My region’s Spec Miata field has been enjoying some great growth lately. People are joining with fresh big dollar builds, but there is also an influx of other budget-minded folk. I’ve been trying to help a few people find decent deals on cars in their budget. This task served as a reminder of how bad so many car ads are.
As you may have read in my Spec Miata Value Guide: The value of most budget race cars are heavily dependent on the roll cage. Many older, and even some new, cages have some space and egress issues, others are just built wrong from the get-go. Because a race car is so heavily modified from its standardized, factory-delivered condition, a properly detailed for-sale ad is significantly more important than one for a Toyota Camry commuter. Despite this, the internet is FULL of terrible ads for race cars.
I do have a theory that there are plenty of good car ads being written, but they sell quickly and are gone so fast it doesn’t seem like there are many. The car ads that stick around can end up not selling for a bunch of reasons, and it isn’t always a high price. The two best deals I got buying cars were both because the sellers had written terrible ads and weren’t very responsive. Many people did not notice the ads, and some people were likely scared off by the sketchy/frustrating lack of responses.
If you are going to sell your car, PLEASE for the sake of everyone looking: Read through this list. If you do it right, it may help you sell your car quicker and for more money. If you’re buying a car and looking for a killer deal, disregard, and look for the suckers who can’t get any traction on their junky ads.
14) Post it in the correct place(s):
There are many places online to sell a car, but not many are ideal for selling a purpose built race car. The standard for-sale sites (Craigslist, Cars.com. Autotrader, etc) are focused on regular street cars and won’t be seen by your target market. Your best bet is to post on car-specific pages like enthusiast forums and race car/track-oriented Facebook groups. Not to mention, unfortunately, Craigslist seems to be mostly dead.
Posting in a litany of Facebook groups is a way to get a couple extra eyes on your listing, but won’t help you much if it’s not going to the right market. Don’t spam unrelated groups just because they also exist for cars. People in a Spec E30 Facebook group aren’t there to find a Corvette. There are plenty of general and specific track car for sale groups on Facebook.
13) Address the common problem areas for your car:
Chances are if you have a race car you know a good amount of the common issues with that car. It’s getting tougher to find rust-free 15-30 year old Spec Miata donors: So if a car is totally rust free, include that. Perhaps some photos of the rocker panels or front frame extensions (Miata NB) that commonly rust out. Selling an E36-46 Bimmer? Make sure you include if the Lower Control Arm reinforcement kit is installed yet.
12) Write the specific spares that are included:
“A trailer of spares” can be GREAT… but it can also be an exercise in “You throw it out”. You don’t need to catalogue everything, but be specific and give some ideas. Include a photo or two. I’ve seen race cars for sale where the “included spares” was mostly the junk tossed aside when it was converted to a racecar. A dented AC condenser and trashed door panel aren’t big selling points, and they’re definitely not spares.
11) Include your actual STATE and City:
Be precise or be general, but DON’T just put a Zip code. Some sale ads automatically show location, but not always. It doesn’t hurt anyone to repeat it. Embarrassingly, I did just learn that Zip Codes rise from East to West (0xxxx on the east coast to 9xxxx on the west coast), but that still doesn’t help all that much. Don’t make a buyer Google it to figure out your location.
10) Post The price NEAR THE TOP:
Don’t act like some sales mastermind by forcing potential customers to skim over the whole article before finding your price. These are recreational purchases, so people are usually shopping in a general price range… A boast of a good lap time or meticulous service records aren’t going to make someone spend 3x their planned budget. Keeping the price near the top helps people quickly find if a car is candidate for them. I find myself skimming over an entire car ad to find the price first, then scrolling back up for details.
*Facebook is currently using a BROKEN system of valuing cars based on the expected Bluebook value. Facebook will not allow you to post a vehicle for a price significantly outside what their system expects, yet it still requires you to include a price. This is fine for your Cousin’s Nissan Altima, but not for your racecar. Hopefully it will be updated soon.
Some cars do fall within the “accepted range” but many don’t. For now, people commonly put “$1,234” or leave a digit off. It’s not ideal, but it is what it is. Just make sure you have your actual price up near the top of the description.
9) Do you have a Title?
Truth: Race cars do not need titles. For some reason, many race car builders throw titles in the trash when they build cars. The problem is, there are still many people who much prefer having the title. While they aren’t necessary on a car being towed to a race track, some buyers want the peace of mind knowing that a random person can’t show up with a title and claim ownership of their race car. Others like having the option of registering their car… obviously not for daily driver duty, but for the occasional shakedown or cruise night ride. So, even if you don’t care: include if you have one or not.
*This is pretty specific from state to state as some don’t require titles with older cars. Obviously, you may not have one because of the age, but I would include that in the ad as many people travel long distances to buy racecars and may not be familiar with local laws.
8) Mention the logbook(s):
How many different club logbooks does the car have? Each club will have different inspectors and rules, so if your car has been signed off by multiple clubs, that’s a big plus. When was the last tech inspection? A car with a current or near-current tech inspection is good, but a car that hasn’t seen race tech in 10 years may require some big updates to meet current rules.
A race car with no logbook is a big red flag for me. Building a car is not an easy task, there have been plenty of fresh builds with missed details that were big problems at tech inspection. Many are fixed, but I’m sure some are just sold. No logbook alone doesn’t mean a car is bad, but take extra care with your inspection.
7) Include more info on the included Tires:
If you are selling a car with race tires on it, even offering spare race tires: Include the date codes on the tires! Plenty of cars are sold “with extra tires!” only for the buyer to realize those tires are 10 years old. If you keep track of heat cycles, also include that. Do you go to great lengths to remove and store your tires indoors during the winter? Include it.
