Taking Photos for Your Online Car Ad

May 17, 2010

The Internet has changed everything when it comes to selling your car, truck, or SUV. It’s no longer sufficient to insert a five-line ad in the local shopper or weekly newspaper and sit back waiting for the phone to ring. The new rules of marketing dictate that you post your ad online on as many websites as possible, and include as many photos of your vehicle as websites allow.

As an ex-Internet Manager for a major car dealer, I learned that successful car dealers know that the more photos they use, the better the chance of a vehicle selling. Learn from the pros: use the maximum number of pictures allowed on each website – or in the case of premium websites, the most expensive package you can afford.

Where to Begin

The good news about online photos is that the least expensive, most basic digital camera available today takes acceptable pictures. There is no need to buy an expensive camera.

Other factors to consider:

Use a pleasant background – Can you park your car near trees or water for the picture shoot? Avoid dark and cramped areas.

Take bright daylight pictures – You don't want buyers thinking you have something to hide.

Avoid shadows or reflections – This applies to shadows of yourself, trees or buildings, though you can't always avoid them.

Don't get fancy – Simple is better. Don't use artistic angles that jar the reader's attention.

Free Websites

Each classified website specializing in online vehicle sales allows the seller to post varying numbers of photos. Here are some examples of free websites:

  • Craigslist.org, Backpage.com, and Oodle.com allow four pictures each.
  • Kijiji.com allows eight.

When I was involved in our dealership’s online marketing, we would upload 30 to 40 pictures of each vehicle we posted online. The more the better. Sellers can get around website limitations by uploading an unlimited number of pictures to a hosting site such as Photobucket.com, Flickr.com, or other photo hosting websites. Then, simply insert a link to your pictures into the ad. If a buyer is interested in your vehicle, they won’t hesitate to click on your link to see more photos.

Premium Websites

It may work in your favor to post your ad to premium websites, or those that charge a fee. AutoTrader.com and Cars.com offer a variety of packages. The more costly the package, the more pictures you can post. AutoTrader allows up to 18 pictures in their most expensive package; Cars.com allows up to 12. In general, you should choose the most expensive package you can afford.

Set Yourself Apart from the Crowd

When you post your vehicle’s ad online you are competing with many other private sellers and dealers in your area. Including as many pictures of your vehicle as possible will help set you apart from other sellers. The more pictures you post, the more credibility you gain, increasing your chance of getting a call or email inquiring about your vehicle.

If you are wondering what pictures to take and what order to post them in, I offer examples of photo layouts for all major classified websites, and include examples of the exact pictures to upload. These are available on my website at www.bayareacarguy.com/photos.


L. James Johnson's new book, HELP! I Gotta Sell My Car NOW! New Rules for Selling Your Vehicle Online! is available for download at BayAreaCarGuy.com. You can also download his FREE report, The 8 Biggest Mistakes Used Car Buyers Make & How to Avoid Them!

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