Appraise your vehicle acquisition strategy
A valuable guide for scaling your used car biz
If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that volatile industry conditions can disrupt vehicle availability anytime — and without warning. Despite recovering inventory levels, shifting market dynamics and economic factors continue to shape consumer demand. As a forward thinking dealer we recommend you continue to pay close attention to these conditions while updating and refining your acquisition strategy.
At Cars Commerce, our mission is to help you stay one step ahead in the ever evolving automotive industry. In this comprehensive guide, we cover how to keep your lot consistently stocked with fresh, relevant pre-owned vehicles by optimizing your acquisition operations across your dealership, online, and through advertising. Taken all together, you’ll be able to scale your acquisitions, more profitably, to give you a greater competitive edge in today’s dynamic market.
Bookmark this guide – not just for easy access when you need it, but also because we constantly update it with fresh tech and tactics that’ll help ensure your vehicle acquisition strategy stays up to date.
Consumer & industry trends
As 2024 unfolds, industry forecasts indicate that margin compression will continue as the pre-owned market adjusts to new norms. That means it’s more important than ever to reduce (or fully eliminate) your dependence on costly auctions, and empower your team to acquire the right vehicles from consumers at the right price.
Significantly, an ongoing and lasting shift in consumer behavior has created an opportunity for you to scale your direct from consumer vehicle acquisitions. Initially influenced by economic changes brought on by the pandemic, and further being reshaped by current market dynamics, more and more consumers are choosing to sell their vehicles directly. They’re seeking better financial outcomes, bypassing traditional trade-in routes.
This trend becomes apparent when examining the monthly estimated search volumes for key terms related to vehicle sales1:
|Est. Monthly Search Volume
|Sell my car
|Sell my car online
|Sell my car for cash today
|Where can I sell my car?
|Sell my car near me
Additionally, our latest insights reveal that 56% of car shoppers plan to trade-in their current vehicle2 when purchasing a new one. Part of any successful acquisition strategy is to capitalize on these opportunities to ensure your store is top of mind for local consumers thinking about selling or trading.
Provide guaranteed instant offers, not estimates
Understanding the evolving landscape of consumer behavior and market trends, it’s clear that offering more precise, compelling vehicle valuations is key. This is where AccuTrade, an integral component of the Cars Commerce platform, optimizes the traditional vehicle appraisal process.
The approach of providing vague estimates of what your customer’s vehicle might be worth often leads to lengthy negotiations. In many cases, you might miss the opportunity to acquire a vehicle due to an estimate generated from incomplete vehicle information.
AccuTrade solves that problem because it’s not just a website widget — it’s an advanced appraisal engine that uses real-time market data to put the right price on every car, every time. It seamlessly integrates with your website to ensure consistent online appraisals, while its companion OBD-II scanner uncovers hidden diagnostic issues that allow you to choose the most profitable retail or wholesale exit decision.
Dealers using AccuTrade can improve their profitability by up to $2,700 per vehicle3. Plus, with AccuTrade’s buyback guarantee, there’s no need to stress about the offers. In the very unlikely event you can’t turn a vehicle for profit, AccuTrade buys the vehicle back from you at the exact price of the offer — guaranteed.
By removing back-and-forth pricing negotiation with customers, as well as doubts about reconditioning, it’s truly a selling experience no one can beat.
Opportunities to acquire vehicles don’t just take place on your website or in your showroom. In order to truly power acquisitions, you should be appraising everywhere.
Today, the most successful retailers empower their entire team to participate in the vehicle appraisal process. Adopting a decentralized approach, with the help of AccuTrade, leads to quicker and more precise appraisals. This frees your staff from waiting for the Used Car Manager for every appraisal and allows them to stay engaged with their customers, saving everyone time. It also frees up the Used Car Manager to concentrate on verifying appraisals and ensures a focus on acquiring high-quality vehicles.
The number one source for acquisition opportunities is your service drive. While customers wait, offer to appraise their vehicles. This not only utilizes waiting time efficiently but can also lead to unexpected acquisitions. AccuTrade’s OBD-II scanner is particularly useful here, providing quick and accurate valuations with complete vehicle diagnostic data. Even in cases where an acquisition doesn’t materialize, service drive appraisals can reveal undetected issues with the consumer’s vehicle, providing an opportunity to add labor hours to their repair order.
Online and over the phone
In today’s digital age, it’s crucial to meet customers where they are — online. For customers who prefer the convenience of online interactions, your website can provide guaranteed instant trade-in offers with AccuTrade. This not only streamlines the trading or selling process, but also ensures the accuracy and immediacy that empowers them to take action.
Appraising vehicles over the phone presents its own set of challenges. But with AccuTrade, even phone calls can be transformed into valuable acquisition opportunities because you can send customers a link to complete a guided appraisal right in their driveway. This streamlined process not only enhances your acquisition efficiency, but also gives your dealership a competitive edge over retailers who aren’t willing to provide a value over the phone.
Retailers who prioritize acquisition are always looking for more inventory — whether at social gatherings, kids’ soccer games, or even bumping into people on the street. Armed with AccuTrade, every vehicle you encounter is an opportunity.
Optimize your online presence for vehicle acquisition
If you want to acquire more cars, you also need to optimize your online presence so it works for you — even when you’re not working. This means making it easy and appealing for customers to get a real offer for their vehicle wherever they are online.
Increase trade/sell engagement on your website
If you want your website visitors to know your store will buy their car, you have to tell them. Make sure to put your trade/sell messaging front and center, so it’s only a click or tap away.
Also add a prominent CTA above the fold on your homepage to maximize impressions (especially on mobile), and include a homepage slider that links to your trade/sell landing page, as well as in VRP Banners and your main menu for maximum exposure.
