It seems preposterous to ask how to sell a used car online in today’s world.
Almost everything is bought and sold over the internet and used cars are no exception.
But people do have certain problems when it comes to this or simply don’t realize the full potential of this kind of advertisement.
You must realize that selling a used car online offers several benefits and is, in most cases free. All you have to do is invest a small amount of time and see to a few finesses.
This article will give you some guidelines on how to do that and hopefully, help you learn how to sell a used car online more successfully.
1. PREPARE THE CAR FOR SALE
This is an all-in-one tip.
You’ll both prepare the car for a potential customer that may come to see the car and for a photo session.
The most important things you should do:
Wash the car
You can let a professional do the washing for a good result but a self-service car wash will do just as well. If you have doubts about using a self-service car wash, click here for a separate article on that topic or watch our YouTube video.
Clean the interior
An interior with crums, smudges, stains, and garbage inside is not an option. If the interior is seriously filthy consider letting professionals do the job. Besides cleaning, they will do detailing which will surely give the interior a fresh look.
On the other hand, if the car interior is OK and demands just routine cleaning, then you can do it on your own. If you want to learn more about cleaning your car interior at home, click here for an article specifically on that topic.
Clean the engine bay
Everybody likes to see a clean engine bay. Dirty engine covers, plastic lids, greasy parts, and so on give a bad overall picture.
Some dust and residue (like from changing oil or coolant) are OK, but if the engine hasn’t been cleaned for years, you should do it.
If you decide so, best let professionals clean the engine. They have the necessary experience, tools, and cleaners to do a very good job.
DIY options are possible but may not be that effective (at least from my own experience).
Unclog the car
By this, I mean getting rid of all the rubbish and unnecessary things (like from the glove compartment trunk, the door compartments, and else).
Two good things come out of this: it’s good for the overall look and you’ll clear the car of your belongings since it’s for sale.
All of this will make the interior look better and more attractive for taking photos.
Just put yourself in the customer’s place. What would you prefer: a dirty chicken coup with crumbs and garbage all around or a well-kept, clean and shiny car?
2. TAKE PHOTOGRAPHIES
Now that the car is nice and tidy, it’s time to take some pictures.
For this, you don’t need any special equipment, just a smartphone with a decent camera. If you have a professional camera all the better.
In order to learn how to sell a used car online, you have to know how to make some good photos.
So, from personal experience, I would advise to:
- Watch the lighting
- Use landscape mode
- Clean the lens
- Have a steady hand or use a tripod (to avoid taking blurry pictures)
- Watch the picture size (most websites for selling used cars have limitations for uploading pictures)
- Find nice, attractive angles (you know, turn the wheels a bit, take a picture from a higher spot….something like that)
All of this should provide good and attractive photos. This will give a sense of validity and seriousness on your side as a seller. It does make a difference, trust me.
Blurry, low-quality upside pictures will easily drive off a potential customer. Simply, one picture is worth a thousand words, and no more is this evident than when selling online.
Avoid enhancing the pictures in the sense of totally distorting the actual look. People do this in order to attract more customers. It is no short of swindling and if you mean good to yourself, don’t do it.
If you want to make some changes to the picture, some mild contrast and lighting should be enough.
3. FIND THE RIGHT WEBSITE
This is very important and may make or break the potential sale.
The most important things you should look at:
Traffic or number of visitors
This is perhaps the most important factor in order to sell a used car online. A car that’s sold on a website that gets millions of visits will certainly sell faster than one with a couple of thousand.
How old is the website, how trustworthy is it, the security of data, how many ads are they serving at the moment, do they have customer support if needed, and so on.
Don’t use just one website
In most countries, there are multiple websites for selling used cars.
To find the best ones, read a couple of reviews, ask around a bit and you should get a good picture of who’s who.
Don’t underestimate smaller websites with fewer ads and traffic, especially if they’re credible, free, and easy to use. Put an ad on there also, it certainly won’t hurt.
The more quality exposure you get, the sooner you’ll sell the car.
Avoid, at all costs, spammy and suspicious websites, especially ones demanding serious personal data.
Most used car websites have clean, neat, simple-to-use interfaces. This is one of the main reasons why lots of people use them.
Navigating through the pages and tabs shouldn’t be an issue.
If the site is complicated and demands some higher than average technical knowledge, get away from it. There’s a good chance that if you have a problem, lots of other people will also.
In most cases, it probably won’t succeed or is already not successful.
Also, an intuitive interface will make your job of selling a used car online much easier.
