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10 Tips for Writing Online Car Ads

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November 2007 author photo

Jon Acuff is a staff writer for AutoTrader.com.


If you only had a few sentences to ask someone for $10,000, what would you write? What if it was $20,000? Would crafting the perfect paragraph feel like a challenge? We think so — which is why we created this list for you.

It captures the 10 lessons we’ve learned over the years about writing exciting, effective online ads.

1. Cover the basics
The simple things are often the easiest things to forget. Make sure you tell shoppers the car’s year, make, model and if you are the original owner. Build a basic foundation of information, and then add details to it.

2. Mention the mileage
Mileage is one of those details people expect to find in your ad. When its not there, they naturally assume your car has a million miles on it. Be upfront about how many miles your vehicle has.

3. Aim for clear
Steer clear of “fluffy” or extensive descriptions. Try to explain the car’s condition in a word or two. Instead of “runs very well,” write “reliable.” Instead of “handles like a dream,” write “All-Wheel Drive” and so forth.

4. Beat buyers to the punch
If the passenger door has a dent, tell people that. It’s easier to be honest in the ad than it is to field surprise questions when a buyer sees a dent you didn’t mention during the test drive. Better yet, offer to provide potential buyers an official vehicle history.

5. Take credit for your garage
It’s surprising to learn how important a garage can be in the sale of your car. Many buyers gain confidence in your vehicle when they realize it hasn’t been subjected to long winter nights or hot summer days. Make sure you mention if your car was garaged.

6. Make sure you mean “OBO”
“OBO,” which stands for "or best offer," means you’re willing to lower the price on your car. It’s a powerful set of letters, but if you’re not willing to drop the price in a significant way, it can be a dangerous way to set expectations. Make sure you’re ready to follow through on the price reduction before you drop in these two letters. And if you are going to drop the price, always know beforehand how low you will go.

7. Be upfront about recent repairs
Instead of covering up recent repairs, make sure you tell buyers when and what you’ve had done to your vehicle. Knowing that you’ve only driven 6,000 miles on a rebuilt engine or that your tires are new assures buyers that they won’t have to pay for those repairs.

8. Avoid jargon
You might know that the really interesting thing about your convertible is the MJY 19 suspension system but the average buyer is going to be confused. Make sure you use words that drivers of all backgrounds and education levels will understand.

9. Don’t yell when you write
Be careful about using exclamation points!!!!! You might want to avoid using CAPITAL LETTERS TO REALLY DRIVE HOME YOUR MESSAGE. Little things like these make customers feel like you’re trying to hide something or worse yet, that when they come for a test drive their experience will be the same as the ad. Loud, aggressive, unpleasant. Write the ad like you’d write a friend an email describing the car.

10. Explain the things that need explaining
You can be clear and descriptive in your ad. For instance, instead of just saying clean, tell people why your car is perfect using phrases such as, “no pets” and “non-smoker.” Instead of saying, “need to sell,” say “recent job change requires bigger car.” The more human you make your ad, the easier it will be to stand out in a crowd of thousands of other ads.

With these simple tips it should be easy to create an ad that gets your car the attention you want. But what about closing the deal? How do you do that? You can start by taking a quick look at the article, How to Close the Deal. Or, if you're ready to get started, Sell Your Car with AutoTrader.com.

© 2007 AutoTrader.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"AutoTrader.com" is a registered trademark of TPI Holdings, Inc. used under exclusive license.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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10 Tips for Writing Online Car Ads - Autotrader