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I'm selling my old car, which still has plenty of life left, but the interior could use a good cleaning. Do you think it's worth taking to a detailer? I'm not really sure what to expect for the money. – Georgie in Cambridge, Ont.

Having your jalopy cleaned and detailed before putting it on the market is a wise move. You'll attract more interest, increase the value – and feel better when unveiling it to potential buyers.

When it comes to professional cleaning, however, there are varying levels of service. So what can you expect, and how can you ensure you'll end up with the results you're after?

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"Lots of people out there call themselves professionals, but they aren't. Anyone can call themselves a detailer, so you can get mixed up between someone who just washes cars, or those like ourselves who wash, clean, and actually detail the car," says Jo-Anne Krusky of Diamond Detailing in Guelph.

A thorough detailing is akin to visiting a dental hygienist; every nook and cranny is explored. Unless you've done some really hard living in your car, it should come out looking much like the day you bought it.

"There's a difference between thorough detailing and 'valet' service – where you go in, you don't wait very long, it's a window cleaning, wash and vacuum, maybe a quick wipe-down of your carpet – and they leave it wet. It's not nearly as thorough as a place where they have it for most of the day. If they're going to keep it for six to eight hours you know you're getting a thorough cleaning, because if you've ever done it yourself you know it takes that long to clean a vehicle," says Krusky.

The most expensive service isn't always the best, but typically you get what you pay for. "If you're going to spend $50 for a cleanup, you're going to get a window cleaning, wash and vacuum. If you're paying $200, you're going to get a much more thorough detailing, shampooing, cleaning, dressing and the works," says Krusky.

The Internet can be a good resource when looking for a reputable establishment, but word-of-mouth recommendations are invaluable. Ask around and find out where your family, friends and colleagues have taken their cars. Visit the recommended places before committing, show them your vehicle, and ask questions.

"We'll have someone come in and, if we're working on a vehicle, we'll let them come into the back where they can see what we actually do, and how clean the vehicle is," says Krusky.

The bottom line is a clean vehicle will help you make a sale. If your budget can handle it, visit one of these professionals. They have the expertise, and an array of necessary products and equipment that you likely do not.

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About the Author

Joanne Will is based in Toronto. She has been a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail since 2009. In 2014, she was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. More

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