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5 keys to selling your car online

Older couple with pink car
Highlights
  • Selling your car online requires research.
  • Take a lot of pictures that feature the best aspects of your car.
  • Follow up with the buyer and build a rapport.

Selling your car or truck online? Most of what you know from selling a vehicle through the local newspaper classifieds won't apply.

According to Clayton Stanfield, manager of dealer training for eBay Motors, classified listings are designed to merely present inventory to shoppers. Consequently, the listings have just enough information to motivate a shopper to call to make an appointment to see the vehicle. An online listing, on the other hand, is transactional.

"This means much more detail will go into the listing since buyers are expected to go much further down the purchase process before ever contacting the dealership," he says. "With 74 percent of eBay transactions happening across state lines, a buyer may make their entire decision to buy a vehicle just on the pictures and details of the listing." 

Because online sellers have the potential of reaching a larger market than local classifieds and the posting an ad can be cost up to $90, it pays for sellers to develop a different skill set.

Here are five proven tips for selling your vehicle online:

1. Research the marketplace.

Unless your vehicle is ultra rare, it will be listed against scores of similar vehicles on multiple online sites, such as eBay, Craigslist and AutoTrader, and must be priced competitively. That means not only finding out what others are asking for similar vehicles, but the average transaction price of those recently sold.

Showcase your vehicle
Show off your vehicle
Your photos should tell a story about your vehicle. Put the car in a setting that not only shows it off, but that encourages potential buyers to imagine themselves enjoying the vehicle.
Sites like AutoTrader.com, eBay.com and KBB.com, are reliable pricing sources. Be realistic about the vehicle's condition and mileage in setting an asking price. Even if you are going to place it in an auction, you need to establish a realistic number to set as the reserve -- the lowest bid you will accept.

2. Remember: 40 photos, minimum.

Stanfield, who has personally sold 18 vehicles online and now teaches car dealers how to sell online, says that using quality photos is the key to online selling.

"We always start with merchandising," he says. "You need pictures, lots of quality pictures."

Stanfield says to capture every aspect of the vehicle from every angle. More than likely, the transaction will be completed without the buyer laying eyes on the vehicle, so the photos function as the potential buyer's walkaround. Stanfield emphasizes that at eBay, 40 is the magic minimum number of pictures to facilitate a quick sale. Fewer photos or poor photos can mean no, or at best low, offers.

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The photos, he adds, need to be accurate and truthful: Don't try to hide blemishes or damage as this will only create problems once the transaction is complete and delivery is made.

"A car doesn't have to be perfect, but they need to see everything about it," he says. "I want to see real photos."

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