Provide consistent values across your platform
With the rise of mix and match trade-in, digital retailing, and chat widgets on retailer websites, there’s a growing (and very real) problem of consumers getting different values for their vehicle depending on the website experience they’re engaged in.
For example, you may have a trade-in widget embedded on a landing page to give shoppers an estimated value for their vehicle. However, if the trade-in phase in your digital retailing tool uses a different data source than your widget, shoppers may get a different value for the exact same vehicle. Instead of helping your customers, you’ve made the trade/sell experience more confusing.
No matter how you’re using these different trade-in tools, you want to aim for clarity and consistency. By providing the same appraisal experience all across your website, you build trust and increase your chances of acquiring more vehicles.
To achieve that consistent and trustworthy experience, AccuTrade can power online vehicle appraisals with retailing and messaging tools that are part of the Dealer Inspire connected platform. This ensures everything flows together, allowing customers to transparently understand how much their vehicle is worth while they choose their payment for their next vehicle or chat online with your team.
Optimize your trade-in page for local SEO ranking
It’s important to recognize that your business can claim top localized rankings in the search results for “Trade/Sell My Car” type queries if you have relevant content published on your website.
While most dealers might simply embed a trade-in widget on a page, as a forward-thinking retailer, take the initiative to create a more compelling value proposition on your trade/sell landing page. Highlight the benefits of trading-in or selling to your dealership, such as the speed of transaction, transparency in dealing, and fair instant offers.
Additionally, optimize your page with location-specific information about your business. Include your address, the areas you serve, vehicles you’re specifically interested in acquiring, and reviews from local customers who had positive trade-in experiences with you.
By providing detailed content that thoroughly explains your process, you’ll not only build consumer confidence, but also establish your webpage as a highly authoritative source in the eyes of search engine algorithms.
Advertising strategies for vehicle acquisition
Now that you’re appraising everywhere and have optimized your online presence, it’s time to showcase your superior “Why Sell” message to the most valuable in-market audience. The Cars Commerce Media Network, powered by Cars.com audience data, ensures your message reaches the right people across platforms and devices, wherever they are.
Search engine marketing
Make your dealership prominent in search engine results by setting up targeted SEM campaigns. These campaigns, tailored to shoppers demonstrating intent to sell or trade, have shown impressive results.
For instance, our Dealer Inspire clients have seen an average cost per conversion of $24.824, a cost-effective method for local consumer vehicle acquisition. Consider focusing on keywords related to vehicle sales and trades to capture this targeted audience.
Aside from creating ad groups targeted to people explicitly looking to trade/sell, you can also incorporate a related sitelink in your location or dynamic new & used campaigns. We’ve found that ads that include this sitelink extension lead to a 57%5 increase in conversion rate compared to other sitelinks.
Video & Display
You can level up your digital advertising strategy with cohesive video and display creative to directly engage your local in-market audience. This strategy isn’t just about visibility — it’s about making a memorable impression with potential sellers, clearly communicating the ease and benefits of selling or trading their vehicles to your dealership.
Consistency and integration is key. Your advertising should not just attract traffic, but the right traffic — people actively looking to sell their vehicles. This is where leveraging Cars.com’s in-market audience data becomes crucial. This deterministic, real-time first-party audience can significantly impact your targeting. Dealers who have integrated this data into their video and display strategy have seen a substantial increase of in-market referral traffic to their websites in a short time6.
Bonus Tip: traditional advertising with a digital twist
If you really want to give your business every opportunity to capture more cars, generate genuine digital engagement from static assets by promoting your instant offer experience via QR Codes within traditional ad campaigns (newspaper, direct mail, billboard, tv, etc).
This practice tracks performance and creates an interconnected marketing strategy that bridges the gap between offline and online media. A multi-channel approach can appeal to a broader audience and improve your overall acquisition efforts.
AccuTrade makes this as easy for you as possible with a built-in QR code generator to help you launch, manage, and track your campaigns.
Future-proof your follow up
As we close out our guide, it’s crucial to recognize that while the strategies we’ve discussed will undoubtedly create more vehicle acquisition opportunities, they’re only as effective as your follow-up processes. It’s essential to ensure that these opportunities aren’t lost due to gaps in your strategy. Let’s evaluate your current approach with a simple scenario:
Imagine a new “Sell My Car” lead lands in your CRM. What’s your first step?
A. Call them immediately, assuming they’re close to their phone.
B. Send a friendly text to engage them in a convenient, low-pressure conversation.
C. Rely solely on your CRM’s automated email follow-up for the next 90 days or until they respond.
If you chose A or C, here’s an important fact to consider: 95% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received7. In light of this, it’s clear that the best initial response isn’t a phone call or an automated email. Instead, reach out with a text message. This immediate, personal touch via text could be the key to successfully sealing the deal.
Let’s work together
Are you ready to supercharge your vehicle acquisition strategy? Just say the word and our team will set you up with the technology, audience, and cross-channel creative strategy that makes vehicle acquisitions happen.
Online Reputation Best Practices
- Semrush estimated Google monthly search volume data January 2024 ↩︎
- Cars.com Consumer Survey, Q4 2023 ↩︎
- When adding up the average savings/fees from OBD (~$650) transport fees (~$150) recon (~$1500) and auction fees (~$400), Accu-Trade adds up to $2,700 to the bottom line for dealers per vehicle. ↩︎
- Google Ads Results for all DI Digital Advertising clients from 1/1/2023 – 6/30/2023 ↩︎
- Cars Commerce Internal Data, Q4 2023 ↩︎
- Cars Commerce Case Study, November 2022 ↩︎
- SMS Comparison Marketing Statistics 2023 ↩︎