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Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com - Do We Really Need Both? What do YOU think? We`d like to know.

To the ADM Community Members,

 

I would like to get your thoughts in regards to this....... Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com - Do We Really Need Both??

 

Currently we are reviewing various 3rd Party sources and measuring the ROI with each of these vendors as we are exploring the possiblity of eliminating one or two and allocating these funds towards another vendor of choice. In other words, "Shaving the Fat" or nixing the weakest link.

 

Here`s the scenario; We generally have between 100 to 130 used vehicles in stock at any given time.

 

Now with AutoTrader we are a "Featured" dealer....... and see very little return on this investment as we only receive minimal(single digit) amount of leads and calls each month at the current plateau that we are on. On a very interesting note, when searching on AutoTrader for a particular vehicle, you are only searching on that one plateau. If you select "Premium Listings" and select "Low to High" pricing you only see those vehicles at the Premium Level regadless of price.

 

 

With Cars.com we see as much as 30 times the amount of calls/leads per month in their monthly reports. So why wouldn`t we as a dealer the "Cut the Fat" and beef up our Digital Marketing with Cars.com???

 

 

Why would we want to spend two & a half times more with AutoTrader to become a Premium Listing Dealer??? Will we actually sell that many more vehicles to justify this........ I highly doubt it. 

 

Also don`t you think many consumers are actually just cross-searching both of these used vehicles search portals??? We are probably getting the same consumer on both sites!

 

I realize every area in the country will produce different results that use these two vendors but I would like to know your opinion in regards to Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com  - Do We Really Need Both?

  

Thank you all in advance for your opinion.

Ken Beam

Marketing Director

Douglas Auto Group

 

 

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Influencer
Comment by Mathew Koenig on March 14, 2013 at 6:32am
Great questions. I worked retail for 12 years, then I worked for Cars.com as a sales training manager and what I saw there is exactly as you described:
1. Results vary by market
2. Since Car.com isn't on a tiered program, you tend to get more visibility

What Alyssa said nailed it as far as visibility on ATC goes; if you want to be seen you have to package up to the top tier. Many of our clients say that's the ONLY way they get ROI greater than their spend.

Depending on your inventory size/mix, it may not be a viable option for you.

At the end of the day, if you are netting more profit from the advertiser than you spend on the advertiser, it's still a good investment, but in your case, you may be better off shifting those dollars elsewhere. Knowing the cost of ATC, I can't see "single digit leads" generating an ROI that would be acceptable to anyone unless you have an ultra-lux dealership.

There are affordable ideas to generate more ROI from both Cars and AutoTrader that you can test out for a few months though to see if it helps.

Our company provides dealers with AutoCapture (konig.co/autocapture) and it delivers mobile numbers to dealers while consumers are shopping on Cars.com and ATC and its only $399/mo. Consumers love it and so do our dealers.

You can see how it works by texting the code AC13 to the phone number 71441. We'll even send you a special savings coupon.

Hope that helped :-)

Mat K
CEO
KonigCo
www.konig.co

Influencer
Comment by James Dias on March 13, 2013 at 3:57pm

First Off great post not many have the heart to ask this question.
With that said here is a some super quick back ground on me former Internet and marketing director as well as former cars.com area manager

Now to the meat and potatoes:  What is the ROI is always a good question but normally overvalued.
my question is why are you not maxed out at both top package. Combined they will spend millions each quarter to market and advertise their services to the consumer and the typical dealer will buy the average package from both.  They want to be #1 and the typical dealer is lost in middle somewhere.  Dominate both in your market for 120 days.

Also make sure you have time for Both sites.   Have one person dedicated and accountable for just the them 2 sites. With 100 to 130 used units on the ground. Your team has a lot of work to do. With both cars.com and AT. Merchandising,  PHOTOS, Powerful vehicle descriptions,  amazing PHOTOS and think Why would you buy from you dealership and make shre that service is something you let the potential customers know about.    DID I mention Photos ?

I seen a dealer just the other day with a Lexus GX 470 for sale and the first 2 photos had a shadow of person taking photos of the car –

when everything is right – both places are going to help you rock the sales floor But they are tools and if you don’t know how to fully use the tools then there is truly no point having the tool, its not going to work.

I took at least 2 hours a day to fully use both AT and cars.com when I was with the dealers  and that was with 40 to 50 units on the ground.


Vendor
Comment by Tim Elliott on March 13, 2013 at 3:07pm

So...I need to weigh in on this discussion....Disclaimer ..I work for ATC ...but I promise to be as "Vendor Neutral" as Brian P likes to say, I was a Dealer and worked retail sales for 25 years before going to work with ATC....so here is a Riddle...."two Dealers is the same town of 2500 people spending the same amount on ATC for exactly the same Featured package. One Dealer sells 10-15 a month on an inventory of 35 and the Second Dealer sell 35 units a month on an inventory of 40. So, the question/Riddle is why does the one sell more than the other"!!??

The answer is simpler than you think.....Inventory.....but not just any inventory which gets to what Richard commented to....the second Dealer stocks very different(more desirable) inventory than the First. What truth I educate Dealers to is your success today has a lot more to do with what you stock then showing up on featured or premium on ATC. In the previous example , the second Dealer Mr. 35 unit a month was doing just fine on Featured listing....he had no need to go to Premium....why? .....INVENTORY....so what do you need to know before making the Premium Listing decision? ....Have your ATC rep do a Inventory analysis of your current inventory....two things you need to look at Scarcity and Price to Market (vAuto) ...if you are stocking late model units 10' and newer with high days supply or low searched inventory (09 Buick LeCrosse) Featured listings wont help you....why ?....because of the amount of inventory currently in the market. I just had this discussion today with one of my Dealers who has seen his results fallen off in the last 60 days....the first thing I look at is what is he "restocking the shelves" with....sure enough....all 10', 11',12' 's . The result, due to the high days supply of the inventory his listings are now on page 12 rather than page 1 to 4...9more eye exposure).

