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Car Clinic - Selling Your Car

How to write a compelling ad – and take great photos to go with it

This is the one part of selling where time and care taken will profit most. Faced with pages of ads, possibly dozens even for the same make and model, buyers will skip those that are poorly written or don’t contain all the details they need.

But getting yours right is easy. First, keep it simple. However tempted you may be to write something quirky or funny, too often such ads miss the mark and put off more buyers than they draw in.


Where to Start

Start with the make, model, engine size and trim level. Make sure that you get this info perfectly correct – if you’ve doubts; check it against what’s on the car’s registration document (the V5C).

Be sure to include the following, too:

  • Price
  • Year of registration and plate, eg 2006, 56-reg
  • Number of previous owners
  • Mileage
  • Fuel type – petrol, diesel, LPG, hybrid or electric
  • If the car is older than 3 years, it will need a MoT test. Has it a MoT certificate and how long does it run for?
  • Any road tax remaining?
  • Manufacturer’s warranty (from new) still to run?
  • Paint colour and shade of interior trim
  • Type of car and number of doors
  • Full list of equipment: central locking, air conditioning, sat nav, CD player and so on. If any were fitted as extras, tell the buyer
  • Safety kit: number of airbags, ABS, ESP (or similar)?
  • Service history? Do you have receipts from a garage to show what’s been done?
  • Contact telephone numbers (mobile and landline)
  • Approximate location (just mention the town or city where you are)

If you’re advertising with Autoweb using our free service, the online form we use covers off most of the above.

Dos and donts

Now for some don’ts

Don’t use phrases like ‘drives well’ or describe your car as ‘immaculate’. These add nothing to your sale and, worse, they make you look as if you might be a motor trader posing as a private seller.

‘First to see will buy’ is another no-no. It’s meaningless.

Don’t put ‘ono’, which is ad-speak for ‘or near offer’ after the price. Why invite buyers to beat you down on price?


Above all

Above all

Be honest. Don’t put ‘full service history’ in the ad if all you have is a service book last stamped by a dealer years ago, plus a couple of grubby receipts for tyres.

If the car has collected a scrape or two, it’s worth mentioning this, but towards the end of the ad. If the price is lower to reflect this, say so. Unless the car is old, however, it may make more sense to get the damage fixed first.

And do check your spelling. It does matter, and mistakes damage the credibility of your ad. Double-check that the phone numbers are spot-on.

Don’t use fabric freshener to mask smells or in-car fragrance gadgets: they’re a real love-hate thing.

Taking photos

Taking great photos

If you use our an Autoweb free ad you can upload up to 12 pictures. We provide that many because we know that, used properly, pictures are even more effective at selling than words.

But they need to be done right, starting with the camera. Don’t use the one on your phone, unless it’s a good ‘un: most aren’t even on smartphones.

A modern compact camera is a much better bet. Unless you’re a keen photographer, leave it on its ‘auto’ setting but turn the flash off. Set the photo size to high resolution.

Make sure your car is clean (check out how to prep your car for more info) and choose a dry, bright day for photography. Never take pictures in the rain or in the dark (don’t laugh: we’ve seen too many ads where this has been done). Light cloud is better than full-on sunshine because it creates ‘softer’ light.

Car in garage

Never take pics in your garage

The background matters, so clear away any clutter than could stray into the picture. A plain backdrop is best. Go to your local park if this provides the most attractive surroundings.

Take plenty of shots of the car from all angles, first straightening the road wheels so that the car looks ‘tidy’. Include a shot of the boot (clear out your belongings first, though).

When photographing the cabin, first remove air fresheners, phone chargers and plug-in sat-navs, straighten the steering wheel to dead ahead and set the temperature controls to 12 o’clock.

Take all shots in ‘postcard’ shape format – what you get when the camera is held normally and flat. Once you have taken enough, check the photos for sharp focus and correct exposure.

Download them to a PC and keep a copy on the camera, too. Once you have done that, resize the photo files to 1Mb or smaller.

Follow the upload instructions to post them beside your written ad. Make sure they go up at the same time as the words because most buyers will ignore ads without pictures.

That’s it. Congratulations. Your ad is in place and you are on the way to selling successfully.

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