How to Write the Perfect Used Car Ad

If you want to sell your used car for the biggest possible payday, start attracting the best buyers with an honest and well-crafted ad.

Steven Lang | 
Apr 20, 2022 | 4 min read

Capital One

As someone who has been in the business of buying and selling used cars longer than I care to admit, my experience says people buy with their eyes. Whether they are shopping for the rolling embodiment of automotive perfection, or just a loveless daily driver that gets them from Point A to Point B, car buyers can make one of the most significant financial decisions in their life based solely on a car listing's photos. This is why it's so important to take the time to craft a compelling used vehicle listing.

If you're ready to sell your vehicle, here are seven tips for creating the perfect used car ad:

1. Begin with the Truth

Here’s a shocker: You get far more money and sell your car faster by being truthful. Start by offering a free Carfax report and mentioning that in the ad. Take several close-up pictures of any major blemishes on the body and interior. Also, feel free to outline why you are selling your car to eliminate any uncertainty for customers. By being honest with your car’s faults, you’re giving potential buyers confidence that you’re not hiding a major mechanical problem. This tactic also gives buyers less leverage for negotiation. If you priced your car fairly at $10,000 and disclosed a cosmetic scrape on the front bumper, the buyer is less likely to use that damage as a reason for offering less money.

2. Provide Maintenance Records

If your car was maintained at the original selling dealer, mention it. Do you have the majority of the maintenance records, or can you get a copy from the garages where it was serviced? Noting complete service records, and taking a picture or two showing all that paperwork, lets buyers know that you correctly maintained your vehicle.

3. Write Your Used Car Ad with Mutual Respect

Nothing kills an ad quicker than using all capital letters—the internet version of SHOUTING. There is also no need to razzle-dazzle your car by declaring it “the best,” “the greatest,” or “a fantastic deal.” Instead, to consummate a mutually trustworthy transaction, be respectful and honest with potential buyers.

4. Make Sure Buyers Find Your Ad When Searching

You want your ad to show up when people use a website’s search function, so make sure that your listing includes common search terms that are applicable to your vehicle, such as “SUV,” “three rows,” “all-wheel drive,” or “leather seats.” It’s also smart to include different variations of names, such as “Chevrolet” and “Chevy.” It also may make sense to include a similar model as a keyword, but keeping Rule 3 in mind, don’t turn your ad into spam with irrelevant models. It’s okay to write, “This GMC Sierra is mechanically identical to the Chevy Silverado.” It’s not cool to insert the name of every pickup model sold in the last century into your ad.

5. Offer Links from Experts and Prior Owners

If you search for the year, make, and model (i.e., 2007 Honda Accord), you will likely see a small army of websites that reviewed the vehicle when new. If you add the word “owners,” you will see reviews from previous buyers. Copy and paste these web addresses into your listing so buyers can read reviews and testimonials that make your car stand out for the right reasons.

6. Emphasize the Car’s Greatest Strengths in the Description

Avoid simply writing your car is “very safe” or “really reliable.” Prove it has an excellent safety record by presenting the evidence. For example, if you say “The 2012 Chevy Malibu is a Top Safety Pick according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety”, underneath that copy, post a link to validate this from the IIHS, or a YouTube video that shows how it performs in a crash. Featuring experts and respected sources will put your car and your professionalism at a higher level.

7. Don’t Forget to Make the Most of your Presentation

When photographing your used vehicle, the background should always be appealing, such as a nice house or a park that is clean and well kept. It’s also no crime to say a vehicle has “minor dings or dents (see pictures).” This lets customers see exactly the condition of your vehicle instead of thinking about worst-case scenarios.

In the end, mutual respect and honesty will ensure your perfect used car ad achieves the highest visibility possible and yields the best financial return.

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.