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Selling a Used Car: Simple Paint Touch up Can Add Value

When it comes to selling a used car, or turning in a leased one for that matter, the condition of its exterior provides its first impression. And, as the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. A well-maintained vehicle exterior not only implies value, it provides the foundation that this is a well-maintained vehicle. Think of it as a firm grip rather than a limp one in that introductory handshake.

No one can legitimately expect a used car to be without blemish. A nick here, a scratch there, it happens. Leasing agents know this. Used car managers evaluating your trade-in know this. And, as consumers, we know this. But there is a difference between used and abused. There is a point where the number of dings and scratches or their severity exceed what experienced evaluators are willing to absorb in the cost of repairing or consumers are willing to accept as they visualize themselves in your car. It’s at this point when exterior blemishes begin to eat into your used car’s value. When selling a used car, that means it’s worth less to the buyer or it may even be a deal breaker.

Minor blemishes can often be temporarily hidden with a coat of good wax or removed with a rubbing compound, such as Meguiar’s Scratch X, Turtle Wax Primium Rubbing Compound or Mother’s Professional Rubbing Compound. More severe scratches and dings, like those reaching the metal surface, require more care, but can still be fixed by do-it-yourselfers.

Attempting to repair a blemish with actual paint may seem intimidating at first, but with the right tools and proper paint, a DIY job can look professional. As with nearly any DIY project in today’s connected world, there’s a video available providing how-to instructions.


Every ding and scratch isn’t the same. Some may require different tools, as well as different methods to apply the paint. Whether you are repairing just one ding or several, carefully inspect each. Is the damage significant enough (large and/or deep) to require a primer coat? Is sanding necessary? Can the base coat (color) be applied with a pen-size applicator, brushed on with a small-bottle applicator or sprayed on with an aerosol?

  • Pens: Best for small rock chips, nicks smaller than a pencil eraser and thin scratches.

  • Bottles: Ideal for small areas no larger than a dime.

  • Aerosol: For larger areas. A single 12-ounce can will cover roughly a 6 square-foot area.

Matching Color

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to cross for DIY paint touch up is getting the correct color. Of course, you can always visit the parts department at a franchise dealer for the make of car in question. Usually the color match can be ordered, if it’s a fairly recent model. Your best bet in getting the exact color the first time is to locate the color code on the vehicle. Often, but not always, it’s positioned somewhere on the inside of the driver’s door. You will need this code no matter where you source the paint.

Getting Started

The point of tackling paint repair as a DIY project is to save money and minimize hassle, right? Ideally, you want to spend as little as possible and not tie up your car in a paint shop for two or three days. You can always do things piecemeal. That is, purchasing the paint and tools at different sources. This sounds like a lot of work to us, particularly when there are solutions on websites right at your fingertips. Chipex and Automotive Touchup are two well-known internet sources for DIY paint repair. They are basically one-stop shopping for auto paint touch up. Although Chipex is headquartered in the U.K., it does service the U.S. Automotive Touchup is homegrown and is the leading provider of touch-up paint solutions in the U.S.

We reached out to the experts at Automotive Touchup (ATU) to learn how the ATU website removes some of the angst and uncertainty from your touch-up project. We discovered that right from the get-go, ATU can simplify your life by helping you with every step of the process from locating the paint code on your specific vehicle to videos walking you through exactly what your particular job requires.

With more than 60,000 original carmaker colors available, they can match the paint regardless of model or year. ATU guarantees a color match. Moreover, they can ship the color in whichever application system you need: pen, bottle, aerosol can or even in bulk for spray guns. Not only will ATU ship the paint, but also primer, clear coat, sandpaper, body filler and virtually anything else your specific project might require.

What it means to you: Whether you are preparing to sell or trade your car, or you simply want to improve its looks for your own use, addressing those dings and scratches will improve your used car’s appearance. You can pay a body shop to do it, or you can take a Saturday afternoon and do it yourself.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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