This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker recently released a guide to help people attack and sell their excess clutter entitled “Sell Your Crap“.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the early stages of my quest to sell a family car. While I had always used either the local newspaper, word of mouth, or Craigslist to help sell my automobiles, I’ve recently run across several stories from people who successfully sold their cars using eBay Motors.

My original article caught the attention of a representative of eBay Motors, who e-mailed me to ask if I’d like to interview their Manager of Dealer Training, Clayton Stanfield. Stanfield spends his days educating and training automobile dealerships across the country how to better market their cars and trucks using eBay Motors.

After the last article, many of you commented that you’d love to see a follow-up with more specific tips on how to better use eBay Motors to sell a car. Since I’m going through the process for the first time, I jumped at the chance to chat with Stanfield about his top tips and tricks.

Create a great-looking listing
On the call, I asked Stanfield the primary question, “What are the top areas where the average consumer can have the biggest impact in improving their listings?” In other words, I was looking for Stanfield to show me the low-hanging fruit. I wanted to know the areas where you and I could get the biggest bang for our time and effort.

The first words out of Stanfield’s mouth were: “You’ve got to create a great-looking listing.” He was the first to admit this is common advice, but reiterated that not enough people take it heart.

“Seventy percent of cars that sell, sell to a buyer outside of state lines,” Stanfield said. “Out-of-town buyers need to be able to visualize the car. Focus more on pictures than anything else.”

Stanfield suggested creating a “virtual test drive” for potential buyers. I’ve since fallen in love with that phrase. One of the first principles Stanfield teaches is that dealerships can do a better job of this by always including 24 high-quality images (eBay’s maximum) with every listing. Thorough images help the buyer really get to know the vehicle, similar to being able to test drive it themselves in person.

Titles vs. subtitles
Another way to improve the average listing is through the smart use of titles and subtitles. When listing an everyday item on eBay, creating a subtitle costs extra money and isn’t searchable by default. This means that when a potential buyer searches for an everyday item, the information you provide in the subtitle won’t help them find your listing.

eBay Motors works differently. When listing your car or truck, eBay Motors generates a basic title for your listing automatically. Usually this includes the year, make, and model. For example, my car’s automatic title is “2003 Honda Accord”. eBay Motors then provides a subtitle where you can fill in more specific information. In contrast, when selling an automobile the subtitle is free and is included in searches by potential buyers.

Stanfield says that one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they repeat information in the title (generated by eBay Motors) again in the subtitle. There is no need to repeat the information in the title! In other words, eBay has already provided me with 2003 Honda Accord. It makes no sense for me to repeat that information in the subtitle (which I actually did the first time!).

Instead, Stanfield urges customers to use every available character in the valuable subtitle to help your listing appear in more searches. He suggests thinking for terms that a buyer may search for, but that aren’t already included in title. Some possibilities:

  • “Chevy” – Most of the time the title will say Chevrolet XYZ, but buyers may search for “Chevy”.
  • “5-Speed”
  • “Leather”
  • “DVD”
  • “Heated”

According to Stanfield, appearing in more searches is the number one way to increase the final price you receive for the auction!

A personalized, friendly description
When it comes to creating a description, the most important factor is being thorough and including as much detail as possible. But if you want to maximize the amount of bidders, simply listing the facts isn’t enough. Stanfield encourages dealers and individual sellers to personalize their descriptions by including background information on the car.

For example, you may include information such as when you bought the car, how long you’ve driven it, or why you are selling it. “You don’t just have to list details and facts; try sharing the background and history of the automobile, if you can” Stanfield says. He points out that sharing details not only allows people to identify with the car, but also makes you seem more personable and down to earth.

Most importantly, Stanfield suggests being brutally honest in your descriptions. It’s not only the ethical thing to do, but will result in better results and far less hassle. On one particular listing, Stanfield even went so far as to offer up this in bold: “This car is in worse shape than you think!” (I laughed out loud when he told that story on the phone!)

J.D.’s note: I think personalized, friendly descriptions are key to most eBay auctions. My auctions almost all go for more than similar items sell for. I’m certain it’s because I try to convey a chatty, friendly persona.

Reserve and starting price
At the end of the interview, I asked Stanfield for his suggestions on setting a reserve price and a starting price. Stanfield recommends setting the reserve at “the bare minimum you’d accept for the vehicle.” He notes that almost every listing sees an increase in activity and bidding once the reserve price is exceeded. Buyers are much more willing to bid on automobiles that are no longer protected by reserves. The quicker your reserve price is met, the more exposure your listing will get!

When it comes to starting price, Stanfield suggests starting low as well. “The most important bid is the very first one,” he says. “It gets the ball rolling and increases exposure in the search engine results.” He suggests starting the bidding at between 10-20% of your reserve price as a rule of thumb. For example, if you set a minimum reserve of $5,000, placing the starting bid at $500 would be a good idea. Most of the time, this will allow for bidding to initiate much earlier than a higher starting price!

Thanks to eBay Motors
I enjoyed interviewing Clayton Stanfield and appreciate him taking the time to share his expertise! Special thanks also goes to the eBay Motors team for reaching out to me on Twitter and making the introduction to Clayton.

As for me, I learned several specific tips during this interview that will help me spruce up my listing and try my hand at some national exposure. If there’s anything you’d add, let me know below!

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