are some of the most affordable and effective modifications you can make to a car before putting it on the market and are likely to have universal appeal. Value can be highly subjective and an upgrade that is both economical and relatively low-effort can elevate a vehicle from a “used car” to a “carefully maintained classic.”

Light It Up

Old headlights can age a car and make it look dim and lackluster. It’s one of the easiest and most affordable ways to upgrade a car’s looks—as well as its safety profile. You can make even a “not quite vintage” car look fresh and appealing by upgrading its headlights and flat-out modernizing. Opt for HID or LED headlights, which have the added benefit of making the car and the roads it drives on safer.

The right headlight set can make your car shine and can make a glowing impression on any potential customer. Replacement headlight costs vary widely depending on make and model. There are almost always multiple options available, so you might want to carefully consider the available choices.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

A good set of tires can last for about five or six years, depending on how much a car is driven, how it’s stored and your driving habits. These upkeep details can impact the durability and condition of a vehicle’s tires. Of course, tires that are badly worn can ruin a car’s performance. Don’t let something as simple as a new set of tires wreck the resale value of your latest project piece.

New tires aren’t usually cheap, but it’s worth the cash outlay. Especially if you have the time to shop around and can find a sale or other bargain that lowers the cost of this upgrade. Even at full price, an hour or so spent installing new tires pays off big. The car will drive better, look fresher, and support a higher selling price.

Pretty Effective

It’s funny what you can get used to. Small scratches, dings and minor dents that might have ruined our day when a car was new have a way of fading into insignificance on an older model that we’ve grown used to. It pays to see your project car with new eyes. Realize that what buyers want in a fresh vehicle is seldom “extra character.”

Cosmetic repairs, especially small ones, can often be easily overlooked, but in this case, little things do mean a lot. Minor flaws detract in a major way, both in initial impressions and in the final sale. Taking the time to paint those minor scrapes and restore the car to “good as new” condition can help the car support a higher price tag. That'll give potential buyers a better feeling about the value of the car (and about your efforts in finding it a new home).

It doesn’t take a lot of effort or cash outlay to tackle cosmetic damage and it’s an economical and easy way to improve your vehicle’s overall look, especially if it’s got a few years behind it. Depending on the car and the nature of the repairs that need to be performed, you can spend as little as $50 for a return of ten times that. A clean car just feels like it runs more smoothly and it’s exactly that kind of perception that can help sell a car faster—and for a higher price.

Attention to Detail(ing)

Basic car detailing will run you anywhere from around $50 to roughly three times that, depending on the size and condition of the car you’re looking to beautify. While it might seem like a no-brainer, you’ll want to consider shelling out for top-notch detailing that covers things like a thorough exterior wash and wax and a deep clean of the interior.

You might also want to have the interior carpet and upholstery cleaned and it might be worth it to consider an engine clean as well. This kind of attention to detail not only makes a vehicle look fresh and well-maintained but illustrates that the seller (you) knows how to take care of an investment car and retain its value.

Minor Improvements, Major Changes for an Investment Car

Even the simplest effort can have a positive effect. It’s like taking the time to compare car insurance every so often—it’s quick and easy and could put a lot more green in your pocket than you realize. You wouldn’t try to sell a car without at least first washing it and small but sensible improvements can attract buyers and elevate the sale price. You don’t have to go to great lengths and don’t have to make every upgrade or improvement on this list. A little effort can go a long way and the car’s new owner will appreciate your due diligence.

Post contributed by Tim Setterfield.