Writing an Ad

How to Write a Good Ad for a Car

I regularly read the classifieds and am amazed at how bad most people are at writing ads. Let’s start with an example of a bad ad and dissect it…

FOR SALE 1995 Honda Civic. Low miles, loaded. PS, PB.  Moving to Alaska, must sell. Minor rust.  $3500 OBO.  503-999-9345  503-998-1221

“FOR SALE” Here’s a waste of 8 characters.  Of course it’s for sale – it’s being advertised.

“1995 Honda Civic” First, drop the “19”.  Space matters, especially in print ads. And what model Civic is it?  A DX, LX, EX, HF?   Unless you are trying to hide the fact that it’s the crappy base model, include this in your ad. It tells knowledgeable buyers a lot about the features and options that came on the car.

“Low miles”  This is a car dealer trick to avoid disclosing the actual mileage, and doesn’t really tell the prospective purchaser anything.  Include the actual mileage and use “K” to denote 1000s; for example “95K mi”.

“Loaded. PS, PB”  Another car dealer trick. To them, the minimum requirements for “loaded” are power windows.  Instead spell it out: “PW, PDL, AC, Sunroof, cruise, tilt.” Don’t bother with PS and PB. Almost every car made since the 80s has power steering and brakes.

“Moving to Alaska, must sell”  Don’t tell people when you have pressures to sell in a hurry.  This gives them a negotiating advantage.  If you want to sell it fast, use something like “priced to sell” that is not so obvious.

“Minor rust” If it’s minor, why mention it? Don’t waste space printing negatives.

“$3500 OBO”  OBO means “I’ll take less”, and people know it. Instead, price the car attractively and build in a small discount to offer serious buyers.  Don’t say “price firm” either, unless you don’t want any calls at all!

“503-999-9345  503-998-1221” Two phone numbers? Which one should I call? Will the person answering know anything about the car? If you can, list one good number that you will always answer. Otherwise, label them:
503-999-9345 cell 503-998-1221 home/eves.
Now, what did we leave out?

Condition. If it is immaculate, say so. Words like “immaculate”, “garaged”, “super clean”, “mint”, “one-owner” and “non-smoking” all get attention.

Color. Almost everyone cares about color. Use an adjective with it… “gorgeous red”, “hunter green”, “royal blue”.

Transmission.  Don’t forget to say “auto” or “5sp”, too! You would be surprised how ofter people leave this out.

What’s new about it? Don’t waste too much space with odds and ends, but big items like “new tires”, “new tags”, or “recent major tune-up” are worth mentioning.

Finally, please spell correctly. Now that people put their own ads on the internet or in the paper, they are free to add spelling mistakes. The number one mistake?  Cars have brakes, not breaks.

So now how does our ad read?

95 Honda Civic EX Auto.  Gorgeous red, 88K mi, PW, PDL, sunroof. Almost new tires on custom wheels.  Mint inside and out.  Tags good through 6/06. Second owner. $4500. 503-999-9345 cell.

Now that’s an ad!

Revised 12/2007

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