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HomeCar CultureWant to sell your car? Tell its story

Want to sell your car? Tell its story

Sharing your vehicle’s story in a classified advertisement enhances its appeal

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Have you ever wondered why cars owned by Steve McQueen or Paul Newman or Carroll Shelby or Paul Walker draw so much attention — and so much money when they are sold?

You might imagine it’s because of their former celebrity ownership. But what actually enhances the value of those vehicles is that they have a story. Yes, celebrity equals story. But so do other factors that contribute to a car’s story.

The delightful details of long-term family ownership, for example. Or perhaps the vehicle’s story is one of being taken from decrepit to trophy-winning because of a lovingly done restoration. Or maybe it’s just like the one you wanted back in high school but couldn’t afford at the time. 

Each weekend, I take time to sit at my laptop and to click over to the ClassicCars.com Marketplace to search for the two cars I will feature the following week as my Picks of the Day. If that sounds easy enough, it is not. 

I often look at 150 or even double that many vehicles seeking a couple that not only have adequate photographs and sufficient details in the text about the engine and transmission, the condition of the interior, etc., but that also have a story. 

After all, what separates a vehicle from the other ones advertised on ClassicCars.com is its story, it’s special history that enhances its value, that provides its next owner with a story to tell when he or she is asked about the car.

All too often, however, sellers simply note whether the engine is original and if the car has been restored. Such things represent the minimum of what should be in the advertisement — and if that’s the case, you should expect your advertisement to draw minimal attention, and not only from those of us selecting the Pick of the Day, but also from potential buyers.

But take the time to share your vehicle’s story and you not only maximize the views it draws but the price you’re likely to be paid by its next owner.

And while I’m on this rant, a couple of other notes:

  • Smartphones often provide decent resolution for your photographs, but shoot with the phone in a horizontal position so your pictures are wider than deeper. Also, photograph the vehicle from various angles, and not just from your eye height. Try holding the camera at ankle height. Also, be aware of glare on the vehicle and the background of your photos. I can’t tell you how often it looks like a utility pole has emerged from a car’s roof.
  • If at all possible, photograph the car outdoors.
  • I can’t believe I have to mention this, but photograph the vehicle’s interior and its engine.
  •  Note to dealers: The Journal does not use photos with watermarks. If you insist on using them in your advertisements, at least place them where they can be easily cropped out of the image. Personally, I see a watermark and in 9 cars out of 10, I automatically reject the vehicle as a Pick of the Day candidate. 

The Journal is in the business of sharing stories, including those of the vehicles selected to be the Pick of the Day. But we can’t share those stories if you don’t share them in the first place.

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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