At Klipnik, we read lots of used car listings, and it’s not because they are so beautifully crafted. Usually the opposite is true. Most are hastily thrown together and lack key details.
Not only is this frustrating for buyers, who may drive halfway across town to discover that “needs a little TLC” means there’s a goat living in the backseat. For sellers, it’s worse because a lackluster ad can easily diminish the sale price of the vehicle.
Fortunately, it’s not too hard to put a decent listing together. Just make sure to avoid these common offenses, which can tank your sale.
1. Poor Photos
We’ve all seen them: blurry shots, cars washed out by blinding sunlight reflections, paint that seems “blotchy” due to scattered shadows cast by trees and other things, photos with the nose or tail of the car chopped off. Take the time to properly frame the shot. Keep distracting objects (a tree “growing” out of the roof, people, animals, etc.) out of the shot. Avoid taking pictures in glaring sunlight, as well as in shadowy areas.
The best times to shoot a car are early morning and just before sundown. Provide more rather than less, including detail shots that emphasize the car’s strong points — for example damage-free wheels, a rust-free underside, a minimally worn driver’s seat — and, if necessary, that disclose any notable flaws that a potential buyer would want to know about.
2. Minimalist Descriptions
Skimping on details is another way to lose prospects. Don’t be lazy. Describe how the car is cosmetically and mechanically, including the engine and transmission type. State what options and desirable features it has. Does it have a good history of maintenance with receipts? A photo showing the receipts neatly fanned out makes a good statement, as does one of the original window sticker, if you have it. Finally, check the spelling and grammar, which can be as easy as pasting the text into a Word or Google document and following the prompts.
3. TL;DR Descriptions
While terse descriptions can certainly be off putting, an even bigger turn off is the overly wordy ad. The worst offenders here sometimes copy and paste huge swaths from Wikipedia or Edmunds detailing the history of the model or its basic specifications, like the fact that it has six speakers. The purpose of an ad is not to recreate an Internet search; rather, it should tell us the distinguishing details of your specific car. And if you do find yourself with a fair amount to say, don’t be afraid to break things up into paragraphs and bullet points that readers can scan easily for the info they want. A wall of words can be just as much a sale killer as no description at all.
4. Not Disclosing the Mileage
What’s the big secret? Even if it’s got 200k on it, disclose it. People are going to want to know this. Not indicating that mileage in the ad is just putting off the inevitable; it’s not like shoppers are going to overlook such an important detail. Worse, if you don’t include it and your car happens to have lower miles then you’re doing yourself a big disservice, as people will assume it has a ton of miles on it.
5. Not Showing a Price
Thinking this will pique interest usually backfires; it’s a turn-off for most prospective buyers. People are just going to assume your price is unrealistically high and as a result probably won’t bother contacting you to find out what you actually want for the car. Unless you have something super rare and desirable, this is a bad approach.
6. Not Cleaning the Car
Yes, you think this would go without saying. But we’ve seen many ads where it looks like the car wasn’t washed and/or the carpets and seats were not even vacuumed. Seeing a dirty exterior and/or carpets littered with trash along with a console’s cubbies overflowing with personal effects is a huge turn-off. Most used car shoppers are looking for examples that prior owners have taken good care of, so a dirty car is an obvious pass.
7. Not Responding to Inquires
Whether you’re trying to sell your car through eBay, Craigslist, Bring a Trailer, or even the local paper, if someone shows genuine interest by leaving a voicemail or sending you a message, reply promptly. In today’s “instant gratification” society, it’s in your best interest to respond sooner than later, before they’ve moved on to other prospective cars. Unless of course the “inquiry” is an obvious scam, then by all means just hit “delete.”
If you avoid these basic sins when you list your car for sale, you should find yourself with more serious buyers, a faster sale, and more cash in your pocket. It’s definitely worth the extra effort.
Did we miss one of your pet peeves about used car listings? Share them in the comments below.