Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

How to Write a Used Car Classified Ad

Learning liners and beyond
Draw in the reader's attention by including as many facts and photos about a used vehicle as possible.

The key to writing a good classified ad is to know your audience and what they’re looking for. Though automotive classified ads are among the most highly trafficked pages of a newspaper, you need something to draw the reader’s attention to your ad above others.

It’s easy to get trapped by the desire to be frugal, but a car advertisement needs to be descriptive. Prospective buyers don’t have time to waste on uninformative ads—they’ll easily pass it by and go to the next option.

Buyers usually have an idea of what they want before they start perusing the classifieds. This could mean they know the specific make and model that they want, or just something generic like a two-door coupe. Which is why it’s important to list as much information as possible, this way the ad will capture the attention of both audiences.

The year is another key element for a used car ad. Buyers typically have an age of the car in mind, or at least a range of years. The mechanically inclined tend to be a bit more risky with their automotive purchases, since they can fix-up or use the car for other parts. While car novices will be looking for something that’s only a couple of years old.

Include the engine size or the number of cylinders. Though it may not seem like an important feature to you, it may be to a potential buyer.

The mileage and condition of the car are important to include as well. Be honest, and don’t be vague, it’s better to state the exact mileage rather than something like “less than 100k miles.” Give the true condition, instead of simply saying it has a “spot of rust.”

List a few positive things about the car, generally one or two. Mention if there are any new elements or features on the car-if it’s had work done (i.e., new transmission, etc.), new paint, etc. This helps separate a car from the other ads of the same make, model, year, etc.

This seems obvious, but always list the asking price. Sellers don’t want to field calls from people who aren’t truly interested in purchasing their car at the price they want to receive for it. List the price, and be firm.

As always, be sure to include the  contact information on all ads. If there is space,
it’s always good to include a phone number, email address and website. You never know a potential buyer’s preferred contact method, and this will cover all bases. You don’t want to turn off a potential buyer because they only like using phones or email.


1.) Leaving out key information is a common mistake advertisers make, for example, not listing if it’s an automatic or manual transmission. Some people reason that this will prompt potential buyers to call, creating more “leads.” However, the seller then will have to field more questions from potentially uninterested buyers.

2.) Make sure an ad is decipherable with careful use of abbreviations, and only use standard abbreviations that everyone knows.

3.) Be creative. Utilize a catchy headline to help draw the reader’s attention. Of course, not everyone is witty and creative, so there are other tricks you can use. Like purchasing a bigger ad space, which will make the ad stand apart from the others. You can also try using a bigger font, bold or all caps to draw attention. Even if the initial reaction to the ad is somewhat negative (“Wow, that ad sure is an eyesore”), you’ve succeeded in drawing their attention. Which can ultimately lead to more potential buyers.