AutoTrader expert's tips on getting the most money for your car online

Selling your car, rather than trading it in to the dealer, is a great way to get more money to put towards your new set of wheels. Long ago, when I was but the owner of a learner's permit, if you wanted to sell your car you focused on newspaper classifieds and high-traffic front lawns, but as car shoppers' comfort level with the Internet increased, so did the popularity of listing cars online.

But, many people who have had great success selling their own car on-lawn haven't been able to sell as well on-line. If that's you, read on for these tips from AutoTrader Spokesperson Mark Scott for selling your car online.

Since you can't force locals to drive past your house, there are three things to focus on when preparing your car for sale online:
  • How you describe the car in the ad.
  • What you need to include -- and exclude -- from the pictures of your car.
  • Research the prices of similar cars.

How to write a quick-selling car ad for the Internet:

With thousands of ads coming at shoppers every day and a limited attention span it's important to make your car ad stand out. You can do this by using the following phrases and details.
  • Appeal to their lifestyle - Phrases like "great family car" or "great commuter car" are more likely to catch a buyer's eye and attention than "van" or "economy sedan".
  • Call attention to care - If you're the first owner and you have all service records, brag about it. Use phrases like "one owner," and "maintenance records available."
  • Mention those upgrades - Do you have a premium stereo or specialty rims? Don't leave it for the buyer to discover; call it out in the ad.
  • Call attention to recent replacements - If you've replaced anything that will last a while brag about it. Be sure to highlight things like, "new tires - 5,000 miles" and "brand new battery".
How to take the right pictures:

When it comes to selling car online, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words. In the past week alone I've talked to two individuals who have great luck selling cars on-lawn, but have had trouble selling online because they didn't post any pictures of their car. All while they readily admit to skipping over online ads without images themselves!

Just How important are pictures to selling a car online? Since AutoTrader.com doesn't own the cars advertised on its site, they don't have statistics about to what degree pictures help sell a car faster. However, Mark said, "We know from a detailed analysis of activity on our site that having no pictures will definitely impact the traffic to your ad. The more pictures you post, the more traffic your ad will get – and the more traffic your ad gets, the more likely it is to sell faster. We found that click-through rates jump 30 percent for the first photo compared to ads with no photos, and increased five percent more for each additional photo, up to 27."

Now that you know that pictures help sell your car faster, how do you take better pictures to get more money for your used car?
AutoTrader.com spokesperson Mark Scott said, "In general, you don't want anything distracting in the photo that will take attention away from the car. So for sure, keep kids and their underwear, baby seats and old Happy Meal boxes out of the car and out of the picture. But also make sure you take the pictures in front of pleasing or at least neutral backgrounds. If your backyard is an overgrown mess or your garage is cluttered, then take the car to a local mall for photographs or take the pictures up against a blank wall."

Specifically, Mark gave these tips to taking pictures that attract buyers to your ad.
  • Ensure your car is clean and neat in appearance. Getting a $4 car wash before you take the photo can make a big difference.
  • Photograph your car in daylight. Photos taken at night tend to make people think you're hiding visible defects.
  • Avoid reflections and shadows from the sun and trees.
  • Photograph your car from the corner of the front bumper. This angle gives a good view of the entire car.
Examples:
How not to photograph your car; dirty and a busy background.


How to photograph your car; clean, from the front bumper and neutral background.
Research to find the right price to sell your car:

Even if you write the perfect ad and hire a professional to photograph your car, if you don't have the right price you'll end up paying for it. According to AutoTrader, pricing requires a bit of research because, "Price it too high, and buyers may not even look at your listing. Price it too low and buyers may think the low price means there's something wrong with the car." Looking at recent sales on AutoTrader and other local sources, in addition to blue book values, are a good way to set a realistic price.

Prepare your car for sale:

Finally, don't let little things stand in the way of selling your car for the best price. If there are any nagging mechanical issues that are cheap to fix; like low fluids, burnt out lights, raggedy floor mats or chips in the paint fix them. Little fixes like these can often be completed at your local parts store, sometimes even with free labor, and removes additional leverage for a buyer to negotiate the price down.

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