Writing a used car ad is one of those things that looks simple, and is – as long as you know the rules. Use the wrong wording, however, and you may struggle to find a buyer.
Keep it relevant
Even if you have an unlimited word count – in an eBay listing, for example – you won't have readers' unlimited attention, so make sure buyers read the most relevant information as soon as possible in your ad. There's more scope for pictures online, so take advantage of this option; generally, the more the merrier.
The following are the essential facts to include:
- Year of registration
- Essential number plate info (eg. ’09/58 – a car registered in 2009 but while the 58-plate was still current)
- Mileage (be specific – 78,400 not 78k)
- Whether or not the car has a full service history
- Colour (in plain English)
- Number of owners (if it’s low for the age of your car)
- List of equipment/features (if space is limited, keep these as noteworthy as possible)
- Colour photograph
- Contact details
Abbreviations and clichés
Avoid abbreviations if you can: it's too easy to scan over them and lose their meaning, and many buyers won't know what they stand for.
If you really have to use them to reduce the cost of an advert or fit within a word count, stick to the most common abbreviations such as FSH (full service history), PAS (power-assisted steering), AC (air conditioning), EW (electric windows), RCL (remote central locking), ONO (or nearest offer) and VGC (very good condition).
Clichés such as 'first to see will buy' or 'one careful lady owner' sound insincere and will undermine the genuine nature of the rest of your ad, so avoid using these, too.
Dan Trent, editor of PistonHeads, one of the best sources of classified cars, advises this:
'Keep your advert punchy and informative, avoid text speak and use your spell checker to correct typos.
'You're not just selling the car - you're selling yourself as a responsible owner and it pays to make a good impression.
‘Pictures tell a thousand words, so wash the car, position it in front of a clear, uncluttered background and photograph it inside and out in daylight and from plenty of angles to help your buyer make an informed choice about what they're looking at.
'Be honest, too. You'll immediately win trust because owning up to a couple of faults that'll be immediately obvious upon viewing will mark you out as a straight talker.'
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