How to Best Sell Your Car on EBay From a Former Bring-A-Trailer Deal Spotter

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
how to best sell your car on ebay from a former bring a trailer deal spotter

As I’ve mentioned before, I spent about four years as a “deal spotter” for Bring A Trailer. Much of that work consisted of browsing eBay, Craigslist, and various marque-specific forums looking for interesting deals on classics. Of course, I have a day job as well, so I try and minimize the time I actually spend looking at cars while simultaneously looking like I’m actually working. The eBay app for my Android helps in this matter, so I can work on my side job while indisposed.

So, I spend nearly an hour or two every day trying to quickly assess every car by the lead photo before moving on. I can quickly spot deals or find those auctions that won’t sell. It’s like automotive Tinder – swipe left for the rotted F-body, swipe right for the longhood 911.

(I did have to reference Wikipedia on Tinder, by the way. I’m a happily married man.)

Since my friends know I have this ample shopping experience, they all assume I know the best ways to sell a car on eBay.Funny thing, though: I’ve never actually sold any cars there. After all, I’m a writer, and as such, I’m not paid enough to actually afford any car I want. Those who can afford to buy, do. Those who can’t, write about it.

I have a good friend who’s a real estate photographer – and, incidentally, the least-douchey BMW fanboy I’ve ever met. The key to marketing anything online is putting your product in the absolute best light possible. In realtor’s parlance, it’s called “staging.” He ensures each room is properly lit, is clean, with absolutely no clutter. The images he produces are astounding, and they sell houses.

Car sellers on eBay need to consider staging as well. No, you don’t need a trunkload of Nikon glass like my friend, but most people have a decent camera in their pants right now.

Take Good Photos

You get at least twelve photos with a basic for-sale auction. Another $2 doubles it. Make that $2 back by going for a Tall rather than the Venti tomorrow; it will be worth it. Shoot each quarter panel, a profile, front, and rear. Front seats, rear seats, VIN plate, odometer and trunk all need to be shown, too. If you omit something, buyers will think you’re hiding something. This car, for example, is shown well, with two dozen pics from all angles, even the undercarriage:

If there are flaws in your car, take detailed pics of those flaws so the buyer can judge for themselves. Maybe the cracked front valence isn’t a big deal to you, but it could be to someone looking for a clean car.

Post Those Photos

Next, you need to know how to get those photos off of your camera and onto eBay. Last spring, I happened across an auction for a vintage Chevy truck. Not typically something that would catch my eye, but for the lead photo. The seller had taken pics with his iPhone, and then took a photo (not a screenshot, a photo) of his iPhone to show the truck. Memorable, yes. It got me to click. It got me to make fun of him on Facebook. But that’s no way to capture good detail of a vintage car.

Of course, once you get the pics on your computer, they need to be properly oriented:

Though it is theoretically possible in your particular part of the world there could be an unusual sideways pull of gravity that causes bias-ply tires to grip sheer cliffs like a rock climber, most buyers and shipping companies will not be appropriately equipped for these loads.

Look At The Background

Also, consider the fella at the top of the page.

The background is cluttered, distracting from the vehicle for sale. Also, the inclusion of human or canine subjects in the photo inevitably leads to stupid questions from buyers: “Is the dog included?”

Minimize Misogyny

On that note, please: lose the scantily-clad women from our photos. Clearly, those people shopping eBay know how to “get online” as we used to say when our modem tones made it clear to all around that we were doing so. One could make the parallel assumption that most of those who happen to be horny while car shopping would be best served by opening a second tab on their browser of choice and typing words like “The Chive” or “Pornhub” into said browser. An orange-peel coated Eleanor clone draped with a similarly-orange-peeling forty-something in a too-small bikini is just sad, and does nothing to sell the car in question.

Oh, yeah: objectifying women is bad too. Funny thing, though, the bikini-model is almost exclusively posed with American iron. You never see a woman posed atop a Miata. Hmm.

Write Well

Please, use reasonably proper English when writing the description of your car. NO CAPS LOCK. Write complete sentences and include all of the appropriate details about the car in question. Space those sentences out into paragraphs – no one will read a wall of text. And, for God’s sake, the name of your car is typically printed somewhere on the car. Go to your car, write down the spelling of the model name, and type it into your auction listing.

I’d have to say there are nearly as many Cameros for sale on eBay at any given time as there are Camaros. However, the Camero is not listed in Hagerty’s Classic Car Valuation Tool, and won’t be rolling across any stages in Arizona next January.

Avoid Clichés Like The Plague

Please stop using the term “unmolested” when referring to a clean, stock vehicle. What you do in the privacy of your own garage is your business and Sergeant Olivia Benson won’t be inspecting for enlarged tailpipes. Just stop using that word.

I often see dealers using eBay to shill their stock. That’s fine, I suppose, though some of the stock language they use isn’t appropriate for every car. Don’t make the mistake of copy/pasting their ad copy. A couple years ago, I was looking at a 1947 MG TC on eBay. The dealer’s boilerplate read:

“The factory warranty has expired, and we can’t get it extended.”

No kidding. In fact, the MG factory in Abingdon has expired. I’d imagine the new Chinese owners of the MG marque would chuckle a bit at a warranty claim for a car designed before Mao was in power.

Stop calling your car “one of a kind.” Technically, I know it’s true, as there shouldn’t be any other car out there with the exact VIN as yours. That doesn’t make it a special snowflake.

Unless your car is a truly limited edition, like

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2 of 68 comments
  • CecilSaxon CecilSaxon on Jul 01, 2015

    I suck at selling cars on Craigslist- I always price lower than they are worth just to make them go away as fast as possible. Makes it more fun for me and I rarely have to entertain more than one person. Boom, done and I move on with my life.

  • Duffman13 Duffman13 on Jul 01, 2015

    I've sold more than my fair share of cars on Craigslist over the last 5 years. One thing that is definitely worth noting it that for pictures, they do take HTML as well. If you host your pictures somewhere like imgur or photobucket, the site will often give you the HTML so you can easily past it into the ad and have nice fullish resolution versions of the pics rather than using the miniature Craigslist image viewer. Alternatively, you could use the mini-viewer for some basic ones and enclose a link to the full library of high resolution ones as well. And as others have said, a good detail job before the photos or when a buyer comes to see the car goes a long way to making the car sell.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.