Here’s Why You Suck At Selling Your Car Online

Here are the car ad attitudes that need to die yesterday.

Flipping cars involves wading in the sea of chaotic energy that is online classified ads. It seems like every other post is mis-listed, or missing information, or… whatever.

Craigslist has existed since well before the year 2000, and eBay for about the same amount of time. Nearly everyone has a smartphone with a pretty damn decent camera. It is now the year 2021. Why on Earth have we not been able to figure out how to list a car for sale with some decency? Besides bad pics, here are some terrible Craigslist seller attitudes that need to go out of style yesterday.

“I don’t know what kind of car I’m driving, so I’ll just put random car names in the ad and hope you can figure it out.”

Here’s Why You Suck At Selling Your Car Online
Image: Craigslist screenshot

This is a car website, but I’d be a royal asshole if I refused to realize that not everyone is into cars. That’s cool, everyone’s got their thing, right? I have friends who can’t tell the difference between a minivan and an SUV. To them, all cars look the same. Yo, that’s totally fine! Still though – when selling your car, you should know at least what the make and model are.

I don’t know what a “Chevrolet Focus” or “Honda Toyota” or “Mazda Melania” (hah!) or a “Hyundia Acenet” is. But according to my classified ad search results, all those cars have been for sale in my area recently. I know, some of these models are hard to spell or remember.

Free tip for those who might still be struggling, and I say this with no judgement: The make and model is printed on the back of the car. And on your registration. If you put that in the ad, it’ll help people find what you’re selling!

“I am going to give you pictures that tell absolutely nothing about the car.”

Here’s Why You Suck At Selling Your Car Online
Image: Craigslist screenshot

I hate this one so much – especially when I’m looking for a flip car. Look, I know that cars are not perfect, and most people want the most money they can get. With that in mind, people tend to hide or obfuscate glaring details from their pics, if they can. And I get it!

However, taking a picture where a large scratch would be less obvious is far different than, say, not photographing an entire side of the vehicle. “Car looks good, been hit in the front, but here are pics of the but here are pictures of the vehicle pre-accident.” Do they have pictures of the vehicle post-accident? No, of course not. 

Or another one: “Car’s in really good shape, no rust.” Yet the ad only has two images, taken at night, with no flash, with a third of the car’s body cropped out of the photo.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to purchase a used Mercury Milan because the price seemed right. But the photos were at an insanely small resolution – something like 320×240 pixels – I could barely tell that the car was actually a Mercury Milan! When I asked for better pictures, especially ones showing the defects listed in the ads, the seller ghosted me.

It’s been two months now, and that Milan has been re-listed three times, with no seller.

“No lowballers, I know what I have.”

Before I started buying and selling cars, I thought that the “I know what I have” was just a meme. Y’know, just a trope that people said to be funny. I was wrong. I was horribly, terribly wrong.

This is very common, especially with cars that are broken. I purchased my 2008 Tiburon, with a blown engine, for $600. Initially, the seller had listed it with a broken engine, nearly 20 weeks ago, for $3,000. Three-thousand American dollars! For a base model, twelve-year-old, Front-wheel drive coupe, with a bad engine and bald tires. Clearly, this man didn’t “know what he had.”

“What contact info?”

So let’s say that the ad is decent, the pics are good, and the price is right.

You go up to click “contact seller”, and there’s just an email. No phone number. Uh, OK. You send an email asking to chat about the car, maybe send over your phone number to chat about it. And then you never hear anything back, because of course.

Facebook Marketplace is a bit better since listings are connected to a Facebook profile. But not everyone checks their email or Facebook on time, either. That email or Facebook message might as well have gone into the void.

Meanwhile, the ad stays up for weeks, and weeks, and weeks. Was it a real ad? Was the car ever for sale? Did I just give out my phone number to an enemy of the state? Bueller?

Y’all, please put a phone number in the ad. It’s the quickest way to chat if you’re serious about selling your car. Or at least check your email or Facebook messages regularly, let your potential buyers know what’s going on!

“Yeah, I’m just going to ghost you.”

Another gem. You talk to the seller, maybe even seen the vehicle in person, and agreed to a purchase price. Seems like this might work!

Then you send a text or a call – it’s time for money to change hands, so you can sign the paperwork and take ownership of your new car.

Silence. 

Like a bad Tinder or Bumble date, you’ve been ghosted without an explanation.

“Um, no it’s not available, why would you even ask me that?”

Them: ….If the ad is still up, that means it is still for sale!”

Me: “Hey, is this still for sale?”

Them: “Naw man, this post is old, it’s been gone for three weeks now.”

Bonus points if they put “sold” in the title of the listing. I didn’t know online listings were un-deletable! I don’t know what the purpose is of keeping up old listings. Nostalgia, maybe?

“This item is not legally mine to sell.”

Here’s Why You Suck At Selling Your Car Online
Image: Craigslist – Yeah, OK, I’m sure this car is definitely legitimately been parted out.

Wow, this price is really good, and the car looks decent too. Yet, upon further inspection of the ad, you read the two deal-breaking words; “no” and “title”. Why don’t they have the title? Who knows. They could have a lien or loan against the vehicle, so really it’s the bank’s vehicle, not theirs. They can’t sign over ownership to something that isn’t theirs! Doesn’t stop people from trying, though.

My favorite is “I lost the title,” as if the local BMV or title office can’t print out a new one.

Bonus: That thumb or finger you use to cover the license plate

Here’s Why You Suck At Selling Your Car Online

If your car’s out in traffic, thousands of people can see your license plate. You don’t need to hide it like a protected witness. There’s even a whole site dedicated to this goofiness.

Anyway, please remember not to do any of these cardinal sins next time you go to create your next classified ad. Everyone on the internet is counting on you not to suck at selling!

Kevin Williams
Kevin Williams

Kevin's been into cars his entire life, anything from the tiny kei cars in Japan, to the maybe not-so-good American barges of the 1980s. He's flipped more than 25 cars, only lost money twice, and has known how to make his dollar stretch as far as it can. If he ain't talking about cars, he's probably snacking on something sweet and cakey. Contact the author here.