Regarding user-interface quality, most websites are done in a professional and aesthetically nice manner. If you stumble upon an old school website (early 2000 –s), you can use it if it has a certain amount of traffic and popularity.
Options (free and paid)
Since websites for used cars are pretty widespread, they tend to compete with each other for more traffic or sales.
Because of this competition, some may offer more free options that can help sell the car faster (like an unlimited upload of pictures, the possibility of posting a video perhaps, or else)
Take some time and look through all the free possibilities on each website. Take advantage of what you can.
More about paid options and possibilities lower in the article.
4. FILL OUT THE FORM AND UPLOAD THE PICTURES
Before or after uploading the pictures you’ll have to fill in some data regarding the car your selling.
I must say: NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER give out personal information (like credit or debit card numbers, number of bank accounts, personal ID numbers, or else). The maximum you should give is your email and personal phone number (the phone number is almost always optional).
Any website that demands more (especially if it’s unconditional) should be avoided and the profile deleted immediately.
The main data required on most websites regarding the car is:
- Year of production
- Car type (sedan, station wagon, convertible, etc)
- Engine type (diesel, gas, electric, hybrid)
- Transmission (manual, automatic, or else)
- Horsepower or kilowatts of the engine
- Number of doors
- Cubic inches or centimeters of the engine (1.2, 1.6, 2.0 ccm, etc)
- Rim size, tire size
- Type of drive train (FWD, RWD, AWD, or else)
- Emissions standard
- Data about taxes and MOTs, depending on the country you live in
Additional information may be:
- Trim level
- Climate control (manual, automatic, dual-zone, etc)
- Infotainment system
- Type of lights (halogen, LED, Xenon, etc)
- Cruise control
- Start-stop system
And the list goes on, depending on the website demands.
Regarding needed information from you as a seller:
- Contact email or phone
- Sales conditions (cash, wire transfer, will the car be sold in payments, etc )
- A trade-off (for instance if you would like to trade for another car, perhaps with getting or adding some cash)
Again, the requirements depend on the website, but these are the essentials.
This may be a bit tiresome but spare some time and add as much information as possible regarding the car.
The more information you add the better for a potential customer.
It will also lower the number of phone calls for additional information (which can become annoying if people call all the time).
Again, as with pictures, be honest with data to the best of your knowledge.
5. PAY FOR ADVERTISING (IF NEEDED)
As mentioned, some websites offer way better advertising options in exchange for some money.
For instance, if you insist on a free option on a renowned website with millions of users, there is a good chance that your ad will be at the end of the search list.
This means it will be virtually invisible making even the best-arranged ad, with the best pictures pretty much useless.
You might think this is unfair but everybody’s got to make a living and running a successful website is by no means free. On the contrary.
The bright side is that all these websites have tailored options for everyone. From one-time users to more regular ones.
If you’re a one-time visitor, best use the lower-priced option. This will, for instance, get your car to the top of the search list for a certain period of time (days or even weeks). Also, if it doesn’t show any results, you won’t be financially damaged.
On the other hand, if you plan some more selling, then perhaps consider premium memberships which offer much better exposure and better offers.
All of the mentioned depends on the website and its policies. From personal experience, if there’s a paid option, it’s not there for nothing.
Have in mind that some extra pictures and extra time at the top of the search list usually mean a quicker sale.
This then means less waiting and less price depreciation. An important factor, since used cars can take sometimes months to sell.
Simply, a couple of Euros or Dollars may go a long way.
The most important thing to remember from all of this is that you’re interest is in the first place.
That interest is to sell your car as quickly and for much money as possible.
Find a website (or websites)that offer that possibility. If you conclude that they’re worth it, don’t be stingy. Pay some money for better conditions for your ad. It will all return through good exposure, a quicker sale, less depreciation, or even a better price.
Put some effort into the ad. If you want to master how to sell a used car online, you’ll have to take some nice and quality pictures and fill out forms. Do the best you can otherwise people won’t even bother to take a look.
All of these tips may seem overwhelming but in real life, it takes about half an hour (apart from cleaning the car).
Advertising online certainly beats taping papers to the window, leaving your car on the street, or having to go around market places or dealers.
Once more, be honest about the information you post in the ad. Tricking people into a purchase is not the way to go. The anger from a potential customer (which can be very unpleasant, to say the least) will prove that.
In the end, know that avoiding selling a car online is a serious disadvantage and missed opportunity which may, consequently, cost you time and money.
Written by: Sibin Spasojevic
Former car technician, life-long car and DIY enthusiast, author for Despairrepair.com