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Selling Your Car: How to Create a Picture-Perfect Ad

sell used car 2022 01 smartphone photo scaled jpg Selling a used car: taking a photo | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

When creating an online ad to sell your used car, you have a limited number of characters to describe the vehicle — for the Cars.com Sell tool, that limit is 3,000. Luckily, a picture is worth a thousand words for shoppers, and the more photos you include, the better. The photos should show off your used car while accurately reflecting its value and condition. Use the following tips to create an ad that will capture the attention of buyers and help your vehicle sell fast.

Related: Prepare to Sell

Prep for the Photo Shoot

You don’t need a fancy camera to make your car look its best, but taking some time to prepare for the photo shoot will pay off. You’ll want to wash the car’s exterior and apply a fresh coat of wax. Inside, clean out any trash and personal items, and vacuum the cabin; not only will this help your vehicle shine in the photos, but you’ll also give yourself a head start on prepping the car for the sale. Next, plan out a list of photos you’ll want to take based on the guidance below.

Tips From the Pros

toyota rav 4 hybrid 2021  05 angle  exterior  front  silver jpg 2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Even if you’re shooting the vehicle with your phone’s camera, you can create high-quality photos with a few simple tricks. Cars.com photographer Christian Lantry recommends using optimal lighting to your advantage when shooting the car.

“Lighting is typically better in the early morning and late afternoon or on hazy and cloudy days,” he notes. Standing too close to the vehicle when taking photos also is a common mistake that can hinder shot quality; instead, try moving further away and zooming in when necessary. “Avoid shooting images that are distorted (too close with a wide lens),” Lantry advises.

Make sure to fill the entire frame of the picture without cutting off any parts of the car, and keep the vehicle as the primary focus; avoid distractions like objects or additional vehicles in the background.

Highlight Special Features

honda civic si 2022 035 gear shift interior sedan scaled jpg 2022 Honda Civic Si | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Show buyers what you love about your car by highlighting special features that make it stand out. If the stick shift is a key selling point in your sports car, show a picture of it; if the vehicle’s tech or backseat amenities are its best features, remember to photograph and post these details in your ad. Consider how the potential buyer might use the vehicle: If you’re selling an SUV or hatchback, for example, take photos of the cargo area with the rear seats up and down.

If you’re pricing your car above market value, you’ll need to prove your car’s condition with the photos. Similarly, don’t be afraid to show dings and dents — shoppers know that these are all parts of buying a used car, and they won’t be surprised when it’s time to see the car in person.

Which Photos Should I Post?

mini cooper s convertible 2022 01 angle exterior front neon green jpg 2022 Mini Cooper S Convertible | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Now that you’ve taken a plethora of high-quality photos, you’ll want to select the best ones for your ad. The first photo should always be a passenger-side three-point angle (this highlights the car’s “face” in the ad). Do not reveal the age of the photo by its surroundings (i.e., snow surrounding a vehicle in the middle of summer). Most importantly, use all of the photo slots provided for you.

Buyers want as much detail about your car as possible. They also want to know why your car is different from the others listed on Cars.com — show off that large touchscreen, alloy wheels and panoramic moonroof.

Recommended Photos

ford f 150 hybrid supercrew limited 2021 05 center stack display dashboard drivers seat front passenger seat front row interior steering wheel truck scaled jpg 2021 Ford F-150 Limited | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

To create an ad on Cars.com, sellers can upload a minimum of one photo — or up to 30 — using landscape (i.e., horizontal) orientation. Choose a mix of shots highlighting the angles and features from all of the categories below to give shoppers a thorough look at your vehicle:

Exterior

  • Left front (offset)
  • Front
  • Right front (offset)
  • Left rear (offset)
  • Rear
  • Right rear (offset)
  • Left side
  • Right side

Interior

  • Interior dash
  • Driver’s seat
  • Backseat

Other

  • Engine
  • Tire
  • Trunk
  • Odometer

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Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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