So....the truth is from a Car Guy to Car Folks....it is all about what Brain P shared in his video....become a VDP Factory ! My line to Dealers is there is only 3 reason a car does not sell in 45 days...1. No one wants it (low searches) 2. No one can find it due to high days supply of inventory 3. I'm priced to high to my market.

Both Solutions work......only 25% over lap in audience ....but what you stock matters on ATC more than on Cars.com because they don't have tiered listings...Hope this is helpful....

Comment by Alyssa Gomez on March 13, 2013 at 2:47pm

I have been struggling with this for over 2 years now. Cut this, add this, etc. I lowered my budget on Autotrader, took off all new cars and was at one of the lowest brackets for the longest time. We recently just put ourselves on a larger package and the return is noticeable.I have found that it was not worth it, if I was not going to put more into it. My calls have went up, as well as leads and hours and maps printed. I have come to my personal conclusion that if you do autotrader, then you have to have the right package and it is pricey. I think most of the money we spent just to maintain autotrader was wasteful. On the other hand, cars.com is a great amount less and I get far more ROI. For the price and the ROI, I would keep that as well. I also would take a look at your pay per lead programs. I return my leads on a weekly basis and I am able to control my budget much better with this. So as much as I would love to drop autotrader for the simple cost of it, I have found first hand, that there is a return. Unfortunately, that return comes with the price. In this matter, you really do get what you pay for. I am still not sold on new vehicles for autotrader though. This is just what I have found.

Comment by Joel Casser on March 13, 2013 at 2:21pm

I use both, and I don't look at lead counts as a way of measuring effectiveness.  We don't get very many leads or phone calls from Autotrader, but I do get a lot of people who just walk through the door and say they saw the car on Autotrader.  Right from the beginning, the Autotrader reps told us that most of the traffic they generate are just going to walk in the door, and not call or email.  To me, it's just as big of a win, since I can still trace the sale back to an originating point.  You also don't see a lot of overlap in the customers that use both sites. As long as they don't start j****** up their rates to pay for their own perks, I don't envision us dropping either anytime soon.

In the end, you've got to decide for your own store what works best for you. 

Comment by Mike Lewis on March 13, 2013 at 1:50pm

Ken,

I use both with good results. I agree that AT tries to "reinvent" ways for your cars to show up in a more "favorable" position at of course a slightly higher premium. Cars.com is a more even playing field if you will, but they are also now bringing some different tiers out and acting more like AT. A balance of both, in my opinion, is the best approach.

Good luck with your decision.

 

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on March 13, 2013 at 1:29pm
It is going to depend on individual markets and dealers. Their Alexa ratings are similar (cars.com @ 1655 / autotrader.com @1384) for traffic. A lot will probably depend on which is promoting their brand better at the time
Comment by Dave Tedder on March 13, 2013 at 12:43pm

We maintain large accounts with both.  In the Phoenix market, they get about the same amount of shoppers.  There IS a trend of seeing more new car shoppers on cars.com though, guess it's because everybody used to buy the old auto trader magazine. 

 

The hardest part about trying to get an accurate ROI with either is the tendency of customers to walk in or call and not being properly identified as a cars.com/autotrader source.  My 2012 ROI shows $280k spent on both and a return of $520k in gross profit.  I think, because of our brand in the market, we see alot of referrals to our main sites and then see the leads.  So are the cars.com/AT or "our website". 

We have also done polls in finance and have found customers are using several sources in shopping.  If you have the budget, find a balance between the 2, or go big on one of them.

 

Comment by Ken Beam on March 13, 2013 at 12:38pm

@ Richard - Couldn`t agree more! Thanks for your insight. 

 

 

@ Brian - We did enjoy your webinar very much yesterday. My point here is to purely discuss the value of AutoTrader vs. Cars.com - The vdp views on our websites at least to us, is a separate discussion. As Richard alluded to, the pricing models between Cars.com vs. AutoTrader.com is my main point of contention.

Now not to get off topic Brian, but we have a difference of opinion in regards to VDP views on dealer websites. First off in your webinar you discounted the desirability of a used car vehicle in your equation. Your theory that more VDP views of inventory is a "positive" is flawed in my opinion. A lot of "HIGHLY DESIRABLE" used vehicles have had low VDP views for one reason Brian........... They sold in a matter of days...period. Conversely we had used vehicles with a high amount of VDP views that have sat on our lot for one specific reason........ That they are undesirable vehicles. So to equate the cost per VDP views in judging the validity of marketing investments is in my estimation a fallacy. Now this is just my opinion, however I am a 25 year seasoned veteran in the New Jersey Automotive Industry.  

 

 

 


Influencer
Comment by Larry Flynn on March 13, 2013 at 12:36pm

Ken, you do not need both. one will do as long as you pick the right one. take the one that gives you more bang for your buck. the amount of leads you receive, are they solid leads? are they providing SEO for all of your used vehicles? just a few of the things to think about.

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