Buying & Selling Tips : Free car adverts – don’t be given the runaround!

Mike Humble:

A great deal can be said about private car adverts. My own experience tends to suggest that the cheaper the advert, the cheaper the vendor and, in most cases, the poorer quality of customer. Sounds snobby? Well, you’d be surprised. When selling a motor there are some places I simply won’t advertise it. My all-time pet hates include the free advert paper you find in the local chippy or corner shop – you know the one, I think it comes out the day after Thursday – and the other one is bloody Gumtree. If you want to get messed around then the aforementioned will get you mad to point of your feet itching.

In another one of those work conversations, a colleague starts bickering on about the number of idiots ringing him up night and day with stupid offers or asking, in Eastern European dialects, ‘er, what’s the, er, lowest price you take for, er, your car?’ and the myriad of text messages asking if he will take a Raleigh Grifter and a PS2 in part exchange. Now the motor in question, although not everyone’s cup of tea is a 2008 Zafira 150 CDTi in Silver Lightning with a good mileage (circa 49,000), two owners and in a decent SRi trim level – I’ve seen the car and it’s prime used material which would do any family nicely.

It transpires he’s advertised the Zafira on as many free sites and outlets as possible and he’s stunned by the numpties and dunderheads who have been in touch or round to look at it. One even came round sporting a tag on his leg with a wife in tow who allegedly looked like a very overweight Kat Von D – his words, not mine. It’s priced on the button and they only reason they want shot is because someone in the family has recently kicked the bucket and left them an almost brand-new car. I posed the thorny question of why they hadn’t advertised it on a specialist car website such as Auto Trader and he retorted: ‘Oh no, I’m not paying for an advert.’

A smart phone or a cheap point and snap digital camera will take a superb picture just like this. A clean car with a nice background image will sell it in no time. A little bit of effort DOES pay off!


And it’s here, boys and girls, that a fatal mistake has been made – if you bombard the free press with your car, the chances are you will just end up with low-life punters. You see, if you are looking to bail out of a wrecked Almera for a few hundred notes or an elderly three-pot Corsa that idles like a tumble drier full of pebbles then these freebies are fine – crap cars attract crap buyers. Decent cars deserve a decent advert and this should lower the risk of your runabout sale turning into the kind of run-around that even the late Mike Reid would be envious of.

For the sake of a few quid, place your car on a reputable site along with some nice snaps taken down by the river or local park. Then sprinkle a few choice words about the car itself without going all chapter and verse… remember to put all the important details like MoT, service history and your location within the first two or three lines (people tend to skim read or get bored after the eighteenth paragraph) and you’ve cracked it. The trick is to bring actual people to actual dialogue so don’t put an email address and use the free number shielding service – this protects you from the lowest of the low… TEXT MESSERS.

Text messages are, in most cases free but very non committal. Even though we live in a digital world, the ultimate point of thumbing the crispy £20 notes at the concluding deal is still very much an analogue act. Incredible as it may sound but time wasters spend hours on emails and text messages to people and dealers selling their cars. By only putting a land line number into your advert, only seriously interested parties get in touch – time waster usually are petrified of real time conversation. OK… so it may reduce the number of incoming enquiries – are they quality enquiries though? Do you really want to be wasting your time with time wasting text messages when all you want to do is unwind of an evening watching Emmerdale?

An honest, serious and well-informed punter will spot a cheapskate advert from 100 paces, he or she will either not bother to call or regard you as a mug and try to have the shirt off your back as part of the deal. Stop and think for a moment about how you would like to see a car advert if you were shopping around for a car yourself. Speculate to accumulate and, by playing smart and sensible, you can turn your car sale into an enjoyable experience. Do it on the cheap and it’ll be only you who pays.

One comment

  1. With you on this one Brother! I once went to view some banger via the Friday Ad for my Son who had just learnt to drive. Despite my insistance, the seller wouldn’t meet at his place or come over to mine but wanted to trade on the forecourt of some grotty 24/7 petrol station.

    Regardless of how cheap the car was, there was no way I was handing over money to some faceless berk in the middle of nowhere so we didn’t bother. The cheaper the deal, the higher the risk as the author suggests.

    Funny isn’t it how none of us would be so lax and carefree when selling our house privately. The wife wouldn’t even so much as have a strangers foot over the thresh unless she’s been top to bottom inside out with a Dyson.

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