Smart car shoppers know trading in your old car to a dealer is never the best way to go. To make the most off of your hunk of junk, you've got to do it yourself. With a slew of different online classified and car listing services out there, selling cheap cars online has never been easier or more convenient.

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About a month ago I sold my 2001 Acura TL online. Here's what I learned.

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Take High-Quality, Detailed Photos

The only thing car shoppers know about your car is what they see in the listing, and the photo is the very first thing they're going to see. High-quality photos will go a long way towards giving buyers a better idea of what you are offering, and good photos help to build credibility.

Put yourself in the shoes of your prospective buyer. Are you more likely to give a call to the guy with one blurry picture that doesn't show the back half of the car, or the guy who posted 17 different photos covering every inch inside and out?

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Take your car out into the sunlight, and spend time shooting every part of the car. The photos should capture everything — good and bad. Don't try to hide your car's shortcomings with creative angles. Let the buyer know what they're getting into before they drive across town to see it.

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High-quality, honest photos really do help. I took the time to go out and take a series of nice photos of my Acura before anything else. This gave me a major leg-up over similar competing listings with crappy pictures. Two different interested buyers took the time to compliment and thank me for providing detailed photos in my listing.

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I used my DSLR, but there's no reason you couldn't get equally detailed and useful photos with an iPhone, some nice sunlight, and an empty parking lot. The key isn't having a great camera, it's spending the time required to get photos that show off the the wholecar.

Don't Bother With Cars.com And AutoTrader (If Your Car Is Cheap)

When I jumped into selling my Acura I headed straight for Cars.com and AutoTrader. I skipped Craigslist altogether when I started because I wanted to avoid dealing with the typical non-serious, low-balling Craigslist crowd. Ignoring Craigslist was a huge mistake.

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My Cars.com listing was free, but AutoTrader charged me $35 for a pretty basic listing. Both offered a number of costly upgrades that I opted out of.

After 10 days on Cars.com and AutoTrader I didn't have a single bite. Not even one legitimate inquiry. My listings on Cars.com and AutoTrader recieved a dismal 27 and 25 listing pageviews respectively during that time period.

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In fact, the only response I had to these listings at all was from a PayPal scammer. The scammer attempted to use a widely-reported technique of pretending to be an American soldier based overseas buying the car for a family member here in America via PayPal. Long story short, the scammers attempt to rip sellers off for $500 to $1,000 for a bogus "shipping fee".

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After a week and a half without results I broke down and uploaded an ad to Craigslist.

In less than 24 hours on Craigslist, I had 15 legitimate inquiries and offers by phone/email, sold the car, had cash in hand, and learned my lesson about where to sell cars online.

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Comparison Of Services For Selling Cheap Cars Online

ServiceListing CostListing PageviewsLeads (Phonecalls/Emails)
AutoTrader.com$35250
Cars.comFree271 Attempted Scammer
Craigslist.comFreeN/A15 (in less than 24 hours!)

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Now I'm not knocking Cars.com or AutoTrader. I think they're both great services. (In fact, I found the car I replaced my Acura with on AutoTrader.) But Craigslist is the only worthwhile service for selling cheap cars online in the sub-$10,000 car market. People use Craigslist to find cheap cars online. Cars.com and AutoTrader are really only effective for selling and buying more expensive vehicles.

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