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Selling Custom Cars On-Line




Putting your Custom Car up For Sale on one of the many on-line auction sites has become very easy. But how can you make sure your Custom will get noticed, and you will make the sale your hoping for.

For a long time I have been wondering about how some Custom Cars are listed on the online For Sale and auction sites as eBay, Craigslist etc. Some of the cars advertised are being listed with the use of poor photos, and very minimum, incomplete information, while the subject cars are of high quality or some of historic importance. And some of them have high asking prices, which do not really add up with the way these cars are presented in the online ads. A couple of recent 80’s historic Customs from a famous builder that were offered online in a rather poor way, with minimal photos and info made me decide to create this article.

To me it makes no sense to spend countless of hours and a lot of money to create, or acquire your dream car, and then spend as less time as possible putting it on an online For Sale site. A bit of attention to detail, and some decent time spend to present the car as good as possible, with the help of this article will more than likely help you sell your Custom Car quicker and or for better money.

This is an image I created to draw more attention to this car. It can be used on Social Media to help promote the online listing of your car. This one image provides the viewer with a lot of information. Added text can include a link to the online listing.

Ever since I started the MarketPlace here on the Custom Car Chronicle I have tried to help people selling their cars. Either with a Full Feature article (paid option) or with help listing the cars on the free Marketplace For Sale section. When doing the Full Feature article I always keep in mind that the material that I create especially for this, can be used on other online auction sites as well. I try to advise people to take certain photos that show the car the best way possible, and in all its detail. I use my photographic and Photoshop skills to enhance the photos of the cars, by cleaning up the backgrounds, cropping the photos for the best results.

I think that when you list a Custom Cars for sale online, you need to put some effort into it to make it look at its very best. The cars needs to be treated like it will be at its own online car show. Of course it depends on the condition of the car to be sold, some are old custom cars, that have been on the road for a long time, others are un-restored, or even project cars. And you have the award winning cars. All these cars need to be treated in a different way, but for all the same rule of making it look as good as possible counts. It does not make send to spend month, perhaps years creating a Custom Car, and then spend just an hour or so listing it online.

When your Custom Car is listed online, this means that everybody from all over the globe is a potential buyer. (Even if you only sell it in your own country, a potential buyer from overseas might buy it thru a local friend) As the car owner you are very familiar with your car, and you might not feel that certain details are important, because you are so used to it. But for somebody that has never seen the car in person, and who will not ever see it in person unless he or she buys it, these details might be very important. The more info and the more photos you can show the better, but you do not want to overdo it either. You also always have the option of offering to send more photos and info by email, to serious potential buyers. But no matter what the first impression of the online ad, and possible social media used to help promote the listing, is crucial.

A special image created for Facebook to help promote an online listing. In this case the photos of the ’36 Ford had very unattractive backgrounds which I removed to make it all more interesting and appealing.

I have created this article with the purpose of helping you to sell your Custom Car online the best way possible. It does not matter on which site you are offering the car, a good presentation of your Custom in photos and words is what makes your care more desirable, and you most likely will end up selling it for a better price, and sooner. To illustrate what kind of photos you need to make I have used some sample photos of different cars I took over the years. NONE of these cars are actually For Sale!


You do not really need to be a good photographer to make a nice photo of your Custom Car, there are just a couple of rules you need to keep in mind. With today’s smart phone’s everybody can make good enough photos if you follow take notice of certain things. And most of all if you take the time to make the photos. Often I see very bad snapshot being used in online ads, photos taken of the car in 5 min, and then uploaded at random order and then trying to sell the car for a huge amount of money. This will not work.

If you have a rolling project, or a finished car, then its ideal, see if you can take it to a place where there is an attractive, or at least even background. A background that that is not distracting from the subject.
Make sure that on a sunny day, the sun is helping you highlight the car, not work against you and create a shadow on the side you are taking photos of. Always keep the sun on your back as much as possible. This often means that you have to move around the car a few times to make sure the lighting of the car is always as optimal as possible.

Take as many digital photos of the car as you can, if you don’t use them, you can just delete them. its always better to take to many, than too few.

