How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist

As you’re probably aware, you can usually get more for your used car if you sell it yourself on Craigslist or in AutoTrader than if you were to trade it in at the dealer. If you’re looking to get rid of your car, the first thing you’ll want to do is to look at the gap between what you could get at trade-in, and what you could get selling it yourself. For a quick and dirty way to compare the two, head over to TrueCar’s Clearbook. For example, for a 2006 Acura TL it gives a Black Book Trade-in value of $12,680. Most dealers rely heavily on Black Book, so it’s a very good indication of what you’ll actually be able to get at trade-in for your car. Then check out the Expected Sale Price. In this instance, Clearbook has enough data points to have 97% accuracy and gives an average sales price of $14,677. If you determine that this $2,000 difference is worth the hassle of posting your car on Craigslist and continuously showing it to interested parties, then you’re ready to proceed with selling your car on Craigslist.

Research Laws and Prepare Documents
Once you’ve decided to sell your car on Craigslist, then the next step is to research the car sale laws in your state and prepare the necessary paperwork. Good sources for this are your state’s DMV and the office of the tax collector. You’ll want to have the title to the car and current registration statement on-hand.

Compile Your Vehicle’s History
How to Sell Your Car on CraigslistAs you prepare to sell your car on Craigslist, you will want to run some type of title check on your car. Ensure that it has clean title and print out this report. Chances are, a prospective buyer will want to at least see this, or run their own check. Also note any major repairs that have been done on the car. If the engine was replaced 40,000 miles ago and the tires only have 10,000 miles of wear, you will want to note this in your ad.

Clean Your Car
You car should be very clean, both when taking pictures and when showing it to prospective buyers. A dirty car can easily knock $500 or more off of the perceived value of a car. Take it to the car wash, vacuum the insides, dust visible surfaces, and wipe down leather with the leather treatment of your choice.

Take Pictures of Your Car
As you probably know, pictures are the most important aspect when it comes to selling a car on Craigslist or anywhere else online. When I browse car ads on Craigslist I don’t even click on the add if it doesn’t have the “img” mark next to the ad. You will want to make sure that the pictures are of good quality and they they show off all areas that someone would be interested in inspecting. I can’t stress this enough. If your pictures are low quality or you just include pictures of the exterior but not the interior, fewer people are going to want to check out your car, and you’re going to waste time showing your car to people who could have known from the pictures that they weren’t interested because the leather is cracked. Don’t think that you’re going to hide some defect by including lower quality pictures. If a side mirror is missing, make sure that’s in the picture. Someone who comes to check out your car is going to see that, so might as well let them know ahead of time instead of potentially wasting their time and yours.

Creating Your Craigslist Listing
The formatting of your ad can go a long way. Your ad should first list all of the positives, and then all the negatives. People will overlook negatives when you’ve told them about all the positives and then you actually tell them about the negatives. Most ads just highlight the positives, and then leave the negatives up to the potential buyer to imagine. This wastes a lot of time. In your writing, you should write in concise statements. Don’t give all of the details in a big block of text.

You should also use html to format your image. This will allow you to show higher quality images and format your text. Check out this guide I wrote on formatting your Craigslist car ad. I provide an example that I created of a stellar ad and I give you the html code so that you can copy and paste it into the ad yourself and just change the wording.

You also want to highlight how you’ve treated the car while you’ve had it. If you performed routine maintenance and had the oil changed every 5,000 miles on the dot, make sure to point this out in the ad. Also, if the title is clean, make sure that you include the words “clean title” in the ad. I get tired of clicking on salvage cars sometimes, so I will occasionally include the words “clean title” in my search. If you don’t mention the status of the title, people will assume it’s salvage title. Also, if you’re the first owner and if you don’t smoke, you should also bring attention to these facts. Nothing says good condition quite like a car that is “clean title, one-owner, smoke-free”.

