Advertising your car for sale – it sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong. Little mistakes can make a big difference and could affect the final price you agree with a buyer.
Worse still, it could mean the difference between shifting your car in record time or finding it sat on your driveway for longer than you expected. With our guide to advertising your car for sale, you should sell your car quickly and with the minimum of fuss.
Prepare the car for sale
Before you get as far as listing the car for sale, you’ll need to prepare it for the masses. Those empty crisp packets in the footwell, dog hairs in the boot and sticky finger marks on the rear windows aren’t a good look.
Potential buyers will make snap decisions based on the car they see in the photographs, so spending a day washing and waxing will pay dividends in the long run. At the very least, spending a fiver at the local hand car wash will ensure your vehicle reaches respectable levels of presentation.
Alternatively, bring in the experts. A mini valet is likely to cost upwards of £30 and will include a wash and wax, interior dust and vacuum, windows cleaning and rubbish removal. That should be enough to attract potential buyers on the strength of your advertisement.
For seriously soiled motors, or if you’re looking to wow potential punters, a full valet is a good move, especially for more expensive cars. Think of a full valet as a deep clean, which is likely to include a polish, power-washed wheelarches, interior shampoo, door and boot shuts cleaned and interior deodorised.
Prices vary depending on the size of car, length of valet and additional services, such as engine steam cleaning. But £100 – £200 could be money well spent if you’re looking to achieve a top price for your motor.
Any chips, dents or damage you find should be rectified prior to sale, but only if it will make a difference to the price you expect to achieve. Little point spending £250 on a car that’s worth a mere £500. Use your common sense and act accordingly.
Where to sell your car
Once upon a time, selling a car meant selecting from a small number of options, with the weekly Auto Trader the most likely avenue. Other options included the small ads in the local newspaper, weekly car magazines and the Post Office noticeboard.
Times have changed and there are a number of different outlets to choose from. Here are some of the most popular:
Simply advertising your car online and hoping for the best isn’t enough – you have to select the most appropriate channel. Consider the car and the audience it is most likely to appeal to. If it’s a performance car, PistonHeads might be the best option.
For older vehicles, have a look at Car & Classic. It’s free to list your vehicle and many fans of retro and classic cars will happily spend an hour on the site, dreaming of filling their fantasy garage.
What was once the printed hero of used car market is now one of the leading outlets of the digital age. Auto Trader claims a car is listed for sale every 60 seconds, with the site featuring a number of different search options and pre-defined fields.
Other outlets to consider include Gumtree, one-make car forums, social media and eBay. Selling a car on eBay requires its own set of dos and don’ts, which we’ll explore in a separate article.
While selling online is quick and easy, printed media should not be ruled out. If you’re not in a hurry to sell or are looking to achieve the maximum price possible, advertising in a glossy car magazine could be for you.
You should also consider the weekly classic car newspapers, such as Classic Car Weekly and Classic Car Buyer. Remember, not everyone heads online to buy a car. Traditional methods still work.
Other options to consider are traditional auctions, part-exchanging at a local dealer selling via a company such as We Buy Any Car. There are ins and outs associated with each option, so decide which one is best for you. Bear in mind that, in the majority of cases, you’re likely to achieve far less than the retail value of your car. The flip-side is a hassle-free sale.
Say cheese: take lots of photographs
With your car fresh from its makeover, now’s the time to take some photographs. You don’t need to be a wannabe Annie Leibovitz behind the camera, but it’s essential to take a good range of shots to present your car in all its glory.
Think brochure shots rather than anything too arty. If possible, find a plain background and make sure you shoot in daylight, but avoid direct sunlight. Today’s smartphones will be more than up to the task, but avoid using any of the phone’s fancy filters. Definitely a case of #nofilter here.
As for the selection of photos, we recommend the following:
- Front ¾
- Rear ¾
- Side profile
- Front face-on
- Rear face-on
- Dashboard – taken from behind the front seats
- Dashboard – looking through from one of the rear doors
- Front seats
- Rear seats
- Inside the boot
- Engine bay
- Close up of alloy wheel(s)
- Any damage
- Roof up and roof down (convertible only!)
- Any special features/modifications
Finally, make sure the photos are in focus. You’ll be amazed how many sellers forget this simple point.
Do your homework
You’re almost ready to write the ad, but before you do, it’s time to do some homework. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too strenuous, but a little time on your laptop could avoid wasted time in the long run.
Take a look at similar cars for sale, which will help you decide how much to ask for your car. If it’s a classic car, check out the Practical Classics guide for a rough estimate of what you’re likely to achieve.
If the vehicle is stuck somewhere between classic status and something relatively modern, you might consider selling via eBay. The market will dictate the price, but list the car with a reserve price if you’re worried about getting less than it’s worth
It’s also worth mentioning eBay has an advanced search function, allowing you to view the prices of recently sold vehicles.
Writing the ad: the essentials
This is it: your moment to shine – a chance to give your beloved motor the send-off it deserves. A sales pitch to beat all sales pitches. Just avoid heading into David Brent territory.
Seriously, you’ve gone to all the trouble of preparing your car for sale and taking photographs worthy of a Sony World Photography Award, don’t ruin it by penning some lacklustre words.
Be informative and descriptive, but don’t be afraid to ‘big up’ your motor. List the positives, point out the faults, but above all else… be honest. It’s illegal to wrongly describe your car, so don’t do it.
Crucially, the ad must tease people into picking up the phone to arrange a visit/test-drive. But you don’t have to give everything away in the ad. Here’s what you should include:
- Make and model, along with trim level. If it’s a special edition, make this clear in the ad.
- Year of registration, including letter/number. This is important from a road tax perspective and also for buyers looking for facelift/refreshed models.
- Engine size and type of fuel. It’s also worth being specific, i.e. 2.0 TDCi or 1.5 dCi.
- Mileage – be honest about the mileage. Some buyers will be attracted by low-mileage vehicles.
- Owners – some buyers will actively search for one-owner cars. The newer the car, the more important this is.
- Warranty – state whether or not the car is covered by a manufacturer or aftermarket warranty.
- MOT – mention when the MOT expires. Tax is no longer transferrable to the new owner, so don’t waste your time with this.
- Service history – state whether or not the car benefits from a full service history. A stamped service book complemented by receipts is always preferable.
- The price – list a price, but don’t worry about adding ‘ono’ because buyers will be keen to negotiate anyway. Resist the temptation to put POA (price on application) as this irritates many buyers.
- Contact details – add your mobile number and email address and be prepared to answer any queries. Be polite and courteous as it’s often said people ‘buy the seller’ as much as the car.
Other elements you might wish to mention include the colour, especially if it’s a rare hue, optional extras fitted to the car, known faults and your reason for selling. But avoid waffle – Auto Trader recommends between 50 and 75 words for an online ad, but you can adjust this accordingly.
Writing the ad: style and tone
When writing the ad, be clear and avoid using jargon or meaningless phrases. ‘First to see will buy’ means nothing so don’t say it. Equally, do not use block capitals, as this suggests you are shouting at your potential buyer. Not a great start.
Finally, avoid text-speak as this is both lazy and has the potential to alienate your audience. When you’re done, put your words through a spell checker.
That’s it, you’re all set. Be prepared for your phone to be ringing off the hook. Not that mobile phones can ring off the hook. As forum people say: good luck with the sale.