While we aren’t necessarily in the business of education, we are in a prime position to offer it on occasion. Whether it be DIY instructions like our E30 Convertible Top Replacement article or a car’s history like that of the Volkswagen Beetle, we enjoy providing a bit of useful knowledge to our dear readers. Recently, while browsing listings for a new project, I found that many people desperately need a lesson in best practices when it comes time to let go of their vehicle. Today, I’m going to explain everything you need to know about making an online listing for your car, wheels, parts, or whatever else you might be chucking to fund that next build.
Look, I get it. Making ads is time-consuming and requires great effort on the part of the seller. It can, however, save you a considerable amount of time during the selling process and weed out potential low ballers. Your ad needs to include an honest, accurate, and thorough, yet concise, description of what you have for sale. That description should be substantiated by pictures (when possible) and should also be free of any basic spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors. Simple enough, right?
To show you what I mean, let’s begin with a poor example of an ad:
The mileage is not listed, we don’t have any relevant information about the car, just some subjective assertions about the vehicle’s safety, and the only objective information is descriptive of every single other E38 740iL. (Engine size, heated seats, automatic windows.) Not only is the information bad, but the lead image is just a terribly cropped picture of the steering wheel and head unit, not even in-frame entirely.
The seller has at least taken the time to upload a number of photos, enough to show that his ‘CLEAN INSIDE AND OUT’ claim fails to account for rust in one of the doors and what looks to be hiding seat trim that is sagging or broken. Not to mention the assortment of dents. So really, it wasn’t good because the claims are contradicted by the pictures, but that’s another issue we’ll cover later.
What this seller has done is clearly spend the time to complete the task of creating a good listing, but executed it without any thought or consideration. I have, of course, seen even worse listings with less information than what is offered here, but this example shows that just because there are a good number of pictures and at least some legible words to describe the car, it has effectively done neither of those things to a degree that inspires confidence in its higher-than-average price.
Let me rewrite the seller’s ad to show just how little needs to be changed from a terrible ad to a good one with only a little bit of thought:
For sale is a 1998 BMW 740iL with XXX,XXX miles and a clean title on-hand.
The vehicle has a clean history report and is in average condition for its age, showing some interior wear, a few exterior surface rust spots, and a clean frame.
The brakes and tires are currently in good condition, the last service unknown.
Maintenance history unknown
Standard equipment, long-wheelbase model with heated seats, automatic/power everything, and the 4.4L V8.
Notice I did not list anything clearly not unknown to the seller based on the ad. If he had maintenance history or dates for the tires/brakes, he would have listed them. Clearly, the seller does not know. That’s fine. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something. If it is obvious you don’t know it, and you just leave it out hoping a buyer won’t notice, the rest of your claims will be under scrutiny and you will surely lose a sale or profits from a sale.
By listing all the basic and relevant information given in this ad, I have objectively created an ad that will be more attractive. That revision, however, is not exactly what I would call a good listing in the slightest, just an improvement given what I had to edit. Let’s create a perfect example and show you what a best-practice ad would look like:
For Sale: 2015 Subaru WRX – $XX,XXX
Compass/auto dimming mirror
A/C and Heat work as they should
Purchased June 2017 @58,000 miles, daily driven since, no mechanical issues during ownership or currently
New tires at 94,000 miles on 18×8.5/9.5 Alzor 3001 wheels
StopTech brake pads/rotors at 90,000
Denso spark plugs at 94,000 miles
Oil services all completed on schedule (every 5,000 miles) and current
Reusable COBB air filter cleaned
COBB Accessport V3
CNT Racing catless J-pipe/mid pipe
Grimmspeed Turbo Exhaust Flange Stud Conversion
DNA Motorsport single-exit catback
Racesang weighted shift knob
boost restrictor pill delete
All stock parts/wheels/tires included with purchase
Exterior is in 8/10 condition, shows rock chips and a few paint scuffs on the front lip and rear bumper cover, no rust anywhere. Small chip in the windshield.
Interior is in 8/10 condition, shows a scratch on a rubber trim piece on the passenger side and some discoloration in the driver’s side carpet from normal daily driving. No rips, tears, or worn fabric, no cracks, everything works as it should.
Craig D – 888-888-8888 text/call after 5:30pm
SO. What we have here is a factual listing of my actual car. Pictures would display the mentioned areas as well as all exterior angles, interior angles, shots of the stock parts, and shots of any visible modifications. This listing gives us the basic information about the car that denotes its base-level trim options, gives the bare-bones information about my ownership history of the car, offers my basic maintenance history, and includes a description of the condition to match the pictures. Obviously, the price, mileage, and relevant information that is specific to that car is there and easily located.
It may be slightly more lengthy than our utterly spartan E38 rewrite, but what it tells the reader is more than just the words on the page. It offers the buyer an insight into how the car was treated, maintained, and driven. My regular maintenance history with listed mileage shows the car is well maintained, the modification list lets the buyer know that it has probably been driven with some vigor, and the condition is listed as it reflects the pictures. Everything a buyer would want to know in order to see the car is right there. Don’t make your buyer do your legwork by having to ask basic questions about the car, as they likely won’t call. If you simply show them what they need to know to want to see the car, they will call.
Having sold many cars online, this formula has worked well enough for me that no car I have listed has spent longer than a week online. Every listing has given buyers the confidence in my car as their best choice and my information has allowed them to focus on real questions that only matter in person, which drives them to see it as soon as possible.
With an ad that is informative, concise, and conscious of the subtext a buyer will assume, your post is far more likely to draw in buyers who are educated and serious. The amount of information will weed out people who are looking for the cheapest option possible, as the ad makes it clear that your listing price reflects everything you have taken into consideration. With that information comes the type of buyer who is looking for a car that has the most history available that they can find, as it usually is a better example with fewer surprises that can give them a more confident buying experience.
Just remember your audience. People on Craigslist or other sites (Bring A Trailer being an exception) are looking for a better deal than they can find at a car lot or better examples than they can find on one. They want to buy from the owner who can tell them the most about the car’s history and are generally well-informed since you have to know what you want before you start looking. Lying, or omitting information, will only set you up to lose profits or an entire sale. Offering a well-written, detailed, concise, and an enticing ad will yield better results and often more money than a poorly written ad. So please, take the extra time on the front end to make your ad as informative, honest, and appealing as you can so you and your buyers can spend as little time in the buying process as possible and more time on the road enjoying a wonderful new-to-you car.