Car finder websites like TrueCar and Edmunds are popular with consumers—but are they right for your dealership?
If you’ve been in the auto industry for a while, you may like to think back fondly to the “good old days”—long before the internet played such an integral role in your daily business. The internet has improved auto dealerships in many ways, but you likely miss feeling like the resident “expert.” When car shoppers wanted to learn more about a make or model, they came to you for your expert opinion. When they wanted to negotiate pricing with you, you knew you had the upper hand with your unique industry knowledge.
Now, though? The internet has made everyone an expert. Instead of being approached for your wisdom and experience, you likely meet more customers who are armed with research from car finder websites and ready to do battle to get the best deal possible.
On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see car buyers out there exploring the market and becoming empowered consumers. On the other hand, it can make your job more frustrating to feel like you’re always on the defensive.
The pros and cons of car finder websites
Car finder websites—like TrueCar, Cars.com, Edmunds, and Autotrader—are extremely popular with people who are car shopping. These sites usually provide all sorts of information, including car research, reviews, and top-ranked vehicles. They also, however, help buyers find their perfect cars by matching them with available inventory in their area.
If you’ve teamed up with these websites, they can be an excellent source of leads. They get a ton of web traffic, and it’s great to get your dealership’s offerings in front of as many eyes as possible. Studies show that third-party car finder websites attract a larger—and largely different—audience than dealer sites. These third-party sites also usually offer analytics, making it easier for you to track your ROI as time goes on.
If your auto dealership is on the smaller side, however, there are disadvantages to car finder websites – largely in the cost. Usually, if a site like TrueCar gives you a lead, you may have to pay them almost $400 per car. $400 off the profits can feel like a large sum to just give up, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to determine if it’s worth it to your dealership.
Car finder websites: Embrace the change
Is a subscription to any of these car finder websites worth it? That’s up to your dealership’s managerial team to determine. Whatever you decide, though, don’t write these sites off completely.
Car finder websites aren’t going away anytime soon. Also, now that they’ve been given the tools, consumers are going to continue to become more knowledgeable and willing to haggle on pricing. It’s your job to make car finder websites work for you and keep up with the ways your customers are shopping and researching.
If you aren’t ready to invest in third-party sites, you should at least visit them. You need to know where your customers are getting their information and how it’s presented to them. Remember, you are the automotive expert — this is how you make your living. You owe it to yourself and your customers to stay up-to-date on Kelley Blue Book values, the highest ranked models, and how local competitors are pricing their inventory.
Of course, car finder websites aren’t the end-all-be-all of online marketing. There are so many opportunities for auto dealerships to digitally connect with consumers and bring in qualified leads. Create a digital marketing strategy that matches your dealership’s needs and the behaviors of your target audience, and you’ll be well on your way to running a successful, modern-day auto dealership.
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