It’s a harsh reality of the auction block: When selling used fleet vehicles to the highest bidder, most people don’t walk away with the best possible return on their inventory.

Selling your used vehicles for less than they’re worth stings not just because you’re leaving money on the table—it also gives you less capital to reinvest in upgrading your fleet with new cars, vans or trucks and maintaining your existing ones. The secret to avoiding this pitfall is simple: You need make smart choices to maximize your returns, starting with which vehicles you choose to invest in on Day One.

Here are five tips to help you beat the competition and win the highest possible bid for your fleet:

  1. Start with a smart plan. If you want the maximum returns on your fleet, you need to plan ahead before you even invest your money at the purchasing stage. Scout out the best vehicles available and make sure they meet all commercial vehicle regulations; no one wants to drive a car that doesn’t meet basic or standard requirements. Before purchasing a vehicle, be sure to ask two crucial questions: “What is the resale value?” and “What can I do to improve its value?” Since new vehicles with shiny bells and whistles emerge every few years, it’s important for you to invest in vehicles that can be easily and readily upgraded as needed.
  2. Keep it in great shape. Buying the right vehicle is important, but providing great maintenance is how you’ll really maximize its value. When you drive the vehicle off the lot, it’s going to look pristine and run beautifully—so don’t skimp on investing in keeping it beautiful until you’re ready to resell it. Make sure that every part is working to its maximum capacity. Perform all required maintenance and regular oil changes as well as tire and brake checks. Vehicles that get driven the most are more susceptible to wear and tear, so give yours the best care possible before auction day. Buyers will examine your vehicles closely before they open their wallets. No one will pay top dollar for a vehicle whose poorly maintained parts could require constant repairs.
  3. Invest in upgrades. Most vehicles these days offer functionality that would have been deemed a luxury just a few years ago. Buyers want to purchase vehicles that are equipped with the latest tech, so make sure your vehicles “evolve” with the times to stay competitive, even if that “evolution” requires investing money. Paying for upgrades like back cameras, navigation systems, alloy wheels and brake assist will pay off at auction time. Upgrading your vehicles with marketable new features or functions will give you an edge over the competition.
  4. Give it a beauty treatment. It’s not rocket science: The most attractive cars win the highest bids. At auction, fleet owners must make sure their vehicle is enticing enough to catch a buyer’s eye at a glance. If you’ve maintained it properly, all that is left is to make the exterior as attractive as the parts under the hood. Not only must it be clean, it must be blemish-free. Buyers are tickled by the idea of a near-perfect car, so ensure you’ve looked over every detail: sparkling wheel caps, a spotless interior, dust-free air-conditioner vents and so on. This will set your fleet apart from other vehicles on the block.
  5. Keep the paperwork. As the saying goes, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” No matter how attractive your flawlessly maintained fleet may be, buyers will want to know if the vehicle has been in any accidents, undergone repairs or had any original parts replaced. To win a prospective buyer’s trust, come equipped with as much paperwork detailing your vehicles’ history as possible. Buyers will gravitate to sellers who they deem to be honest. Over time, sellers who prove themselves trustworthy and reliable can foster long-lasting and profitable relationships with buyers. By building up customer base on a foundation of trust, you’re investing in selling your vehicles more easily in the future.

If you follow these common-sense tips, you’ll have no trouble selling your vehicles at auction for all the money they’re worth. To walk away with the maximum profit for your used fleet, make sure you care for your vehicles at every stage of ownership. Offering vehicles at auction that are in great shape inside and out will go a long way for your reputation, your bank account and your business.

ABOUT Lisa Mitchell

Avatar photoLisa Mitchell is the director of operations at Driveo, an online marketplace that guarantees safety, convenience, transparency and competence throughout the vehicle-selling experience.