When you take photos of the car you have to try and capture the car like how you would look at it if you want to buy a car in person. Walk around it, take photos from all angles, step back, look at the profile, the stance and keep the camera at face height as much as possible. Low or high angle photos can be nice and arty, but are not great selling material. Photos like that do not show the stance of the car, or the overall flow. If you take photos, make sure you keep a certain distance from the car, its better to slightly zoom in, than have the camera create a fish eye effect. Remember that it is important you try to capture the car how it really looks.

Once you have photographed the outside, open a door, and the hood and trunk and photograph the interior, the engine and trunk, nice overall photos, especially of the interior are important. One showing the dash and part of the seat, the back seat if needed, the headliner and make sure the door panels are photographed as well. You can add a few detail photos of dash and steering wheel details as well. And if you have a nice upholstered car, make sure to include some detail photos of that. The same goes for the engine and trunk, overall photos, and if needed some details.

If the car you sell is a driver, then make sure you add one or more photos of the car on the street, driven, photographed from outside, or from the seating position.

There are a number of photos that are mandatory ford an online ad.

  • Dead-on front, rear and side views. (especially the dead on side view is very important, and often forgotten.)
  • 3/4 front and rear view, preferably from both driver and passenger side.
  • Interior overview, taken with the doors open to allow the most light.
  • Engine overview
  • If possible shows some drive train pictures. Perhaps from during the build, or from a time the car was on a bridge or something like that.

Indoor photos
If you have a project car, or a car that is in a garage and cannot be removed make sure you spend some good time cleaning the surroundings as much as possible. Remove any obstacles that are in front of the subject, and if needed use large sheets, or card board etc added behind the car as a backdrop. The less stuff can be seen that is not listed in the ad, the more focus there is on the subject. Make sure the is sufficient lighting, add a couple of lambs to light up dark sections if needed.

If you have progress photos of your Custom Car, make sure to include some of those as well. People love to see how a car was build, they really add a lot of value to a car. Especially if the work is done properly.

Makes sure your photos have a decent size. There is nothing worse than looking at an online ad where the photos are so small you cannot see any details. Always make sure your digital photos are at least 1000 pixels wide, but preferably more than that. Remember how you look at a car in person if you want to buy it, you want to get in s close as possible to see all the details. That’s what you want for your on-line ad as well.

The first photo on the online listing, and especially the one that is being used as the thumbnail on the website search page needs to be the most attractive and or interesting photo you have of the project. This is the first image people will see, if a poor photo is used for this, some potential buyers might even skip the listing.

A dead-on front view, very important to include that.

The dead-on side view really has to be included, it rally tells a lot about the car, the overall flow, the stance etc. Try to keep the camera in such a way that you can see a small portion of the door top on the other side of the car thru the window opening. This way you show the flow of the roof, as well the stance of the car. Even though this photo shows the car nicely, it would have been better if the background would have been more even, and less colorful.

Front 3/4 view of the passenger side. The background on this photo is already much better than the one above. A good front and rear quarter view give the best impression of a car.

Rear 3/4 view drivers side. Compare this photo with the one below from the passenger side. Look how much more focus there is on the car itself on the photo below due to the more even background. So if at all possible, turn the car around so you can photograph this side of the car, with a better looking background.

This rear angle photo was taken from a slightly lower point of view. Enhancing the flow of the top and rear window.

Taking it for a spin… People always love to see photos like that, it means the car is driven and on the road.

Good looking details always need to be included.

This is one of the better interior photos I have seen. It makes me feel I’m stepping right into the car and going for a drive. A picture like this will get people excited.

Now lets go for a drive… this is the look from the drivers side, another important photo.

Here is a good excuse for taking a low point of view photo of your car. This way you can capture a lot of the interior in one picture.

Always nice to include is a picture with the hood and trunk open, this is after all what will happen if you would look at a car in person as well.

An generic engine picture shows in this case that the engine is stock and relatively clean. No need for detail photos in this car.

Sometimes you have limited photos to use on an online ad, so it might come in handy if you can combine more than one photo to show some details. Online (free) apps can create combined images like this.

If you have had your car at car shows, it might be nice to include a picture of that, or perhaps make a collage showing multiple show photos. The photo I show above is perhaps not showing the car really well, but it does show that the car is taken very well care of, and gets fully detailed at the show. Information like this might be important for a potential buyer.