Pricing Your Car
Always price your car for more than you expect to get, because people will expect to talk you down from the price you list. One time after test driving someone’s Acura TL I had said “I like the car, but I think the $13,500 listing price is a bit more than I was looking to pay for this car, especially since the breaks appear to be quite worn and the leather is cracking.” The guy replied: “Oh, is that what I put it at online? I was thinking more in the $12,000 range.” Which I guess brings up a good point, know what your car is posted at online, and what you expect to get. You shouldn’t be surprised when someone mentions the price you listed it at online. Going back to Clearbook, for that same Acura TL I mentioned earlier, Clearbook recommends a listing price of $15,900. That gives you over $1,000 to negotiate down to its expected average sale price. Now, the value of your car will vary based on your location and the condition of the car, and the price you’re willing to accept will also be affected by your need to sell the car. If you’re not under any time restrictions to sell the car, then you can wait out for the price you want instead of needing to sell it quick because you’re moving next Tuesday.

Posting Your Ad
Once you’ve done everything above, it’s finally time to sell your car on Craigslist. Since most people do their car shopping on weekends, it’s best to post so that your ad shows near the top during the times when people are looking. In my opinion, the best time to post is 6 AM on Saturday. This is before most people wake up to look at cars, but it ensures that you’ll be near the top once they do wake up and start looking. Your title should include the year, make, model, and best main feature. Don’t try to spam your title or the rest of your ad with other models that you think are similar. Most people searching on Craigslist know what they want. Also, if you’re able, try to post your phone number in the ad. You will usually deal with more-serious buyers this way, and it will allow you to answer questions from prospects quickly.

Now go out there and post your ad! If you need help with your actual ad, check out my post on formatting Craigslist car ads.

How to Format Your Craigslist Car Ad Posting

We’ve all seen tons of terrible looking Craigslist ads. We’re also aware of the fact that proper formatting of a Craigslist ad can result in more interest for your car, which can result in you obtaining more money for that car. This is why it makes sense to spend some time properly formatting your Craigslist car ad posting. An hour of your time could make a $500 or more difference in your final selling price. However, Craigslist doesn’t make it simple to create a great looking ad. If you aren’t familiar with html, trying to create a Craigslist car posting on your own can be frustrating. Which is exactly why I’ve put together this small guide. I’m going to lead you through all the pieces necessary to make the best Craigslist car ad, including all of the html coding you’ll need so that you can simply copy and paste.

The car I’ll be using in this example posting is a 2004 Acura TL. We’ll leave the ad creating for later because I think it makes the most sense to do this after we’ve made a list of all the great things about the car we’re selling. You will also need to determine the price of your use car for Craigslist, which won’t be covered in this post because I am going to focus on formatting.

Now, first things first, we’re going to create the header at the top of our ad. Usually this includes the make, model, and year of the car. Below that you should put one or two features that you want to highlight about the car. For the TL I’m posting, the code looks like this:

<center><b><font size=”6″>2004 Acura TL 4dr Sedan</font></b></center>
<center><font size=”4″ face=”Bookman Old Style”>Clean Title – Powerful and Reliable V6 Engine</font></center>

Don’t worry, later I’ll give you a template you can simply copy, paste, and then edit for your own ad. It will be easy, trust me.

After creating the header, you’ll want to put some qualitative information that may not come across in the features listing for your car. Here’s the description I created for this car:

This is a one-owner, non-smoking, very clean car. This car has a clean title and has never been in an accident. It’s been babied all of its life. The miles are fairly high because of my long commute, but there are all highway miles, which is easier on the car. You’ll be surprised with just how smoothly this car drives. Tires were replaced 15k miles ago, so there’s plenty of tread. The timing belt and water pump were replaced at 110k miles. Call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. I’d be happy to answer any questions and let you test drive the vehicle. Serious inquiries only.

Next, it’s time to create your list of features for the car. There’s a balance between putting too much so that it seems like you’ve exhausted the list of benefits, and not putting enough to truly showcase the greatness of your vehicle. Below is the list that I compiled for this TL.

