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Tips & advice

How to write a killer car advert for a quick sale and a high price

A great ad can net you an equally great price for your car if you do it right

"Used car" graphic on laptop

If you’ve decided to sell your car privately, a great used car advert will be crucial to help the vehicle stand out from the crowd, reassure any potential buyers that you’re a trustworthy seller and, perhaps most importantly of all, make you the most money.

There’s an art to creating a classified used car ad. You don’t want to overwhelm a reader with too much useless info or indecipherable jargon but, at the same time, you want to be open and honest, including everything they’ll need to make an informed decision. We all buy with our eyes, too, so great photos of your car are simply a must.

Our experts have plenty of experience with buying and selling used cars, and with this guide to advertising your car we’re passing our knowledge so you can sell your car with minimal hassle and (hopefully) maximum profit. Read on to learn everything you need to know about advertising a used car.

Pick a sensible price

Everyone loves a bargain, so any car that’s grossly overpriced in its advert will very quickly put people off. Before you create your listing, be sure to do your research into the car’s value. This shouldn’t prove too difficult, as you can use an online car valuation tool to do the hard work for you. Taking a look at the prices for other examples of your car on the open market will help to give you a general idea of the value, too. 

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Once you’ve determined a reasonable asking price that you’re happy with, you can then go ahead with writing the advert to sell your car. Undercutting the competition will give you the best chance at making a quick sale, but this will need to be carefully calculated so it doesn’t eat into your potential profits.

Most car buyers will also be planning to haggle, so make sure you’ve taken this into account when deciding your asking price. If you want to give an idea of how much you’re prepared to negotiate, you can include the phrase “or near offer” (ONO) or “or very near offer” (OVNO).

Include the essential info

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at just how many ads overlook crucial details that almost any car buyer would want to know. If someone is buying a car, they want to know what they’re getting for their money, so be sure to cover the essentials. 

Person underlining a telephone number on a used car adevrt

A long MoT and a full service history are just two ways to boost the value of your car, while being honest about the car’s flaws will also reassure buyers and hopefully prevent any disputes further down the line. You don’t have to go over-the-top with these details, just keep things concise and this will go a long way.

Car advert and description template

Below is a checklist for all the key information that you should always include. Treat the list as a template for your car ad and you’ll have a solid base to work from:

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  • Make, model, engine size and trim level.
  • Number plate year identifier (eg. 15 or 65 for 2015)
  • Date of last MoT/remaining months of MoT
  • Date of last service and the number of stamps in the service history
  • Simple description of colour and paint finish (eg. metallic blue)
  • Equipment highlights (eg. sunroof and air-conditioning)
  • Notable defects
  • Modifications 
  • Declare if it’s a previous write-off (a legal requirement)
  • Where the car can be viewed
  • Your contact details
  • Asking price

Post great pictures to help sell your car

Buyers naturally want a good look around your car before making the trip to view it in person. While it obviously makes sense to present your car at its best, adding detailed photos of imperfections such as scratches or dents will work in your favour, too. 

Photography requires real effort in order to achieve the best results, but the better your photos, the more likely it is that your advert will attract a buyer. The best photos to sell a car aren’t the arty ones you might put on your Instagram feed. You should concentrate on getting clear images in good light and avoid editing the images or using filters.  

  • Take lots of pictures, covering every angle
  • Find a clear location, with space around the car
  • Don’t add in a fake background, these ruin ads more than they improve them.
  • Wash your car, but don’t start taking photos until it’s dry
  • Pick a sunny day so your car looks bright
  • Include images of the interior, such as the dashboard and seats
  • Photograph under the bonnet and inside the boot
  • Include shots of additional items such as the spare wheel or toolkit
  • Be honest and take pictures of any damage or defects
  • You can also include a walk-around video of the car if you wish to
  • Never take any photos or videos while driving.
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Turn your car into a star! Read our in-depth guide to car photography

Polish your sales pitch

Now you’ve taken care of the core information and pictures, it’s time to work on your pitching skills. Your description of the car can be the difference between a buyer picking up the phone or turning away, so it really needs to shine. Remember to keep things concise, there’s no need to spend several paragraphs waffling on about how great you think the car is. What you can focus on, though, is first-hand information that is genuinely useful to a potential buyer, such as how the car drives and the average fuel economy.

The simple rule is to stick to the facts and be honest with them, and also be sure to highlight any positives such as a full service history or well-kept paintwork. Whatever you do, avoid old-fashioned cliche phrases such as “first to see will buy”, “one lady owner” or “wow!”. It’s far more likely that these will irritate the reader, rather than encourage them. 

In these high-tech times, it may be tempting to let AI tools do all the work instead, however this is also best avoided as you’ll probably end up with a wishy-washy sales pitch that stands out for all the wrong reasons. Write your description yourself and keep it concise, straightforward, direct and honest. Do this and you’ll be on the right path to a great car advert.

Be a clear communicator

The description is written, the photographs are taken and the advert is live. However, the hard work isn’t over just yet. If a potential buyer gets in touch with you, you’ll still need to make a good impression in order to entice them into looking at your car in the metal. 

Be polite, patient, communicative, helpful and understanding when dealing with responses to your ad, whether on the phone, via email or through a messaging service, because if you can make a potential new owner like you, it’s going to be much easier to make them love your car. Making a list of key points you’d like to get across the potential buyers that you can check while on the phone might also be helpful. 

Auto Express has partnered with our parent company Carwow to bring you a fast and easy way to sell your car. Sell your car here...

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Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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