5 Secrets Of Writing A Great Craigslist Car Ad

screen shot of the auto section of the Boise Craigslist from June 25, 2020, with a peace symbol representing the Craigslist logo.

You’ve made a decision. It’s time to sell your car or truck. You’ve done all of the right things too, like having a mechanic give it a once over and having it detailed top to bottom. You need one last thing…a great Craigslist ad.

Fortunately, you are in luck. Maverick Car Company in Boise has sold thousands of cars and trucks. The company has mastered the art of Craigslist car sales, and like a martial arts sensei training future black belts, we have put together the top 5 Secrets of Writing a Great Craigslist Car Ad.

1. A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

So admittedly, this article is supposed to be about “writing” an ad, but when it comes to selling your vehicle pictures can tell a great story.

The cars and trucks Maverick Car Company lists on Craigslist typically have between 20 and 24 photos. The goal is to provide —visually— as much information about the vehicle’s condition as possible. Here is our recommended shot list. Consider taking a clear, high-resolution picture of your car or truck from all of these angles.


  • 45-degree angle from the back facing right,
  • 45-degree angle from the back facing right,
  • 45-degree angle from the front facing right,
  • 45-degree angle from the front facing left,
  • 45-degree angle from the back facing left,
  • Profile (from the side) facing right,
  • Profile facing left,
  • Front head on,
  • Back head on.


  • From the driver’s side with the door open,
  • If there is a backseat, shoot it from the driver’s side with the door open too,
  • From the passenger’s side with the door open,
  • If there is a backseat, shoot it from the passenger’s side with the door open too,
  • Shoot the inside of each door,
  • Take a picture of the trunk, hatchback, or truck bed,
  • Take a picture of the instrument panel,
  • Get a picture of the radio or infotainment console.

Additional Photos

  • Capture pictures of optional equipment,
  • Show pictures of damage.

You also want to ensure that your photographs are of a good quality. Don’t worry, you don’t need a special camera, a good smartphone should work fine. Here are a few photo-taking tips.

  • Have plenty of light. Take your photos when there is plenty of light outside, but not when it is so bright that there are lots of shadows. In many places the early evening is a good time.
  • Be focused. Make sure that pictures are in focus and clear. If it looks blurry, don’t use it, take another one. It is better to take 100 photos to get 20 good images, than to post an out-of-focus picture.
  • Don’t include your thumb. Lots of Craigslist sellers will cover a car’s license plate with their thumb or finger. Instead, if you’re worried about sharing the plate number online, take five minutes and remove the plates before you take pictures. You can easily put them right back on, and the resulting images will look significantly better.

2. Include Specifications & Accessories

Your potential buyers will try to find out if your price is right. To do this, they will use an online tool like the Kelley Blue Book or the NADA. And, frankly, this is one of the reasons that specifications and a list of accessories are so important.

For example, on June 24, 2020, we visited the Kelley Blue Book website and compared the private party value for a 2017 Toyota Tacoma Access Cab with only default options versus one with additional options included in the estimate.

The “default” Tacoma showed a private party value of $18,673. When we added the vehicles specific specs and accessories, Kelley Blue Book estimated the private party value at $19,738, or more than $1,000 more.

The difference between default features and actual features on KBB

If your Craigslist ad didn’t include your vehicle’s specific specifications and accessories, some potential buyers will think you are overpriced and either ignore your ad altogether or show up prepared to offer much, much less money.

Here are several specifications to include in the description section of your Craigslist ad.

  • Year,
  • Make,
  • Model,
  • Title status,
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN),
  • Trim package, like LE, SE, TRD, or similar,
  • Transmission type,
  • Engine, i.e. 3.0L Diesel Turbo V6 240hp 428ft. lbs. 6 Cyl,
  • Mileage,
  • Body type, i.e. SUV, sedan, etc.,
  • Drive type, i.e. AWD,
  • Fuel type, think diesel, gas, electric,
  • Estimated Miles per gallon or electric vehicle range,
  • Color, use the official name.