6) Mention the dates on harness/nets:
For a race car, harness and window net dates are important. You can usually run expired gear in HPDE, but if someone is looking for a turn-key race car, swapping that gear will be another expense. Don’t forget to include these!
5) How Competitive is it?
There are plenty of ads claiming “The car is fast, look at all these wins! It could win everything with a better driver!” Some even boast of podium finishes in a 3 car field. In reality, the competitiveness of a car is SO impacted by the driver and other competition that a claim of impressive race results is really only slightly better than ignoring the topic. Lap times are a much more helpful data point, but only with a very good driver.
4) What are the Modifications, In Detail.
Include all of the actual information you have on the mechanicals of your car: Is it a stock motor? Is it a built motor, if so: Who built it, when, and how many miles/hours does it have since the build? Have leakdown test numbers? A dyno sheet? Include it all.
Driveline: How old is the transmission, what differential is in the car? You may not have all of this information, but include what you know.
Suspension: What specific suspension is in the car? Are the shocks new or recently rebuilt? (My car had 11 year old shocks in it when I bought it)
What class is it prepped and legal for? How much does it weigh without driver?
3) Don’t Reinvent the Wheel:
Lookout Barrett-Jackson! Egged on by some great social media and advertising work, Bring-A-Trailer.com has exploded into the premier ultrahyped, overpriced vehicle selling tool of the past few years. One of their most powerful selling strategies is heavily curated, incredibly comprehensive for-sale ads. If you’re struggling with what to write, what photos to take, etc… take a look at some of their premier listings and start from there. The key to a good ad is giving a buyer confidence in what they’re getting. Detail on aftermarket parts, how the car was taken care of, how the parts were maintained and stored, and the labor that went into it all, coupled with proof of decent lap times, will give a buyer confidence that they’re buying a well built car that won’t explode on them first time out. That’s where the value is.
2) Include LOTS of Good pictures:
This one should be obvious but the vast majority of all car ads online still have absolute TRASH for photos. Almost everyone has a phone with a great camera on it, if you can’t use it… ask a friend. Hire someone if need be.
RacingJunk.com is evil and makes you pay extra to get more than one photo, but most other sites let you post a bunch. The current Facebook Car-Ad photo maximum is 20 photos. You should be using all 20. Include broad shots of the car, any common problem areas (whether they are bad or good), and don’t forget specific photos of all the workmanship around the car. A racecar will have a LOT of custom bits, don’t forget to include all of them. Include photos of the interior! That’s where the buyer spends their time with the car, and will be able to envision themselves owning it. Toggles, gauges, race wheels and dials, clean painted metal interior – this is what makes it a race car and this is what can pull a lot of people into the ad. A clean, ergonomic, pragmatically layed out and neatly implemented race interior will also speak a lot to the craftsmanship that went into the car and raise its value.
Have more than 20 photos? GOOD, you should. Consider an image hosting service or share a google drive folder with more, you can include the link in your ad. Multiple angles, underside shots, build photos, spares, etc. Include it all.
At this point, all sites let you choose the primary photo for your ad, be strategic with it. The primary photo should not be a shot of your trunk or seat. Find the sexiest photo you have of your car for this spot. Find the photo that will make someone stop scrolling and take a closer look. It may be a high quality on-track photo (of JUST your car) or just a nice posed shot right after a wash.
Videos – on track videos of the car hot lapping, with good times, especially with a data overlay, will help prove the car’s abilities and value.
1) MORE PICTURES OF THE CAGE:
I mentioned photos generally before, but here we go: This one specific detail is by far THE biggest issue with MOST racecar for sale ads. For cheaper race cars, the cage is the SINGLE biggest driver of cost. Something is wrong if you include 4 photos of the engine bay of a spec-class car only and one or two of the cage/interior:
People are buying (or not buying) your car based on the cage. Many cheap cars sell for LESS than the cost of a new custom rollcage: So if a cage has serious issues and would need to be redone, the car really has no value to many.
It’s surprisingly common for sellers to include no actual cage photos. When I started looking to buy my current car, he had only exterior photos and I had to wait over a week for him to “get down to the garage” to get me more photos. I’m pretty confident that this lack of photos scared off other buyers and helped me get the car for a smoking deal.
Take Photos of EVERYTHING, from every angle. If you have a car like a Spec Miata, spend the 5 minutes it takes to remove the hardtop and also take photos with it off. Take photos of the welds, bends, etc. Take special care to include cage areas that directly influence driver egress and in-car comfort. How far up into the ceiling do the bars go? Where does the main hoop land? Can the seat move back or is it already up against the main hoop? Where do the A-Pillars land? How far into the footwell are they? Take pics with doors open, doors closed, etc. The reality is, your average buyer cares more about safety than buyers did 15 years ago. As mentioned, a log book is great, but it doesn’t guarantee that the cage is perfect and will pass tech, especially if its coming from a different region or organization. Savvy buyers who will pay top dollar will want to see that the cage is good to go.
Work on your photo lighting, Taking interior photos outdoor in bright sunlight won’t get you great results. Sometimes some indirect light from a flashlight really helps with getting usable cabin photos.
Selling a race car to an aspiring racer is nothing like unloading your old commuter, your for-sale ad should reflect that. Always err on the side of giving too much information rather than not enough. A detailed ad will take more time to write, but you will be spending way less time answering basic questions. A photo is worth a thousand words (Maybe 2,000 words on a race car) and they take just a moment to capture, so don’t skimp out.
A photo is worth a thousand words (Maybe 2,000 words on a race car) and they take just a moment to capture, so don’t skimp out.
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