Next to photos, writing a proper description is the most important step in selling your vehicle! It is also the step that can get you into a lot of trouble, which we will discuss in detail later.
We put this page together to help guide the description writing process. Your description will be posted with your photos on the “LISTINGS” section of the sgauction.net website and used for many other promotional publications and websites… getting your description right is key!
Let’s start with the basic framework of a successful description.
A great vehicle description includes 5 categories:
1) Basics: Year, Make, Model, and Mileage
2) Mechanical: Engine, Transmission, Brakes, and Suspension
3) Body: Condition, Paint, Chrome, and Features
4) Interior: Condition, Materials and Features
5) Special Features and Closing Sentence
When writing the description, it is best stay brief while putting as much information a sentence as possible. We find it best to write no more than two sentences per category. In some cases, more than two sentences will be required in a single category, but for most, two sentences will do!
For example, let’s use this 1979 AMC Concord and write up a description:
What we know about this car:
• 1979 AMC Concord Wagon
• Sold new in Litchfield MN
• 58,000 miles on the odometer
• 232 straight 6 motor
• Original AMC belts and spark plug wire are still on the motor
• 3-speed automatic transmission
• Original factory paint
• Original interior and carpet
• Brand new rims and tires
Using the information above, let’s build a description:
CATEGORY 1) BASICS: YEAR, MAKE, MODEL, AND MILEAGE
Let’s start with the Basics (pun intended). Constructing an opening sentence is very simple, and the addition of some descriptive words results in it being packed with good information:
This single-owner 1979 AMC Concord Wagon is showing 58,000 miles on the odometer and was sold new in Litchfield, MN.
At this point, we have successfully incorporated four of the above listed facts into our opening sentence. Now is a good time to discuss the problems that can arise from getting this step wrong… and this first sentence is a prime example! Misrepresentation is the devil in the details. Fraud or Misrepresentation by the Seller can supersede “as-is” in a court of law. A Seller (you), NOT the auction company, may remain liable for issues with a vehicle because of misrepresentation or fraud. In the sentence above, it is very descriptive and very full of claims. Words such as “single-owner” and “58,000 miles” are statements of fact. A statement of fact then becomes a guarantee. By using statements such as “single-owner” or “58,000 miles,” you as a Seller must be prepared to substantiate to a Buyer such accusations or statements. In the above example, all the statements made in the sentence are true because: you went to the dealership in Litchfield MN with your dad when he bought the car new in 1979, and you still have the original Bill of Sale from the dealer in your dad’s name, and it has been in your family ever since.
On the other hand, if you do not know the history of the car or do not have any documentation, the sentence should look like this:
This 1979 AMC Concord Wagon is believed to be a 58,000 mile single-owner car.
IMPORTANT: Adding the word “believed” to the sentence protects the Seller because it changes a statement of fact to an opinion.
The following sentence is very straight forward, yet is full of useful information:
The car features the legendary and reliable AMC 232 cubic inch straight six engine moving 125-horsepower to the rear wheels through a 3-speed automatic transmission.
It is important to point out the engine horsepower statement above. Using factory ratings, as in the sentence above, is totally acceptable from a legal standpoint. If you go above the factory ratings and say your engine has 700 horsepower, you must clarify and have solid proof to back up your statement.
Clarify: Is your engine 700 horsepower to the crank or to the wheels?
Solid proof: Do you have the Dyno sheet with the peak horsepower readings showing 700?
If you can’t prove your statement, be careful how you say it! In this example, if you can’t prove your engine has 700 horsepower, it is acceptable to say, “Engine believed to be around 700 horsepower.” From there, the market will decide with their wallets. One last point – on any horsepower claim, we at SG Auctions are very aware of what it takes to make large horsepower engines. So, if we receive a description with a high horsepower number, we will follow-up before it gets posted.
Stating in the Mechanical category, we have enough information to add another sentence:
On the engine, the original fan belts and spark plug wires are still in service with the AMC logo and part numbers clearly visible on both.
The above sentence is a prime example of a clear statement of facts; it provides proof of the facts, “…AMC logo and part numbers clearly visible…” and avoids fraudulent or misrepresentative statements.
CATEGORY 3) BODY: CONDITION, PAINT, CHROME, AND FEATURES
This is usually a two sentence category and gives potential buyers a feel of the car’s exterior condition. Let’s add another sentence and discuss a “hot button” word that is often used in several categories:
The sheet metal is very straight and is showing a few rust holes in bottom of both rear quarters while the exterior is wearing original paint from the Kenosha factory.
By now, you probably are able to identify which word in the sentence above may cause trouble. If you said “original,” you are right! Using the word “original” in a description is very dangerous! If you feel strongly the description benefits from the word “original,” you must be able to prove what you are describing is truly an “original” part to the car or an “original” condition of the car. If you cannot prove it, but believe it is true, you can add the words “believed to be” in front of “original,” as we did in the Category 1 example, to change the statement from a fact to an opinion.
We want you to be aware of these potential hot button words, but please do not be overly nervous. We at SG Auctions are well-versed in hot button/problematic description words, and if we come across them, we will contact you.
CATEGORY 4) INTERIOR: CONDITION, MATERIALS AND FEATURES
There are two potentially problematic words in the sentence below. Can you pick them out?
The interior upholstery and carpet are original to the car and reflect like new condition. There are no rips in the seats and a non-smoker drove the car since new.
This one is a bit tricky… if you said “original” and “new,” you are correct! The tricky part is that the word “new” is preceded with the word “like,” which changes that portion of the sentence from a statement in to an opinion. When writing a description, be very careful with the use of the word “new.” The word “new” is in same cautionary group as other hot button/problematic words discussed above. If you is it, make sure you have solid proof to back it up!
CATEGORY 5) SPECIAL FEATURES AND CLOSING SENTENCE
If you have covered all the special features in you car in the above categories, simply finish with a closing sentence and be done! With our 1979 AMC Concord Wagon, there is one special feature to be added before we finish with a closing sentence:
Brand new ZR rated tires were mounted on the billet aluminum rims in July of last year and been in service for less than 500 miles. The car runs as like new and is ready for many miles of fun, reliable driving!
When you put all the categories together, the full description looks like this:
This single-owner 1979 AMC Concord Wagon is showing 58,000 miles on the odometer and was sold new in Litchfield MN. The car features the legendary and reliable AMC 232 cubic inch straight six engine moving 125-horsepower to the rear wheels through a 3 speed automatic transmission. On the engine, the original fan belts and spark plug wire are still in service; the AMC logo and part numbers are clearly visible on both. The sheet metal is very straight and is showing a few rust holes in bottom of both rear quarters while the exterior is wearing original paint from the Kenosha factory. The interior upholstery and carpet are original to the car and reflect like new condition. There are no rips in the seats and a non-smoker drove the car since new. Brand new ZR rated tires were mounted on the billet aluminum rims in July of last year and been in service for less than 500 miles. The car runs as like new and is ready for many miles of fun, reliable driving! The car runs as like new and is ready for many miles of fun, reliable driving!
We hope this framework helps you organize your vehicle’s information into a nice clean description. If these instructions are overwhelming, don’t worry – SG Auctions staff are very well trained in spotting hot button words and will be checking each description to make sure there are no problems.