If you have build up photos… try to include a few, or create like I did here, a collage of construction images. Construction photo are very important if you have them. Potential buyers can tell a lot from these.

If you are selling a drive-able custom, see if you can take some rolling photos. Adding an on-the-road photo will add great value to your car, it is after all where it was created for.

If your car was ever in a magazine, or perhaps show coverage… you better want to include it… same goes for Trophies. Pictures are always better than just mentioning them.

And if you have the skills see if you can set one of your images free from the background. Its optional, but it sure will make the ad look really good.


If the Custom Car you are offering has any history, make sure you document that as good as possible, old photo’s, magazine features, car show photos etc. Sometimes its a good idea to make an actual collage of historic material and make some digital photos of that to add to the listing. Do not be shy on this, a cars history is always important, and it certainly adds to its value, but it needs to be show, next to it being mentioned.
Even if you have Custom Car that was created in recent years it might still be a good idea to mention where you got it from originally, or any other details of the cars former life.


A nice personal story about the car is always good, but what is the most important thing about an online ad is a list of details, a list of modifications done to the car, parts used, material used, perhaps time and or money spend on it. A list of people, or shops who worked on the car, and if needed a list of car shows it was entered in and possible awards it won.

Make sure that these things are listed in short sentences, and create the list of parts, modifications etc as a vertical list (lines below each other) not using comma’s behind each other on one line, which would make it hard to read. Be as specific as possible. Remember that you know your Custom inside out, but for the online customer, it is all new. The more info he gets, the better he might like the car.

The detail list
To make your ad stand out from the rest of the ads with written info, try to be as complete as possible with providing your information. Creating a list of specifics is the best and most visually attractive way to do this. Below is a list that will help you create a list specifically for your Custom Car. And since this article is done especially for Custom Cars, I feel that the most important information for a Custom Car is the body and all the work that has been done to it, so that is where you will start.




  • Body type
  • Body modification
  • Grille
  • Headlights
  • Taillights
  • Accessories
  • Other specific details worth mentioning
  • Paint / paint by
  • Body work by



  • Dash / instruments
  • Steering wheel
  • Seats
  • upholstery
  • headliner
  • carpet
  • trunk
  • specific details worth mentioning



  • Frame
  • Front suspension
  • Rear suspension
  • How it is lowered
  • Brakes
  • Tires front/rear brand/size
  • Wheels
  • Hubcaps



  • Engine
  • Engine accessories
  • Transmission

Creating the online ad.

When you create the ad you have to keep in mind that it will be viewed by people from around the globe. People who are looking for a car want to walk around out, which is not possible online, but with the kind of photos you have taken, you might give them a feeling they are able to walk around the car.

Start of with an nice overview photo of the car, your favorite view of the car is perfect for this. Often this is an front or rear 3/4 view. From there walk around the car, show all the exterior photos you want to see, overall views first, then followed by some more detail photos of some of the cars special features if you want to show those. Then go into the interior, and the trunk, and end with the engine.

If needed add the photos of the cars history the last. Or in case the car has an really good history, you might want to start with an historic photo to draw more attention.

If the car was build to drive on a regular base, make sure you mention that. Make sure to share how the car handles and how much fun you had driving it. Good stories like that will have a positive feel on potential buyers.

Make sure you upload the photos in the right order. If needed number the photos before you upload them to the auction site. Make sure you have plenty of time creating the online ad. If you only have limited time, perhaps wait till you have more time to create a good looking ad.  You really do not want to rush this. This ad is your presentation of your Custom Car to the world!


Need help?

As a graphic artist and Photoshop expert I can create special photos, clean up photos etc to make your car look the very best possible. Photos, or photo collages that can been used in the online ad, or used on Social Media to help promote the online listing. If you need help listing your car online, no matter what website you use, send me an email and find out how if I can help you present your Custom Car the best way possible for the on-line market.




Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

One thought on “Selling Custom Cars On-Line

  • Great primer on selling not just a custom car but any vintage/specialty vehicle on line.
    I know that we are told to keep it short and sweet but I for one want to know and see everything about what I am buying.
    Especially given the prices that are being asked for these cars.

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