    <li>3.2L V6 Engine – 270 HP and 238 ft-lbs Torque – That’s tons of power!</li>
    <li>Automatic Transmission</li>
    <li>Premium Leather Interior w/ Heated Seats – Very soft; only minor cracking</li>
    <li>Sunroof that works flawlessly</li>
    <li>Factory-installed Premium Bose Sound – 8 speakers – 225 watts output</li>
    <li>Power Seats</li>
    <li>Side Airbags help keep you and your family safe</li>
    <li>EPA-rated 18/28 MPG w/ 17 gal. fuel tank</li>

2004 Acura TL Consumer Reports Reliability

After listing the features, I wanted to say something about Acura’s reliability, because I think this is one of the biggest selling points of Acuras in general. I made a little chart using information from ConsumerReports, which I think is in-line with fair use of a ConsumerReports subscription because the amount of reproduction is very low, and it’s only momentary. The chart I created (using some editing of the chart CR provides) for the 2004 Acura TL is on the left. I posted this brief description to go with it:

If you know anything about cars, then you know Acuras are as reliable as you can get. You don’t have to believe me though, just check out the ConsumerReports profile.

This is probably a good time to note that Craigslist will often ignore where you press “enter” to create a new line. You need to manually enter the code <br> anywhere where you want it to go to the next line.

After that, it was finally time to post images of the car itself. Now, the pictures we post should be high-quality and they should contain most, if not all, of the car. Basically, someone should be able to look at your car and determine if it meets all of their aesthetic needs. If your seats are very cracked, don’t try to hide this. Show it in the pictures. It will save you a lot of time from having to deal with prospective buyers who will never buy a car in the condition of yours.

The size of the pictures should be somewhere between 500 and 800 pixels wide. You don’t want the pictures to be too big that someone has to scroll around on the page to view them. However, you also don’t want them to be so small that they don’t show enough detail. If you aren’t sure how to resize an email, search google for an image resizer where you can just upload the image and choose a size.

Once you have your images in the proper size (mine are approximately 770 x 500) then you need to upload them to a file hosting website. My favorite is After you upload it you need to grab the direct link to the image, which will end in whatever filetype you have your images in (.gif, .jpg, .png).

To post an image in Craigslist, use the following code:

<img src=””>

You should have at least 6 images of your car, or you’re not showing enough. A good goal to aim for is 10+ images. Then, find the car company’s logo somewhere online and save it to your computer. Because we’re adding the good car images into the post itself, Craigslist won’t show its “img” tag next to your posting title unless you upload an image to your ad also. So we’re just going to upload the logo here so that we get the “img” tag.

Now, we need to go back to the title and make sure it says what we want to highlight. First, of course, year, make, and model. Then, choose what you think people are looking for. What’s going to get them to click on your ad versus the others listed? For this car, I went with: 2004 Acura TL – Automatic – Leather – Clean Title.

Best Craigslist Car Ad Posting Thumbnail

You can view my full example ad by clicking on the image above. Once there you’ll be able to magnify to see the ad in its full-size.

Below is the template I created from this ad. You can copy and paste this into your own Craigslist car posting and then edit this information to fit your car. Hopefully this guide has been helpful and will help you get at least another $500 from your car. If you have any questions or feedback post below.

<center><b><font size=”6″>YEAR MAKE MODEL</font></b></center>
<center><font size=”4″ face=”Bookman Old Style”>Important Feature #1 – Important Feature #2</font></center>
This is where you give a qualitative description of your car. Point out things that the features list below might not show. Highlight important aspects.
    <li>Feature #1</li>
    <li>Feature #2</li>
    <li>Feature #3</li>
    <li>Feature #4</li>
    <li>Feature #5</li>
    <li>Feature #6</li>
Give a brief intro to the images that you’re posting below. Emphasize that they should call you to see the car for themselves.

<img src=””>
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