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How to write a good Craigslist ad for a used car

Kamil Kaluski November 2, 2011 All Things Hoon 56 Comments

Crappy Craigslist ads can piss any of us off. Deciphering someone’s ramblings about how awesome their crappy car is to how crappy it actually is takes knowledge and experience. Consider yourself lucky if the ad provides the transmission type, mileage, and a picture which actually shows the car. Such ad may give hope that the car is not owned by a complete idiot and that further details can be obtained via email or over the phone.

In an effort of the help the car buying and selling community, I have created this simple template of how to write a decent Craigslist ad. Following this format will result in less time wasted answering questions which should not have been asked. I realize that you hoons know this because you look at eBay and CL most of your day, but I am sure that you know someone who could use some help. Distribute this to others as reference, feel free to provide additional input.


  • Title must state what the car is, specifically what model. If it is unclear from the name what type of car that is, as in this instance (all Lincoln names seem alike), explain it. If the vehicle is on its first owner, I like to state that in the subject to give the buyer that extra warm fuzzy feeling.
  • Bullet points!! They make your ad easy to read.
  • First set of bullet points states the most obvious information about the car. It’s amazing how many people don’t put this in.
  • Second set of bullets should show the major features with which the car comes with. Skip on obvious stuff like power windows, door locks, power steering, unless there were models of your car that came without them – a Miata would be a good example.
  • Third set of bullets – list all major options here. Again, skip the obvious and focus on the options or packages that make your car stand out from others.
  • Write a sentence or two about the condition of the car. Write in a positive way but be honest. List anything that one would consider major; big dents, leaks, something not working. Don’t say how much it would cost to fix.
  • Say WHY you’re selling the car. This will reassure the buyer that you’re not just dumping a lemon. If you are dumping a lemon, don’t say anything at all.
  • Tell people how to  you. If providing a phone number, tell them your name and what time to call.
  • Price. This is very important. Make sure your vehicle is priced accordingly and give a hint of the fact that you are willing to negotiate.
  • Don’t write stuff like “firm price”, “serious buyers only” or “no dreamers” – that only makes you look like an ass.
  • Pictures. They don’t need to be great but they need to provide the basic image of the car. Craigslist allows up to four pictures; make sure that at least one is of the outside, and one is of the inside. Three-quarter pictures are two pictures in one, showing both the end and the side of the vehicle. Show any major defects, if any but skip on normal wear and tear stuff.

I helped a friend write the ad shown here. The owner simply did not like the vehicle and wanted something different, smaller. The decision was made to sell it on Craigslist and avoid a low-ball dealer trade-in offer. This Lincoln sold within four days for the asking price, which was quite surprising.

  • tonyola

    A suggestion for the pictures: take them on a cloudy (but not rainy) day. This eliminates dark areas from shadows along with annoying glare and reflections.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Conversely, if you want to see how not to write one, go here: Then search for "Camero", "Donk", "Scraper", (or "Scrapper") or "BMW" by owner with a max price of $5000.

    • pj134

      I don't know why this gentleman would think I would attempt to talk him down from a mere $14…

      • Scandinavian Flick

        Let's play "How to Spot the Drug Dealer!"

        • pj134

          “I'm moving to some new federal housing and I don't have the room for it anymore”

          • Scandinavian Flick

            How these people remember to breathe is beyond me… …

            • skitter

              To be fair, that one reads like English as shaky second language.

              • Scandinavian Flick

                Other languages use punctuation too… ¡Some even do it twice!

                • skitter


      • dukeisduke

        That's the funniest looking Camero I've ever seen!

    • jeepjeff

      Flick, did you have to do that? My office is open floor plan…

  • fodder650

    I'm confused where was the point that you need to use "Because Racecar" in all ads on Craigslist?

    • That does not need to be mentioned, it's implied.

  • bprosperi

    I see nothing about running on dead dinosaurs or similar products.

    • Kamil_K

      Buyer can research that him/herself. Often times you don't want to put in anything which would discourage the buyer, such as the fact that your Suburban get 8mpg. No, your Suburban can tow 10,000lbs and transport 8 in relative comfort… positive spin is where's at. 😉

      • bprosperi

        Then if that is the case, well done. I am surprised when I do get a few moment to surf CL and all the garbage that is put into some of the adds. I do often wonder how 14 yr olds have cars to sell, since their add looks as if it was written by someone of such age.

        (Sorry, have to try to get a lot of snark out now, will going into hiding for several weeks as I work to move a product out to its customers. I don't want to explode and leave a mess for the cleaning people.)

  • Devin

    You forgot about putting EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS and mispeling radom werds.

    • Scandinavian Flick

      Also important is a comprehensive list of all automotive terms, every make and model ever created, and their associated slang terms. These are called keywords, and they are integral to creating irrelevant results in any vehicle search. Remember; the key to selling your car quickly is to make sure that hundreds of people, the vast majority of which are in the market for something entirely different, see your listing. They will be thrilled to see how thorough and professional you are and are sure to buy your "Car For Sale – $1 (Anywhere, USA)"

  • Fej

    I prefer this approach. …

    • Kamil_K

      Anything that's easy to read and includes essential info is good.

    • mudmonster

      Now this just makes me want a Civic wagon

      • Fej

        I believe that was the point. You should buy it…

        • Kamil_K

          I kinda want one too. Turbo'd.

