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Selling a Car: How to Write a Great Classified Ad

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author photo by Josh Sadlier

If you're ready to sell your car, you've come to the right place. An AutoTrader.com classified ad provides access to millions of used-car shoppers across the country. But don't assume that all of those eyeballs make selling a car a piece of cake. The best classified ads are crafted to provide just the right mix of pertinent information, and it's easy to go astray. Use the following three tactics to give your ad the best chance at success.

1. Take Lots of Good Photos

Much of the data in an AutoTrader.com classified ad is strictly by the book: engine type, mileage, transmission, et cetera. But the photos are up to you, and they can easily make or break a potential sale. That's especially true these days, as more and more people are willing to buy a car online without seeing it in person first. If you want to catch the eye of today's online car shopper, you're going to need as many sharp, well-lit photos as possible.

The goal is to make sure that there are no surprises. Don't dwell on your car's flaws, but definitely document any significant dents, scrapes and other signs of wear. That shows you're an honest broker with nothing to hide. Also, be comprehensive: Show the car from all angles, inside and out, and don't forget the engine bay. If the light's not right when you view the photos on your computer, head back out and snap some more. A little extra time invested at this stage can go a long way toward finding your car a great new home.

2. Describe the Maintenance History in Detail

Even if your car's drop-dead gorgeous in photos, savvy shoppers know that looks can be deceiving. It's imperative that you also explain how you've cared for the car over time. We're not talking about itemized maintenance records, of course, although it's certainly a major plus if you can say that you have those on file. Rather, talk about how often you get oil changes and whether you've had the car maintained according to the factory-recommended schedule.

Does the dealership do all of the work on your car? Do you have a trusted independent mechanic who specializes in the brand? Are there common faults with this particular model that you've had rectified? Have you modified anything from stock specs? This is all stuff a prospective buyer will want to know. In general, the more details you provide up front, the more appealing your ad will be.

3. Pick an Educated Asking Price

What does "educated asking price" mean? It means you've done a search on AutoTrader.com for other cars like yours, taken note of their condition and prices and chosen your own asking price accordingly. We also recommend consulting Kelley Blue Book's used-car pricing guide to gauge the book value of your car, because if you end up asking for less, you can use that fact as a selling point. But the reality is that the book value isn't always the right value, particularly when it comes to older cars that have a strong following. First and foremost, you need to have a good feel for current prices by other sellers.

An educated asking price takes all of this into account, and an educated car shopper will appreciate you for it. Conversely, if you ask for a lot more than your car is worth, you might dissuade an otherwise eager buyer -- and if you ask for a lot less, you might make shoppers wonder what you're not disclosing about the car's condition.

AutoTrader Says

When it comes to selling a car, there's more to it (usually) than just taking a few photos and throwing up an ad. But if you follow these three tips, your ride will stand out from the crowd.

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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Selling a Car: How to Write a Great Classified Ad