How to write an ad that will sell your used car

I recently decided that my old reliable Corolla that had 222,000 miles on it may have reached the point where it was time to put it out to pasture. I had an idea of what type of vehicles I wanted to look for to replace it and I had the benefit of time on my side so I could be a bit choosy in looking for exactly what I wanted. I spent some time searching online sites like Autotrader, E-Bay, and I finally found just the car I was looking for at a price that was right within my budget.

In the process of looking for that perfect car I looked at many, many ads. Some ads captured my attention. Others may well have been for cars that I might have been interested in but the ads were written in such a way that I dismissed them immediately. So if you are looking to sell your used car, how do you write an ad that will catch people’s attention?

Write an ad that will sell

Pictures, pictures, pictures

You cannot include too many pictures. I found ads that by the description sounded like a car I might have been interested in. The problem was the ads had no pictures. I simply am not going to drive an hour or more to view a car that I have not seen. The car may have been just what I was looking for but the ad with no photos killed any chance the seller might have had in capturing my attention.

Take as many pictures as you can.

  • Take pictures from all angles on the outside.
  • Take pictures of the interior.
  • Take pictures that clearly show all options on the dashboard.
  • Take a picture of the current odometer reading
  • Take pictures that show the remaining tread on the tires.
  • Take pictures of the engine compartment.
  • Take pictures of the open trunk.
  • If there are any special features that you want to highlight make sure you document them in photos.
  • Lastly, if the car has any imperfections, document these. Dents, stains, rusted areas. When the buyer comes to see the car they will see these imperfections anyway. If it appears you have hidden any issues you may well lose the sale.

Make sure you have good quality pictures that clearly show your vehicle. If you do not have a good digital camera ask a friend to help you. I think this is the number one thing that will make or break the sale of your car.


Include as many details as possible in your description. Note as many options as possible. Was the car an “LX” or an “EX” or some other trim designation. These trim designations imply different equipment that came standard on that model and also may affect the resale price.


If you have kept up with regular maintenance (with records to prove it) make sure that is noted.

Why you are selling

Why are you planning to sell the vehicle? Recent additions to your family require you to have a larger vehicle. Looking to pay off some debts. If you have reasons for selling that don’t relate to the car, make sure they are noted.


Make it clear how firm your price is. Are you willing to negotiate a little? Do you need to sell quickly? Are you very firm in your requested price? Including terms like firm, obo (or best offer), negotiable or must sell will help your potential buyer know what to expect.

Special modifications

Have you made any special modifications? New stereo? Security system? Remote starter? Custom rims? Towing package? Highlight anything that makes you car special.


Does the car get great gas mileage? Highlight it.


Does the vehicle have remaining time under warranty that can be transferred to the new owner?

The most important factor in creating your ad

Lastly, be honest. Your integrity is more important than the sale of your vehicle. It may be tempting to try to hide issues that detract from the value of the car. Don’t do it. If you “forget” to mention that serious accident your car was in last year, and the buyer runs a Carfax on it and sees evidence of the accident, you just lost a sale. Don’t “hope” the car doesn’t make that noise when the buyer test drives it. Is it possible that you might lose a sale if you let the buyer know about potential issues? Sure. But, you’ll also avoid the hassle of a very dissatisfied buyer when they later discover the problems. You’ll maintain your good name. Honesty is always the best policy.

Selling is better than trading in

If you want to get the most money for your used car, you will almost always do better by selling it yourself as opposed to trading it in. Remember the dealer still needs to make money. He can’t offer you your car’s true market value because he still needs to make a few bucks when he turns around and sells your car. By selling it yourself you essentially eliminate the middle man.

If you are fortunate to live in or be able to park your car in a very high traffic area you might not need to list your car online. But be aware that many people do most of their shopping by searching online ads long before they ever look at an actual vehicle. That’s a large base of potential customers that you want to make sure have a chance to see your car. By following these guidelines you can make sure you present your car in the best possible light to make it attractive to all of those potential buyers.

Have you sold a car through an online ad? Share your experiences.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.