Direct Line magazine

Selling your car? Here’s how to write the perfect advert

Updated on: 28 February 2024

a man in a car writes an advert

You want to get as much as possible for your car when you sell it. 

However, if you make some simple mistakes when advertising, you won't get the quantity or quality of buyers you're looking for. Simple economics dictates that the lower the demand, the lower the price you're likely to settle for.

Give yourself the best chance of maximising your motor's value by writing the best advert possible. Here's how…

Begin with the basics

Start with the vital information that people need to know so they can work out whether your car is what they want and whether it's value for money.

They need to know:

  • Make
  • Model
  • Engine size and power output
  • Trim level
  • Year
  • Mileage

Carmakers now give multiple power outputs for the same capacity of engine so it's not enough to simply say 1.2-litre.

Your V5C registration document will show the power output (in kilowatts). It's worth translating this into horsepower, which more people can relate to.

Other vital information

Road tax no longer features on car advertisements as it now belongs to the individual rather than the car. But MOT is still important, as is the number of owners.

And a full service history is vital. Research by Kwik Fit found that this could add 26% to a used car's value and that 34% of drivers wouldn't buy a car without one.

You also need to add the number of owners and, if you've got space, the reason for selling it.

There's no room for old clichés such as 'First to see will buy' or 'lovely to drive'

Pick out your car's best features

Air-conditioning is an attractive feature as are extras such as cruise control, alloy wheels and sat nav.

If your car is the SEL trim, for example, it's worth listing the equipment it has that the lower spec SE model doesn't. Equally, highlight if you regularly get a real-life 60mpg.

If the car has been garaged, say so. It means its paintwork is likely to be in better nick, and its battery will have more life left in it than if it's been left parked outside in all weathers.

Describe your car's condition... honestly!

The only comeback a used car buyer has to a private seller is if the car has been misdescribed. So don't say it's SEL specification if it's really SE.

And if you've modified it with a massive wing on the back, admit it. Inaccurately describing a car is only going to make you look silly and irritate potential customers whose time you've wasted.

Be concise and avoid clichés

Used car sales website Auto Trader advises sticking to between 50 and 75 words for an online advert and only 20 to 30 if it's in print – so be concise.

The best way to cut the waffle is to write everything you think should go in the advert, then prune it back to keep everything that actually needs to go in. That means there is no room for old clichés such as 'First to see will buy' or 'lovely to drive'.

Think about your price

Pricing a car is a tricky business. As a private seller you should price it for less than a dealer would sell it for, but more than a dealer would pay for it.

Look for identical cars for sale around the internet.

Also, contact internet car buying services. There are plenty around. This should give you a very good idea of how much someone will pay for your car.

Finally, don't forget to add a couple of hundred pounds to the price you decide upon to give some negotiating space.

Related articles

a couple test drive a car

How to test drive a car

Buying a new car? Test driving a car is a valuable opportunity to suss out if it's for you... if you know what you're looking for. Read our top tips on what to find out when you're taking a car for a test drive.
an electric car is plugged in to a charge point

Electric car insurance

Whether you're thinking of buying an electric car, or you already own one, here's what you need to know about electric car insurance.
inspecting the damage after a road accident

What to do if you have an accident

In the moments after a crash, it can be difficult to know what actions to take and what information to collect. Check out this step-by-step guide on what you need to do if you have a car accident.