Have you ever heard the one about lost dog sign in the newspaper? It goes “lost dog — brown fur, some missing due to mange, blind in one eye, deaf, lame leg due to recent traffic accident, slightly arthritic. Goes by the name of ‘Lucky’”?
If you’ve been looking selling your car lately, chances are you’ve come across some similar classifieds from people trying to dump their old jalopies. You know what I mean – something along the lines of: “Used Car for Sale – 300,000 miles. Has a bit of rust coating the entire hood. Windows are all broken but held together by clear tape so not noticeable. Reeks of cigarette smoke but only to cover the smell of the moldy McNuggets hiding in the glovebox. Yours for only $40,000. Added bonus: comes with squirrels living under the hood.”
Uh huh. Look, if you’re in the process of selling your car, we know it can be daunting to write a good classified ad. But if you want to attract buyers and move that car out of your driveway quickly, you’ve got to go above and beyond to show buyers that your car is actually worth the money. Of course we can’t all be Don Draper, but with a few helpful hints and a little bit of time, you’ll be able to craft an ad that will attract buyers and get you top dollar on your car.
Start with the Obvious
It should go without saying, but you need to include all of the pertinent information about the car, so start with the make, model, and model year of the car. Don’t make people search for this information – state it clearly and even make it the headline of your ad. You also want to include any other pertinent information: think mileage, engine type, and any unique features of the car that might be seen as a selling point. You should also include the paint color – you’d be surprised at how many people are very specific about the color car they drive.
Give some information on the trim type and the interior styling, especially if the car has little luxuries like leather, heated seats, a great sound system or satellite radio. Anything that sets your car apart from the next person’s, you want to include.
As tempting as it is to only highlight the positives, you also want to be upfront about any drawbacks. If the car has high mileage, state that. If there are dings, dents or any other damage that would be immediately visible to a buyer, do not try to slide by without mentioning it – if sellers think you’re being shady about visible damage, they are going to think you’re lying about the vehicle’s mechanical performance as well.
Be Honest about “Hidden” Issues
So maybe the car looks perfect to the naked eye, but you know there’s an issue with maybe the transmission. Be honest. Most likely your buyer is going to get the car checked out by their mechanic before purchasing it, so don’t waste their time or yours trying to keep problems hidden. Plus, you know what they say about karma.
The same goes for previous accidents or incidents. If you’ve been involved in an accident and have had to foot the bill for some repairs – that’s okay! In fact, some buyers may be pleased to know that the car has a new bumper or other body part. Make sure you give as complete a
history as possible and be sure to offer potential buyers an official vehicle history from CARFAX.
Go Above and Beyond
Once you’ve clearly stated both the obvious and not-quite-so-obvious about the car, it’s time to give your car a little personality. Has your car been extremely reliable? Is it fun to drive? Great in the snow or a fantastic family car? Be descriptive – help potential buyers visualize themselves driving this car. For instance, if the car has roof racks, perhaps mention that you can easily bring your kayak to the beach. Also, now is good time to mention if you’ve kept the car parked in your garage – that’s an extra element of “safe-keeping” that can go a long way in convincing buyers that the car has been well-treated and well-maintained. Finally, do not forget to mention if your car is smoke and pet-hair free – for people with allergies or those sensitive to smells, this will be a big selling point.
Setting the Purchase Price
Be very clear when you state your expectation for a fair purchase price. One common practice is to set the price and then add “OBO,” which stands for “or best offer.” If you are willing to be flexible with your price, by all means feel free to include OBO, but if you’re unwilling to budge by a few thousand dollars, we recommend setting a pretty hard price. Again, this protects both you and a potential buyer from wasting time haggling over a price that isn’t negotiable. Be reasonable when setting the price but don’t be afraid to say no to offers that are well below your asking price.
First, be sure to protect yourself from online scammers. While you can include your first name, do not include your last. Additionally, you may want to set up an alternate email address so that you avoid flooding your primary inbox with inquiries regarding your car. You may even want to get a second phone number if you plan on including it in the post – try Skype or GoogleTalk for free or cheap phone numbers that you can discard once you’ve sold the car.
Be smart about where you post your listing. Truth be told, very few people read the newspaper classifieds anymore, so you may want to skip that option. Some good options to consider are your local Craigslist, Cars.Com, Autotrader and CarGurus.com. Do a little research – there may be good local options near you. Another place to consider posting your ad is on Facebook. Try your personal page in case you have a contact who is in the market for a car, or even a Facebook Group – there are often local pages for people buying and selling all manner of items in your community.
Time is Money
Sure, it can take a little time to craft the perfect post and then upload it to the best sites but when you sell your car for top dollar, you’ll see that the return on that investment in time makes the extra effort worth it.