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The Auto Dealer’s Guide to Marketing Compliance

auto dealers guide

Read this auto dealer’s guide for an overview of the biggest compliance issues that could affect your advertising efforts

If you’ve worked in an auto dealership for a few years, you probably know the basics of marketing and advertising compliance—especially if you’re a fan of running television and radio ads. However, those fundamental compliance rules you’ve come to know and love have shifted over the years, especially in the ever-changing digital landscape you’re now doing business in.

Can you say with 100% certainty that you know every advertisement you’re running—regardless of marking channel—is totally, completely compliant? That there’s no chance that the FTC will come knocking on your door tomorrow?

Didn’t think so.

Don’t worry, though. This auto dealer’s guide to marketing compliance is an easy way to double check your marketing strategies and ensure that all of your advertising initiatives are not just clever and effective, but entirely compliant as well. The information included in this auto dealer’s guide, however, is not legal advice and shouldn’t be used in the place of guidance from trusted legal counsel. It’s simply a starting point for you to re-think your marketing and begin strategizing with your compliance officer.

Marketing and advertising compliance: An auto dealer’s guide

When it comes to compliance in dealership marketing and advertising, this auto dealer’s guide lists the primary rules you need to stay on top of.

1. Truth-in-advertising lawsauto dealers guide

The FTC’s truth-in-advertising laws protect consumers from fraud and deception. It’s your job to ensure that every marketing material you put out there—whether it be online, on TV, in print, or anywhere else—is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In addition to being truthful, ads cannot be deceptive or slighted versions to make it more appealing. You need evidence to back up claims, and you may be required to use specific disclaimers if you’re talking about leasing and financing.

Possible penalties: Depending on the nature of the violation, penalties could range from thousands to millions of dollars.


The CAN-SPAM Act affects your email marketing initiatives, including any commercial messages you send. There are seven primary requirements for auto dealerships under the CAN-SPAM Act:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header dealers guide
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
  • Identify the message as an ad.
  • Share your location with recipients.
  • Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future emails from you.
  • Honor opt-out requests within ten business days.
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf.

Possible penalties: Up to $40,654 per non-compliant email. That means if you’ve been sending non-compliant emails for a year, you could encounter a pretty hefty fine.

3. Fuel economy advertising for new vehicles

If you’re trying to sell an automobile that has great fuel economy, you’re naturally going to want to put that information in any advertisement you create. If this auto dealer’s guide can help you with anything, though, it’s this: don’t forget to list and label city and highway fuel economies appropriately. You don’t have to list both together, but each should be clearly labeled as “estimated city mpg” or “estimated highway mpg.” Your estimated mileage must also match the exact make and model you’re advertising.

Possible penalties: It’s up to the FTC, but penalties can range from thousands to millions of dollars.

4. The Telephone Consumer Protection Actauto dealers guide

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs any of your dealership’s text message marketing. If you want to send a customer text messages, you must obtain prior written consent before sending anything. Written consent can include hand-written signatures or information submitted via electronic or digital forms like emails or website forms. Any advertising and promotional materials must clearly display opt-out information.

Possible penalties: Again, it’s up to the FTC, but if you violate the TCPA, you may have to pay $500 to $1,500 per text message. That can add up quickly.

Remember, this auto dealer’s guide is just that—a guide. Consult an attorney or your dealership’s compliance officer if you have any questions or concerns when it comes to the compliance of your advertisements and marketing materials.

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Patrick H.
Patrick H.