HomeMediaDo’s and don'ts for advertising your classic car for sale

Do’s and don’ts for advertising your classic car for sale


So you’ve finally decided it’s time for someone else to become the conservator of your cherished classic car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a longtime family favorite or a less-than-loved project you just never got around to completing.

It’s time to sell it and we’re here to help. We’ve come up with a list of do’s and don’ts for maximizing your vehicle’s appeal, not only to potential buyers but to our editors who select the cars, trucks and motorcycles that are featured as the Pick of the Day.

Do’s and don'ts for advertising your classic car for sale |
This photo actually ran with the ad for this Cougar

This information pertains to dealers advertising classic vehicles as well as to private sellers. Some dealers have the creation of effective ads down to an art. Others, not so much. Some private sellers produce ads with beautifully composed pictures and thoughtful descriptions. Others, well, you just have to wonder if they really want to sell the vehicle.

Really, what’s the point of advertising your classic car for sale if your ad has absolutely no positive impact? Why would a buyer seek you out if your ad has lousy photography and little or no information?

Creating a great ad breaks down to two critical parts: the photography and the description. Scrimp on either of those and potential buyers will move right on to the next ad.

Our editors get frustrated when they search for Pick of the Day candidates, discover a car or bike they like, and find only two lines of text with no interesting details about its history. Or bad photos. We’re sure potential buyers feel the same.


Do get the vehicle outside and into an attractive location. Watch the background to make sure there’s nothing ugly that detracts from the vehicle, such as trash bins, port-a-potties, even utility poles or piles of junk.

Do pick a scenic location, which enhances the appeal of the car, truck or motorcycle, putting it in context and sparking the longing of potential buyers. Some dealers have well-lit photo areas where they consistently pose their vehicles, which shows them off in a nice way. But for most folks, outside is always better.

Do’s and don'ts for advertising your classic car for sale |
A 1928 Ford Model AA shown in an appropriate and scenic location

By all means, get your car out of the dark and dingy garage, or the funky carport. OK, sometimes you have no choice, such as with a vehicle that’s been buried in storage for years, has flat tires, maybe an engine that doesn’t start. Or maybe no engine at all. But at least make the effort to clean things up a bit before taking its picture.

Don’t photograph the car with your bikini-clad girlfriend posed next to it. People are interested in buying a car or motorcycle, not a piece of cheesecake. She’s just a distraction for anyone who’s looking for the right car to buy.

Do make sure your pictures are in focus and properly lit – keep the sun at your back when taking a photo or position lights to enhance details. Download your pictures to a computer and look them over carefully before submitting them for your ad.

Do’s and don'ts for advertising your classic car for sale |
The seller cut off the back of the El Camino, but at least he got his fingertip

Don’t get your own shadow in the picture, or your own reflection showing in the paint or chrome. You’d be amazed how many people post pictures that unintentionally have themselves in them.

Do show the entire car, and from various angles — front and rear three-quarters, full front and rear, and profile shots of both sides. Photograph the interior from several angles, showing the seats and the dashboard — turn the steering wheel straight. Photograph the engine compartment, the trunk and other pertinent details. If possible, include photos showing the condition of the underside.

Don’t cut off the front or rear of the car in your picture.

Do’s and don'ts for advertising your classic car for sale |
Crazily out-of-focus picture ran with a VW ad

Do pick the most flattering angles for your particular car. Try to keep your camera low to add drama for exterior shots, or high if you want to show the vehicle’s shape from above. Don’t just shoot at eye level.

Don’t try to hide obvious rust or other blemishes. People appreciate knowing that you’re honest enough to share your vehicle’s flaws as well as its finest features. Concealing them will only work against you when a buyer comes to check out the car and discovers the problems, or worse, when the vehicle arrives at its new home. Avoid trouble by being forthright.

Do not watermark your photos with yours or your dealership’s logo or other information. Date-coded pictures are also a no-no.


Do tell your vehicle’s story, its history, family connections, restoration and repair information, anything that might be of interest to a potential buyer. A vehicle’s history is often its most important feature. Low mileage? Full restoration? Custom build and if so, who did it? 

Don’t scrimp on the details.  Writing a full description takes just a few minutes and will immediately answer potential buyers’ questions.  Use your best salesmanship. 

Do offer specifics in your description. Does it have a V8 or a straight 6? V-twin or 2-stroke? And how large is that engine? Manual or automatic transmission? Also, talk about anything special that adds value to the vehicle, such as performance modifications.

Do’s and don'ts for advertising your classic car for sale |
There is just so much wrong with this ad photo

Do mention the vehicle’s mileage, and whether what’s showing on the odometer is accurate. If the vehicle has been totally restored, say how many miles have been put on it since that work was completed.

Don’t varnish the truth. Mention any flaws that the car has, including blemishes and mechanical issues, or anything that doesn’t work, such as the air conditioning or the dashboard clock. If the vehicle has been in a crash or damaged in some other way, talk about that and how it’s been repaired. Again, having a buyer find out there’s something awry after the sale is nothing but trouble, which you can avoid by being honest.

Do describe the maintenance, such as the condition of tires, belts and hoses, as well as oil changes and engine tune-ups. If the vehicle has some expensive service requirement, such as a timing-belt change, mention whether that has been done.

Every classic vehicle is different, with various attributes and histories. Tailoring your ad to show off the best your vehicle has to offer, as well as pointing out any weaknesses, should ensure sales success and a satisfying experience for everyone involved.

Learn how to sell your car on

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


    • Bill, thanks for your comment and I’m glad you were able to sell your Camaro through our website, although you have to admit that was a pretty funky photo.

  1. Great comments on how to advertise a car. Also need to put the price in it if you don’t put the price in it it makes us think that you want too much so why bother. I have passed out many ads cars Bad pictures no descriptions no prices I just keep going to the next ones. At present I own too many as I have 12. Always looking for a good car at a good price. Thanks for posting all the information

  2. Some ads are so bad there should be an award given. Ones with no price are probably the biggest turn off. Why should I waste my time to contact an advertiser to find out the car is way overpriced ."Trade only", dumb. I want to buy your car but you don’t want to sell it to me? Only trade? There is a dent or rust described in a certain area and they have pictures of every part of the car except that area. Phone calls only? What’s wrong with a text? I hardly ever call anyone, it’s much more convenient to text and you can send pictures.


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