          • FuzzyPlushroom

            [ q7ZzqBPz4sY ]

            Ooh, girl…

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      Is that all right with you?

      • Devin

        The Rape Van was a rare special edition, like the Sport Van, only pulled from the market really quickly due to assorted complaints, mostly from victims.

  • P161911

    If the car was available with a manual transmission PLEASE specify in the ad if it is a manual or automatic.

    In my attempts to sell my car I've had my ad mysteriously disappear from the Craigslist search list. As near as I can figure it was for a couple of different reasons. The first time was because I had a link to Flickr with more pictures. Craigslist doesn't like links. The second time might have been because I mentioned the car wouldn't pass emissions, which is required in parts of the area I'm trying to sell it in, but not all parts. Both time my ad showed in my account as active and was visible with the link, but wouldn't come up at all in a search.

    And is anyone is interested in a rather nice Z3/M Roadster conversion cheap: ….
    Mention Redusernab and get $495 off the asking price. That's as low as I will go. I've decided I could get as much or more selling the S52 and transmission and then selling the rolling chassis to someone looking for a LSx conversion.

    • How many partial trades will you consider? I have a lot of junk, er, items of value.

      • P161911

        I still need half in cash, but I might consider up to half a dozen or so partial trades, especially if they are interesting or at least heavy (scrap steel was $13/100lbs last week).

    • Expanding on your first point, if you're going to describe the transmission, please be sure to spell everything properly. At least a third of the sports cars listed in my area appear to be powered by Mexican men with 4, 5, or 6 speed settings.

      • MrHowser

        Faster, Manuel!

  • mike

    Kamil-help me sell my car–Mike

    • Kamil_K

      Dude, eBay is the way to go for you. You have the pics, follow the example above.
      I'll charge you $1000 to sell it. 😛

  • One tip to anyone selling a Camaro: If you put an 'e' in Camaro, you are an 'a'hole.

  • FЯeeMan

    I've been looking for a car for my son. Reading CL ads makes me weep for the future of America.

  • Typical midwest motorcycle ad:


    • You should check this comment every few months to see how many offers you get.

    • Alff

      As the kids say, "Nailed it."

      • I dunno, KAWASAKI is spelt suspiciously accurately. You know, I'm not certain that Tanshanomi is a genuine Mid-Westerner.

        • I'm outed. Grew up in Buffalo, NY.

          • I didn't grow up, ever.

  • MathewBMW

    Here in Land Down Under from Portugal we have the so-called WebMotors. There's an about an E60 M5. The interesting part (yes, it's not an E28 or E34, I know) is the dealer's (only) note: "paddle shifters". 'Butterfly's gearbox' in our dialect, no less. Remarkable, given the fact no 6-speed manual transmission came to Brazil and, well… there are a few more things important. 🙂

  • aaronkz

    For bonus points: host a crapload of photos on flickr! That way, there's no limit to the number or the resolution. Somewhere between 6 and 12 at 1024 x 768 is a good balance between info and load time. I love ads where people take the time to do this, and I made sure to do it when I sold my car.

  • Jon

    You missed running it through a spell checker, and not writing in ALL CAPS! Here's a few more things to ensure you avoid on this blog…

  • Jon

    You missed running it through a spell checker, and not writing in ALL CAPS! Here's a few more things to ensure you avoid on this blog…

  • Jon

    You missed running it through a spell checker, and not writing in ALL CAPS! Here's a few more things to ensure you avoid on this blog…

  • Jon

    You missed running it through a spell checker, and not writing in ALL CAPS! Here's a few more things to ensure you avoid on this blog…

  • Jon

    You missed running it through a spell checker, and not writing in ALL CAPS! Here's a few more things to ensure you avoid on this blog…

  • Jon

    You missed running it through a spell checker, and not writing in ALL CAPS! Here's a few more things to ensure you avoid on this blog…

  • Guest

    I use for image hosting because the photos look better, you can create an html template there, and also you have viewing statistics to see how many users have actually clicked on your ads. Its really cool.

  • You forgot about putting EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS and mispeling radom werds.

  • If title has been framed up well for the ad definitely it will get more clicks. Also posting pictures are very important.

  • Used cars have more demand and people searching to buy cars would be attracted by the look and feel of the ads. You have given great tips and this would be definitely useful. Thanks for the share!

  • James

  • Elizabeth Kordo

    Almost every used car ad lists dozens of a vehicles normal features but how about stating if the vehicle even runs and drives!! Or private sellers leaving, literally, no description at all. Can people really be this inept?

    “This vehicle features seats, door handles and a steering wheel, come and get it before it is gone with the low cash price of $7999.99”

    Honesty goes a long way.

    And another giveaway to stay away from a used vehicle is when you see a funky aftermarket stereo in the dash, most likely owned by a careless teen/punk/thug/moron.

  • Rudy™

    Six years later, OK, I’ll add a tip.

    Offer EVERY way CL has to let someone you: email, phone, text, carrier pigeon, whatever. Saying you won’t respond to emails means I (and others) will not be ing you. Get a free Google Voice number if you want to use a “throwaway” phone number to receive text and voice messages, at least so you can weed out the scammers and lowballers. One lesson I learned early in marketing: make it easy for the customer to you. Tell me I can only text between the hours of 6pm and 9:30pm, not call, not email, etc., means you’re not serious enough about selling your car.