Writing an advertisement for a used car might sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong. You can have a fantastic car for sale, but if the advert isn’t up to scratch, you’re not maximising its potential. It’s like applying for a job with a half-finished CV.
At best, it might take longer for your car to sell. At worst, you could be missing out on hundreds of buyers who are keen to part with their cash.
You don’t have to be an ace salesperson or an award-winning writer to put together a compelling used car advert. However, there are some simple things to remember. If nothing else, be honest – it’s illegal to wrongly describe a used car.
Your advert should also encourage people to pick up the phone or send an email to arrange a visit and/or test-drive. If it’s a popular car, you’ll be competing for attention alongside other cars of a similar specification and price, so don’t be afraid to give it the ‘big sell’.
What to include in a used car advert
- Make and model
- For example: Ford Focus. Also include the trim level, e.g. Titanium, especially if it’s a special edition.
- Year of registration
- Include the letter or number, i.e. 68 or 2018/19. This could be important from a VED (road tax) perspective and also for buyers looking for facelifted/refreshed models.
- Engine size and type of fuel
- For example: 1.2-litre PureTech petrol or 2.0-litre TDCi diesel.
- Create a list of the options and accessories fitted to the car. Concentrate on the big ticket items, such as air conditioning, leather upholstery, an infotainment system, LED headlights, heated seats and so on.
- Be honest about the mileage, because it can be looked up online. Some buyers will be actively looking for low-mileage vehicles.
- List how many owners the car has had, including yourself.
- State whether the car is still covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. If not, list any details of an aftermarket warranty, if applicable.
- List the date when the MOT expires. If it’s due within a couple of months, it makes sense to get it tested prior to selling the car, as this will maximise the price you achieve. Alternatively, say you’ll provide a fresh MOT upon sale.
- Service history
- Buyers will pay more for service history, so make sure you include this in the ad. Be aware that full service history means that the car has been maintained to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule – if it hasn’t, it’s only part service history. A stamped service book complemented by receipts is always preferable.
- The price
- The price is essential, but don’t worry about adding ‘ono’ (or nearest offer) because buyers will be keen to negotiate anyway. Listing the car as ‘no offers’ could deter some buyers. Similarly, using ‘POA’ (price on application) is a no-no, as this irritates many buyers. Do your homework and find a price that’s suitable.
- Contact details
- Add your mobile number and email address, along with any times that are best to call or to avoid. Be prepared to answer any questions. One thing that’s often overlooked is that people will be more inclined to buy the car if the seller is polite and courteous. Be nice!
Selling a used car: also consider
The list above details the basic elements of a used car advert, but consider noting any known faults or any significant damage to the bodywork. Most used car buyers will expect a few stone chips or scratches, so don’t go overboard.
This is also an opportunity to elevate your car above the thousands of other vehicles available online. If it has a full set of nearly-new premium tyres, say so, being sure to include the brand name. Mention if it’s had a recent service, including expensive jobs such as the gearbox, clutch or cambelt.
Avoid waffle. Auto Trader recommends between 50 and 75 words for an online ad, but you can adjust this accordingly. If it’s a rare classic car, enthusiastic buyers will be keen to discover more about it.
That’s a GR8 motor, M8
You should also avoid abbreviations and cliches. While some of the common abbreviations, such as ‘AC’ (air conditioning) and ‘FSH’ (full service history) are well known, others might give the impression that you’re a trader.
Cliches are another thing to avoid. ‘Future classic’, ‘tastefully modified’ and ‘first to see will buy’ are pointless and irrelevant. Oh, and avoid using BLOCK CAPITALS, as it looks like you’re shouting at the buyer.
When you’re finished, stick the words through a spell check, strip away any evidence of text-speak and ask a friend or family member to check the advert.
This advice assumes that you’ve taken a decent selection of photographs and selected the right channel for your used car advert.
For more information, visit our guide to advertising your car for sale. Good luck.