How to Sell Cars on Craigslist – A Primer for Car Dealers

Craigslist Posting Basics for Car Dealers

I’ve shared versions of these Craigslist best practices with clients and on the various industry discussion forums over the years, yet never thought of organizing these into an article until someone asked me recently if I had these tips all in one place.

Hmm, good idea… so, here they are:

The Craigslist Posting Best Practices For Car Dealers Who Actually Want Sell Cars Via Craigslist

But first, some basic Q&A that I often have with dealers interested in Craigslist: 

 “Does it make sense for dealers to be on Craigslist?”

Yes, it not only makes sense for nearly every market, it’s foolish not to be there in most markets. Craigslist visitors are low-funnel – they are often ready to buy today – so skipping this website makes little sense for anyone trying to sell used cars.

“Can I use Craigslist to sell new cars?”

Doubtful. The Craigslist visitor doesn’t expect to find new cars on Craigslist, so listing there hasn’t delivered a tangible ROI for any of my clients… yet.

“Should I post as a dealer or as an owner?”

Always as a dealer. While posting as an owner currently has a few advantages (ability to post for free and to refresh ads, for example), the Craigslist community is quick to punish those who break the rules – meaning, you will quickly be caught and the backlash could even extend to your Google and Yelp reviews. Also, posting as an owner puts you in violation with Craigslist terms of service. Besides, do you want to run your business honestly or dishonestly?

“Should I post manually or use a service?”

I have clients posting to Craigslist themselves manually, some using a tool to assist them, and some using an automatic service. For all groups of dealers, the tool or service (or lack thereof) is not what is driving their success; it’s adhering to a few best practices that we’ve mutually discovered over the years (and shared later in this article).

“What would you do if it was your dealership?”

I’d use technology to my advantage and post everything automatically to Craigslist via a service – provided that service could meet all of the criteria in the best practices.

“Okay, what Craigslist service would you use?”

The best tool I’ve found so far is the one offered by Dealers United; and it’s the only one I recommend to my clients. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a board member at Dealers United, and I disclose this whenever I recommend anything we offer.)

“So, what are the best practices for dealers to sell vehicles on Craigslist?”

(1) Post all used inventory. Craigslist, contrary to what some dealers believe, is not just a dumping ground for 15-year-old, sub-$3,000 cars. I’ve had dealers successfully sell vehicles of all price ranges, all years, all Makes and all Models via Craigslist; so always post all of your used inventory.

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(2) Short of selling the Batmobile, only post vehicles in your market. While you will always “generate interest” in your average vehicles posted in a market hundreds of miles from your dealership, those interested will just waste your team’s time with phone calls when they have no intention of coming to see your vehicle.

Remember: Craigslist is not free for dealers and, moreover, your team’s time is valuable. Have them focus on selling realistic prospects.

(3) If you’re in a larger metro area, be sure to put your city name in the title of the listing and not your phone number or other unimportant information to someone looking at a Craigslist Search Results Page.

For example, a title like “2009 *Dodge* *Grand* *Caravan* ⛄ SALE Today! ✅ (~ *Dodge* *Grand* *Caravan*)” fails to attract close-in prospects (because they don’t know at a glance where this vehicle is located) and also fails to eliminate interest from consumers who have no intention of driving across the entire region to see your vehicle.

The Craigslist customer is low-funnel, and while there are some buyers who will drive quite a distance for the right vehicle, you don’t need the far away prospects wasting your time on a vehicle they have no intention of driving to see.Those who are willing to drive to you will find your vehicle if it is priced right.

To maximize sales while minimizing distractions from non-buyers, your titles should look more like “2009 Dodge Grand Caravan $6500 (SAN JOSE).”

(4) Price all vehicles and provide the price in the title and body of every ad (this greatly improves the call quality). If you’re listing at close to the market price, you will receive high quality calls from buyers ready to buy today. If you’re not pricing close to the market price, then stay off Craigslist, you’ll sell very few vehicles to Craigslist buyers.

“But, we like to keep the price off Craigslist so that we generate a lot of leads and calls!”

When you don’t provide price, your team gets inundated too many unqualified prospects and you drive away potential interest from buyers who just assume you’re priced too high. Consumers expect a price on Craigslist. (Craigslist posting services that want to take credit for lots of leads will tell you to leave the prices off. They are wrong.)

(5) Encourage prospects to call or text only; never encourage emails from Craigslist. These are low-funnel buyers and an email creates too much back and forth. With a call or a text, you can tell the consumer that you have “… two test drives open on that vehicle this afternoon. I’ve got a …”

(6) Emulate consumer ads – Don’t get too flashy with the ads (as most dealers do), but definitely identify yourself as the dealership. For example, don’t use stars, asterisks or cheesy verbiage like this: ★Very Clean – Priced to Sell or this: ⛄ SALE Today! . You don’t need cheese to attract prospects to your ads; and too much cheese turns off the Craigslist buyer.

I am hopeful these are as helpful for you as they have been for my clients over the years. If you have other Craigslist best practices you’d like to share, please comment below.

Good selling!