Overview

This buyer's guide overview is designed to offer insight and advice for those who may not be familiar with this category as well as help guide dealers in their decisionmaking process. It is not designed to endorse or influence readers but simply to educate.

What are Used Car Listing Services?

Used car listing services are a way for dealers to get increased exposure for their inventory by leveraging popular consumer portals. Today's consumers visit as many as 24 touchpoints in their car buying journey. Oftentimes, that journey does not begin on a dealership's website but rather on third party sites that offer model research, comparisons and other reference material. These sites will also typically include searchable dealer inventory for both new and used vehicles where consumers can input variables such as price ranges, distance and others in order to narrow their options down to fit their needs and budget. In addition to dealer inventory searches, these sites typically offer other tools for consumers such as trade-in values, reviews of both vehicles and dealerships, financing tools and available manufacturer incentives available making them an attractive stop for consumers on their journey.

Importance of Used Car Listing Services

Used car listing services are popular sites for consumers to visit as they will have vehicles from many dealers included for convenient search and compare functionality for a consumer. In addition, used car listing services typically have large advertising budgets in which to drive traffic to their site. Because these sites are so popular with consumers, a dealership should strongly consider participation in these sites in order to ensure that their vehicles are represented in the available options for consumers who are searching these sites.

Used car listing services are popular sites for consumers to visit as they will have vehicles from many dealers included for convenient search and compare functionality for a consumer.

Considerations in Choosing Used Car Listing Services

Price

There are many used car listing services and pricing models vary quite a bit. Some will offer performance based pricing wherein a dealer can list their inventory free and are charged on a per lead basis. Others work on a subscription model with varying packages available on an escalating level that increase visibility on their site in consumer searches. A dealership's inventory size can also affect pricing. Most used car listing services will charge on a per rooftop basis so dealer groups with multiple points should take this into consideration when selecting which services to utilize. Used car listing services can be a sizeable part of a dealership's marketing budget so researching and finding the best match for a dealership's budget in combination with performance is something that should be researched carefully.

Conversion Process

One of the main questions dealers should consider when selecting used car listing services is simple: When a potential buyer lands on a vehicle display page (VDP) on the third-party listing service's website, how is that conversion communicated and is that conversion exclusive or shared?

There are several methods that used car listing services use to transmit and handle customer inquiries – some of which are considered controversial by dealers.

  • Anonymity

    This entails that a dealer never receives actual customer information after they convert on a form on the third-party site but rather anonymous e-mail addresses in which to correspond to the customer. The reason for this expressed is usually one in which the listing service believes that allowing customers to remain anonymous will not only convert at a higher rate but that it offers a better customer experience. While that may be true, if a dealer never received actual customer information, future follow-up is impossible.

  • Conversion Process

    Typically a dealer who is listing their vehicle on a third-party listing service would expect that they would be the only dealership receiving the inquiry from a customer requesting information. Some sites have been known to send these inquiries to multiple dealers either without the customer's consent or through different prompts during the conversion process like asking the customer if they want pricing from other competitors and/or whether they are interested in other similar makes or models. Of course, there is also the option of choosing a used car listing provider that directs traffic directly to the VDP page on the dealer's website allowing the dealer to guide the customer and convert exclusively to them. A dealer may want to inquire as to how these inquiries are handled and perhaps even collaborate with a dealer peer in testing and experiencing the process and results in real-world tests.

  • Branding & Dealership Information

    Many used car listing services will limit branding and information control based on level of service that the dealer is subscribed to. The reasoning behind this is that the used car listing provider wants to be able to track and attribute both the conversion and resulting sale to prove performance. Dealers should know what information is available on each VDP and how much control the dealership has over the information presented. Used car listing services are increasingly displaying dealership reviews on VDPs – some being aggregated fro m other sites while others through partnerships. A dealer should ask a used car listing provider whether they have the ability to respond to or dispute any reviews appearing on their VDPs.

  • Competitive Advertising

    Some used car listing sites will show display ads from competitors or competing brands on a dealer's VDP. Dealers may want to inquire as to whether or not a used car listing service does this.

  • Enhanced Listing Options

    Another feature offered by some used car listing services is enhanced listing options that elevate a dealership's inventory in consumer search results thereby increasing the likelihood that a consumer would see it. Exploring these options and their pricing with a used car listing provider can give a dealer insight into the pros and cons of participating in this optional feature.

  • Pricing Opinions / Vehicle History Reports

    Some used car listing services include indicators intended for consumers that grade whether a vehicle being offered is of a certain value level (i.e. great/good/poor). If a dealer wishes to partner with a used car listing provider that practices this, the dealer will want to ensure that their inventory is competitively priced at all times. In addition, some used car listing services will offer vehicle history reports (VHR) to consumers interested in vehicles. This can be a value add for consumers which is attractive to them. However, dealers will want to know whether this is the case or not to ensure that any given vehicle being advertised doesn't have VHR issues.

  • Media compatibility

    With the various forms of media available and in use for inventory merchandising by dealers, an important consideration is whether the used car listing service supports the media that the dealer is creating to advertise their vehicles. Some used car listing services will limit dealers as to the inclusion of video and/or other newer technologies. Knowing what is and is not compatible with a used car listing service is an important consideration especially if a dealer is producing rich content such as live video walkarounds.

Conclusion

Most dealers consider used car listing services as invaluable and necessary partners for the simple reason that these portals have a high volume of consumer car buying traffic. Especially in the area of used cars, dealers will want to monitor their market for availability and pricing to ensure that they are competitive in their offerings. Because all of these used car listing services are public destinations, dealers can test and experiment as much as they'd like to see how vehicles are being displayed, in what order and what information each VDP page contains.

The Used Car Advertising vendor ratings on page 20 will share ratings of various used car listing service providers provided by verified dealers. The ratings should give a dealer confidence in choosing a used car listing service solution and provider that best fits their needs and budget.

Especially in the area of used cars, dealers will want to monitor their market for availability and pricing to ensure that they are competitive in their offerings.