• Investing in a truck or something more rugged that "looks good dirty" is a tactic employed by some agents.
  • Others use cargo area protection (liners, trash bags and other things) and detail and wash regularly.

Real estate agents spend a lot of time moving from one place to another — and in many locations, that means hours behind the wheel every week.

The line between a couple snacks on-the-go and disaster area of a vehicle is very fine. So is the difference between used-but-clean and junker brimming with hazardous yard signs. So how do agents keep their whips looking sharp?

Invest in more than one car

“We have three cars,” said Amy Baker, an agent in Charlotte, North Carolina, in a Facebook conversation. “My hubby’s used-but-still-nice truck gets the majority of the abuse. My Acura SUV cleans up OK for driving around buyers but has tons of dirt and tears and dents here and there (I’m gonna drive it until it dies, which should be never), and then the ‘fun car’ is our Audi A5.

“It’s a nice mix,” she added. “I just grab the keys to whichever one fits based on how my day looks.”

Pedro Silva in Lisbon, Portugal, also said that he uses two cars — one for driving clients, “the other for cargo and stuff, so I don’t have to keep it clean.”

“One car, one motorcycle,” said Linda Hobkirk, a broker in Rogers, Arkansas, in another conversation on Facebook. “Both are shiny and detailed.”

Protect the cargo area

Trunk mats, cargo covers, tarps and bedsheets were all suggested as ways to protect the interior of a car from the things that might scratch or dirty it — like real estate signs, for example.

“Socks!” suggested Erin Rickman of Washington Court House, Ohio. “Just have socks handy to put around the bottom of signs.”

“I use an oversized beach towel to keep signs and my car separate,” explained Denver agent Martine Addison. “Now, if I could just live near an actual beach …”

Dawn Brayton in Minneapolis said she uses metal stakes on her signs and cuts pool noodles to slip around the stakes. “Keeps the car clean and won’t get scratched by the metal,” she said.

“The dogs are allowed” in Chavi Hohm’s car — a team lead in Seattle — “but only on top of a very complicated pet fur retractor system,” she said.

Regular detailing and/or washing

Many agents have a subscription service to a car wash or detailing company — or they just make a point to regularly clean out that car.

“As an agent who does more list-side transactions, you can tell when I am working with buyers,” said Andrea Geller in Chicago. “The car has a visit to Simon’s Shine Shop, the best car wash/detailer in Chicago.”

Cheryl Spangler in Alexandria, Virginia, wraps the car-cleaning duties in with the landscaping and gets help with both. “I have a landscaper who comes to my house every two weeks,” she said, “and the last thing he does is washes, cleans the inside and waxes my car while it’s in the driveway.”

Christopher Lazarus, a broker in Atlanta, Georgia, says he gets a “car wash subscription in the pollen season” and also gets his car detailed once or twice a year.

Sharon McCarthy Steele in Cranford, New Jersey, also believes in a car wash subscription — she has an unlimited one herself. “Going paperless helps to keep it clean, too!” she added.

Eric McLellan in Middletown, Maryland, gets a “reasonable” monthly plan from a car wash by his office. “You can do inside cleanings, too,” he said. “My car goes about every other day.”

Barbara Hobbs, a Realtor in Pensacola, Florida, has a detailer come every three weeks on a rotation. She outlined her car’s pampering schedule, which looks like this:

  • First visit ($225) full detail, shampoo, wash, wax
  • Second visit ($60) wash, vacuum
  • Third visit ($60) wash, vacuum
  • Fourth visit ($80) full detail

“So every third time is a full detail,” she noted. “Maintaining it is cheaper than not, and it looks almost like the day it drove off the lot — and I have three dogs.”

Pick something that looks good dirty

Debra Schwartz in Campbell, California, picked a new car last year that she says is memorable — “when I go into a neighborhood, people remember me and ask about my car.”

It’s a red 2016 Jeep Sahara, and among its charms are a removable top and “plenty of room for my open house signs,” Schwartz noted.

“As for washing it, I have an amazing boyfriend,” she added. “When he runs out of time, Jeeps look good with a bit of dirt on them.”

Several agents also suggested trucks as good vehicles for real estate wear-and-tear.

“Buy a truck with a bedcover,” suggested Greenwell Springs, Louisiana-based Jeff Barker.

“I drive a truck!” said Josh McCullough of Jackson, Georgia.

“A truck is the only way to go. No protection needed,” added Patrick Allen from Wilmington, Delaware.

… I have better things to do

“I wash my truck every other year, whether it needs it or not,” quipped Steve Palmer of Missoula, Montana.

Email Amber Taufen

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