These techniques will show you how to create the ultimate classified car ad!

Market Research

Before creating your ad, you need to see how your car stacks up against the competition. Check three classified websites to get a handle on the market value of your exact make / model / year. Also take note of the average mileage, as this will have a bearing on the value of your car.

Check how much of a gap in price exists between private and dealer sales. Dealers can sell at a higher price as most include a fresh service, short term warranty and credibility of being a business.

Understand user behavior

Unless your car is rare or exotic, your ad visibility is directly related to the price you set. All classified websites offer a feature to ‘order by price’ and this is the most commonly used filter that visitors use. As long as you understand this behaviour you can make it work for you. If you need to sell your car quickly, it needs to be in the top three cheapest for that make / model / year. If you are not in a rush to sell and the spec / condition is better than the competition, then you can set a higher price and accept your ad will not be viewed as many times. (See here on CBG’s unique “Value My Car” tool for independent accurate valuations via



An attractive title for your ad can be difference between lots of people clicking, and no one. The headline is also a great opportunity to include your unique selling point (see more info on that below). Learn more about effective headlines in my article about click bait.


Even when it comes to classifieds, visitors don’t read the full ad. They scan. They look for keywords that will jump out at them. As a frequent seller of cars (I generally change cars every months), I cannot tell you how many times I get a call or SMS asking a question about something clearly stated in the ad. People don’t read everything.

Here’s how you take advantage of scanning:

  • Break up your ad into bitesize chunks / sections.
  • Give each section a heading and keep each section short and concise.
  • Get to the point as quickly as possible.
  • Keep the total length of the ad under control.

Tone of voice

Use language that will relate to the typical buyer of your car. If you’re selling a Bentley, then don’t use slang and take a formal approach. If you’re selling a VW Beetle, then use happy, enthusiastic wording! You might even try to communicate the attributes of the car that you’ll miss it dearly.

Manage user expectations

Be honest. Bending the truth about the condition of your car will only result in a giant waste of time when a potential buyer comes out to see your car. Be clear on price. If the price is non-negotiable, or you are not willing to take a trade-in, state it in the ad.

Unique selling point

Try to identify at least one item that is unique to your car to help separate you from the competition. It might be that your car has the lowest mileage of any other 2010 VW Golf on the market, or it had a full main dealer service history (VERY rare in Ireland), or that it had upgraded heated seats, or the paint colour is rare, or that you’ve had a Bluetooth system installed, or that it’s the cheapest.

Keywords and stuffing

Now that you understand scanning, you know that users are looking for specific keywords. Make sure you cover your bases by listing the features that people will be looking for (only if your car actually has them). Air con, sunroof, automatic, cruise control, xenon headlights, full service history, timing belt, etc.

Avoid keyword stuffing. This is when you see an ad where lots of irrelevant words are inserted into the ad in the hope that they will catch visitors using the general search feature. For example at the end of an ad for a Honda Civic you might see: “S2000, CRX, Silvia, drift, S14, Impreza STI, Evo, GSR, 350Z, Altezza, Prelude, Accord”

Most users are looking for a specific model and therefore will use the make / model selector, and stuffing your ad with keywords only takes from your credibility as a seller. If you’re trying to cheat the classifieds system, then as a buyer, I’m already on edge.

Visuals and video

The most important selling tool at your disposal are the photos of your car. Here’s some quick tips on getting a great photo:

  • Sounds obvious, but don’t download photos from the internet of how the car looked when new. Take actual photos of your car.
  • Take new photos. Don’t use ones from 2 years ago from before you got that dent.
  • Clean your car, paintwork and interior, before taking the photos.
  • Take the photos outside your house. Don’t take them in a field, Aldi carpark, or on a main road – this only makes potential buyers feel unsafe.
  • Cloudy conditions are ideal. When it’s too sunny, you’ll find it hard to take clear photos of the interior – not normally a problem in Ireland :)
  • Capture the entire car in the photos, not the front half / back half.
  • If you know someone with a camera that has a wide angle lens, these are great for interior shots (but not the exterior).
  • Take a photo of the engine bay, but give it a quick wipe down first. This gives the impression that the car has been maintained, inside and out.
  • Take a photo of any dents or large scratches – remember you need to manage the visitor’s expectations to ensure they buy when they come to view the car.
  • Take a photo of the speedo, with the engine running to show the mileage and lack of warning lights (hopefully).

There’s also a trend in taking videos of your car. And why not when every smartphone takes good quality video? My advice for videos is not to attempt a voice-over, just walk around the car and show the interior – 60 seconds should be plenty.

Call to action

End your ad with a friendly invite to come out for a test drive, or to call for full details about the history and features.

This post was brought to you by David Clayton – View and follow David on linkedin;  (David is Digital Marketing Manager at