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Do you know of anybody dropping AutoTrader all together? Let's talk about it.....

I get an email today from a dealer friend of mine today and he ask;

Do you know of anybody dropping AutoTrader all together?
It’s ungodly expensive and we just haven’t seen the results.

My first response from the top of my head is, Yes there seems to be a lot of “chatter’ out there the last few years about reallocating dollars from AT and Cars to other digital advertizing. Then it hit me, I wonder “if” this was some motivation behind Autotraders recent spending spree. Diversify before losing more revenue?

Dollars started going down for Autotrader a few years back, they sell a piece for cash to buy and diversify? I'm certainly no expert, I’m just wondering.

Getting back to his original Question, in my local market Rockford Illinois closed that gap in the last 3 years. In the past Autotrader out produced by 25%. However, they were less expensive, so it was a push. In the last few years I had equal success. So was a better value. I always sold enough unique sales from each source to pay for itself. I always knew there may be better ROI out there.

Truth be told they are easy leads……..

How bout you?
Cutting back on 3rd party?
Dropping Cars and Autotrader all together?
Seeing same numbers as year’s gone “buy”?

Views: 250

Tags: advertizing, auto, autotrader,, digital, guy, internet, jennings, media, social, More…tim, trader


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Comment by Larry Bruce on November 18, 2010 at 4:28am
Jason did you do the gift cards where you gave them out on the spot or did you mail them? Where were they to or were they AMX cards?
Comment by Jason Manning on November 17, 2010 at 7:43pm
The classified sites are all grown up and can support themselves now. It's the dealers that need change and growth. Some frustrations have mounted regarding costs. It's usually the General Manager or Owner wanting to terminate classified advertising, from my experience. They pay the bills or manage the expenses anyway. If a dealers says they're going to dump a classified site, it simply does not produce the ROI. There are so many choices now in the marketing arena to generate leads and traffic. Our most recent "Gift Card Mailer" generates five to ten walk-ins per day! Yes, you heard that right. This program has to be consistent and constant. We sell over 25 cars a month, directly related to the mailers. It goes hand and hand with our Service Center. The cost is $300 per vehicle versus $600 for classified marketing.

Dealers just need to know there are other choices to consider. They take effort, training and consistency. It's not so "set if and forget it." It works outstanding for our dealer, though. Other dealers that run the same program have better results, but they've been in the program much longer. I think we have new avenues of marketing to explore. If you want to leave a classified site, you may find more success elsewhere. Not everyone hits a home run in the same arena.

Let me know if you want more information about our marketing company and their program. I would be happy to forward you their information.

Comment by Larry Bruce on November 17, 2010 at 6:43pm
While Ed and I don't agree on a lot when it comes to ATC I do have to agree with him here. A bash session does no one any good. So if come to the party bring a solid reason for your statements and be up front about your affiliations.

At the end of the day if you're a dealer reading this thread you do need to make your own judgments and apply some data or logic to those decisions. If there is one thing I have learned in 26 years in this business is "There is no one best way". If you have hard data that justifies an expense, keep it. If it’s not performing, throw it out. IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE.

Comment by Grady F. Maples on November 17, 2010 at 4:42pm
AutoTrader is the biggest ripoff in the industry. Cancel it today if you have any sense!
Comment by Ed Brooks on November 17, 2010 at 6:58am
Thanks for the clarification (and the commercial :D) Manny. I'm not a big fan of one vendor bashing another on these forums, but I think if anyone feels the need to do that, they should at least be open and honest about where they work.

I know dealer budgets are limited and money for one service generally has to come out of another service, but bashing the competition is just unseemly. And it just goes round and round: The PPC guys bash SEO, the SEO / POD Score crowd bashes the "160 classified websites" Manny posts to (they ATTACK the dealers page one position), everyone bashes the big classified sites. PLEASE!

Every dealer needs to develop their own ad mix. If it were me, that mix would be almost exclusively digital. It would certainly include the big classified sites and Craigslist. I'd have a well optimized site (and would consider hiring a reputable consultant if my site provider wasn't able to get the job done), I'd have a PPC budget and include MicroSites, I'd have a Social Media presence. And then I'd monitor it all - track it - and adjust my budget on a continual basis.

I'd want to pull all this together with a cohesive, consistent message across advertising platforms. And I'd make absolutely sure I had the right cars, bought right, priced right and merchandised right with great pictures and comments. Every Ad medium I listed above eventually draws the customer to a Vehicle Detail Page - and that VDP better be standing tall with a with a car the customer wants to buy, at a price they are willing to pay, merchandised in a way that entices them into my store. If I haven't done that, all the money and effort I spent to get the customer to that point is wasted.

So vendors, let's be honest about who we are, spend less time bashing each other and work hard so the dealers can see what we offer. A sensible advertising mix includes all of us.

In the interests of full disclosure - and because I believe in full disclosure - I spent 10 years working for ATC and my current employer was recently purchased by them. However, my comments and opinions are my own and do not reflect those of any current, past or future employers.
Comment by Rob Fontano on November 15, 2010 at 11:56am
Autotrader is spending their advertising dollars to be a direct destination website and not on SEO. Since the bulk of customers start on Google they are more likely to find a strong SEO dealer site or other third party site. In our area, Southwest Florida, (Fort Myers, Naples) ATC hardly gets any page one results, instead they are out played by the bottomfeeders like oodle, lotpro, sellmycar, etc. I am having a hard time justifying the expense lately. I have not pulled the plug yet but will let you know....
Comment by Tim Jennings on November 14, 2010 at 6:15pm
@Larry Lot of info. That’s like one of those 4 pound meals if you eat it all you get it for free meals.