You will also want to include a list of any significant accessories or upgrades. If you added a hitch, tell folks. If you upgraded the tires, let shoppers know that too. Don’t be shy, provide as much information as possible.

3. Include A Detailed Description

Car dealerships have something of an advantage when it comes to selling a car or truck on Craigslist. No one questions the dealer’s motives. They know that a car dealership is in the business of selling cars. Private party sellers don’t have that luxury.

A buyer looking at your car or truck ad on Craigslist will want to know how you used the vehicle and why you are selling it. They might even be concerned that you want to get rid of it because you know it has some serious mechanical problem you are hiding.

You can ease these concerns with a detailed description that explains how you used the vehicle and why you are selling it. Be transparent here. If the vehicle does have known issues, mention them.

4. Write A Descriptive Title

As an experiment, go to Craigslist and compare the typical title that a car dealer uses to the title an average private seller writes. Here is what you will be likely to find.

Typical dealer’s title:

2014 Audi Q5 Diesel AWD All Wheel Drive 3.0 quattro TDI Prestige SUV

Typical private party seller’s title:

2014 Audi Q5

Car dealers, like Maverick, use these longer, more descriptive titles for three reasons, (1) they provide more information to shoppers, (2) they better describe the vehicle, and (3) data shows that they are more likely to be clicked and opened.

An example Craigslist ad.

5. Use HTML Markup

Hypertext markup language or HTML is used to help display websites, including Craigslist. And HTML gives you the ability to change how your description appears.

One of the most significant examples is in how you list your vehicle’s specifications. Let’s build a nice-looking specification list using three simple HTML tags that are permitted in Craigslist posts.

Bold Text

First, let’s create a title of sorts using a <b> tag. This tag makes text bold in your Craigslist ad.<b>SPECIFICATIONS</b>

The bold tag has two parts. The opening tag is a “b” surrounded by a less-than and greater-than character, <b>. The closing tag is the same “b” with a forward slash (/) in front of it, </b>.

All of the letters or numbers between the opening and closing bold tags will be shown in bold in your Craigslist ad. Thus, SPECIFICATIONS.

Unordered List

Next let’s create a bulleted list of specifications. In HTML lingo, this is called an unordered list. Like the bold tag, the unordered list has two parts, an opening tag <ul> and a closing tag </ul>. In the example below the dots (…) simply mean something would go in between the tags.<ul>...</ul>

List Items

Within the unordered list, we want to include list items. We indicate a list item with these <li> opening and </li> closing tags. Here is one way we could show the year, make, and model.<ul>
    <li>YEAR: 2014</li>
    <li>MAKE: Audi</li>
    <li>MODEL: Q5</li>

This HTML will produce a list, similar to this one.

  • YEAR: 2014
  • MAKE: Audi
  • MODEL: Q5

We can also place a bold tag inside of a list item tag. In this example, the words “YEAR,” “MAKE,” and “MODEL” will be rendered in bold.<ul>
    <li><b>YEAR:</b> 2014</li>
    <li><b>MAKE:</b> Audi</li>
    <li><b>MODEL:</b> Q5</li>

The result in your Craigslist ad would be similar to the following.

  • YEAR: 2014
  • MAKE: Audi
  • MODEL: Q5

Add a new list item for each of the specifications from number two above (there are 14 of them), and you will have a specification list similar to this one (with more list items).<b>SPECIFICATIONS</b>

    <li><b>YEAR:</b> 2014</li>
    <li><b>MAKE:</b> Audi</li>
    <li><b>MODEL:</b> Q5</li>

You don’t need to be a web developer to make simple HTML tags work in your Craigslist auto ad. Instead, you could use just the three tags described above to list specifications or features and make your ad a lot more readable.

If you do want to know more about HTML for Craigslist posts, check out two resources.

Good Luck

If you have checked out your vehicle mechanically, had it detailed, and written a great Craigslist post, you are well on your way to selling your car, so good luck.

If you would like more help selling your vehicle, Maverick Car Company does accept some cars and trucks on a consignment basis. If your vehicle is less than ten-years old and below 100,000 miles, we may be able to help. Please visit our auto consignment page for more information.