Skip to main content

How to Disguise a Lemon

Got a lemon on your hands that you want to get rid of? Here are some easy, perfectly legal ways to make that old car seem better than it really is.


  • Step 1: Clean the inside People subconsciously link neat and clean to good condition, so remove all your personal belongings, scrub away any stains, and vacuum and dust everywhere.
  • TIP: Got some rips and tears on the seats? Invest in a seat cover; buyers rarely look underneath them.
  • Step 2: Make it sparkle Wash and wax the car until it shines. Buff out any scratches with a polishing compound containing a mild abrasive.
  • Step 3: Fix scratches Fix small scrapes and chips. Just buy a can of spray paint in your car’s color, spray a small amount into the cap, apply to chips and scratches with a toothpick—and watch them disappear!
  • Step 4: Buy new mats Replace your old floor mats with new ones.
  • Step 5: Clean under the hood Many buyers will look under the hood—even though most have no idea what they’re looking for! If it simply looks clean, they’ll be satisfied. So use a paper towel or cloth to wipe away grime and grease.
  • TIP: Does your car make any noticeable noises? Ask your mechanic if he can do a temporary fix.
  • Step 6: Wash the tires Wash the tires and shine the hubcaps—it will make even the most worn tires look new.
  • TIP: If your car is leaking fluids, don’t show it to buyers on a driveway filled with the telltale stains!
  • Step 7: Get the vehicle report Use your car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to order a vehicle report on your car. Chances are the buyer will do this himself, and you don’t want to be taken by surprise. Be ready to explain any red flags!
  • FACT: More than 500,000 cars are sold each year with the odometer rolled back, but violators face up to $100,000 in fines and three years in jail!

You Will Need

  • Cleaning supplies
  • A car vacuum
  • Car wash soap
  • Car wax
  • Car polish with mild abrasive
  • Spray paint
  • Toothpick
  • New floor mats
  • Paper towels or cloth
  • And a vehicle history report
  • Seat covers (optional)

Popular Categories