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What not to say when selling a car


Researchers have identified the small-ad clichés most likely to put potential buyers off. We explain how to attract interest and clinch the best deal.

Car salesman handing keys to driver

If you’re planning to sell your car, one of the cheapest methods is through a private sale either in the local press or online.

Going through a used-car dealer is likely to be less hassle, but you might not get quite as good a price.

Get your message right

But the DIY approach will only produce a good deal for your old motor if you get the marketing right.

This means being realistic not just about the condition of your car but also about the price you’re looking for.

The language you use in your advert, however, can also play a big role in attracting interest.

New research from used-car specialist HPI has found the car-ad clichés that are most likely to deter potential buyers.

Five phrases to avoid

Spokesman Shane Teskey says: "It’s clear from our survey that the tried and tested advertising phrases may be getting a bit tired, and are more likely to put buyers off than rousing their interest."

The five most off-putting phrases were:

1. "One careful lady driver."

Woman taking selfie in car

Is there a hint of sexism in the assumption that the gender of the vehicle’s owner is relevant?

Or is this cliché so overworked that no one believes it any more?

2. "Baby forces sale."

Congratulations, but what exactly does this have to do with the state of the vehicle?

Or do you mean that baby has irreparably redecorated the interior? Either way, this does not capture the imagination.

3. "Genuine reason for sale."

As opposed to "made-up reason for sale"? I wasn’t suspicious of your motives until now…

4. "First to see will buy."

I won’t waste my time getting in touch with you then.

5. "Mint condition."

I’ll be the judge of that, thanks.

In fact, HPI found that the small-ad cliché least likely to put people off was "full service history".

Teskey adds: "This suggests that clear and practical information about the vehicle is a winner.

"We advise sellers to stick to the facts and be honest about the price and the status of their vehicle.

Focus on the facts

Man giving thumbs up

"Our survey shows that it’s also best to avoid tired, old clichés. Just focus on mileage, MoT, make, model and road tax, as well as any optional extras, such as in-car entertainment and leather trims, which will also attract buyers."

Of course, price will be key to any sale. So check online to find out what cars like yours – with the same age, mileage and condition – are selling for.

Think about the sale from the buyer’s point of view: there are certain boxes they will expect you to tick, so be prepared.

See it from the buyer’s perspective

For example, the AA advises car buyers to check the service history of any vehicle they are considering.

To help put their mind at ease, you should present receipts for checks and work you have had carried out, as well as be able to explain any gaps in the documentation.

And in a market as competitive as that for used cars, there are few true bargains to be had, the AA points out.

So if you are selling at what could appear to be a particularly cheap price, potential buyers will want to know why — and could be suspicious.


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