I think it is hard to disagree with your points:

“ • Neither ATC or Cars has the hold on the buyer they want you to believe
• The customer is looking for you the dealership not ATC or Cars
• Without your inventory ATC nor Cars has anything to offer a customer
• The traffic is yours the customers are yours if you are handing this over to ATC (Trade in Marketplace) then you are giving up your business and your brand.”

After the first 3 years of Autotrader, never made the same ROI. (I started in late 99’ witATC) Being in a small store did I make money from ATC & Cars sure. I think I only had 3-4 months when the 2 didn’t bust the nut. I did have many months that I only made a grand off of $2700. (Cars and ATC) Anyone else have moths when you didn’t make back investment?

I always wanted to try something different but was afraid if I dropped my dealer would cut total spending. So I left the sleeping dog “lie”. To my regret I wish I would have taken the challenge to see what I could have turned 2700 a mounth into on my own advertizing efferts. Problem was I had to sell cars too. Chicken and Egg thing.......

Comment by Larry Bruce on November 13, 2010 at 7:56am
Ok all if you follow me at all you know I have no love lost for ATC. In my opinion they are nothing more than that old rag we used to buy advertising in gone online with the same principals and tactics, only now you pay twice as much for them and they cost ATC less to produce.

With that said, I look ATC like Yahoo or any large buying portal it takes a tremendous amount of brand advertising usually to keep it going their competitive brand portals have the advantage of serving lots of need vs. ATC’s one. The exception to this

As you can see from the compete char above Yahoo, eBay and craigslist kick ATC and Cars butt in over all traffic… not a shocker.

@Mark Scot I have no idea where you get this 15 to 16 million unique visitor count? According to ATC has been between 5 million and 7million for the last 12 months between Sept. of 2009 and Sept. 2010. Maybe ATC has somehow tripled its unique visitor count in the last 60 days, not likely so I am afraid I am going to have to throw the yellow bullshit flag on you Mark.

With all that said we all need to keep a perspective that only a small part of the traffic on Yahoo, eBay and craigslist are there to buy a car. So let’s do some math:

Given that these are general consumer sites we will use an advertising number that at any given time 2 percent of the buying population is in the market to buy a car. We can apply this to the traffic numbers of the above. Now we have to caveat that this is a straight line statistic and there is no way a straight line statistic would apply to all of these across the board, so these numbers will be high but it will illustrate the point.

That would put auto buyers on these sites at the following numbers:
Yahoo – 2,714,235
EBay – 1,283,030
Craigslist – 1,195,167

That compared to ATC 6 million and Cars 3 million is more apples to apples comparison and is more favorable to ATC and Cars however there is in my estimation 5 times more competition on ATC and Cars than on eBay and Craigslist so that evens out the traffic until more dealers get on craigslist and figure out eBay.

Continuing our match exercise let’s compare that to the overall market. There were 12 million new cars sold last year and 36 million used cars sold last year, putting the total at 48 million cars sold divide that by 12 months again straight line and you get 4 million sales a month. You have to again look at the stats and say if the buy cycle is at 90 days now then for every sale there are 3 more in the market putting the total number of people in the market at 16 million on any given month. Using that number the following is a really rough footprint for each listing service for auto buyers in the US in any given month, it’s a SWAG but at least based on some data.

ATC – 38%
Cars – 20%
Yahoo – 17%
EBay – 8%
Craigslist – 7%


You would think form this you could take away that ATC reaches almost 40% of buyers and I am sure ATC reps will point to this as an example, but before you do that keep this in mind., in our recent study with “7 Myths of how people search for a car online” we wanted to see just how people searched for a car online, in that study we found that 70% of people when searching for a car STARTED WITH GOOGLE, further we found that 96% were looking locally and finally that 60% of visitors converted (called or submitted a lead from) on a dealer’s site.

Conclusion – ATC and Cars are being used as benchmark pricing sites not where the customer ultimately ends up looking to buy a car.

I call this the syndrome: people use orbitz to price the flights for a trip but the large majority do not buy from orbitz site choosing to directly to the carrier to buy the tickets.

What does this mean?

In my opinion there is a price where ATC & Cars do make sense but they crossed that threshold a long time ago and for most dealers neither ATC nor Cars makes sense at their current pricing. Now you may be a dealer that these are working for you if so keep on keeping on we all have to look at our own situations and make our own judgments.

No matter how you slice this up here are a few things that should be clear to everyone:

• Neither ATC or Cars has the hold on the buyer they want you to believe
• The customer is looking for you the dealership not ATC or Cars
• Without your inventory ATC nor Cars has anything to offer a customer
• The traffic is yours the customers are yours if you are handing this over to ATC (Trade in Marketplace) then you are giving up your business and your brand.

@ Matt
I think we would all like to see that data Matt and as you and I talked about in Vegas, in January to February when VinLens has enough data to constitute some statistical confidence we can look at that. For now the numbers we can ascertain don't support it, and I would submit that you would have to test to see if the dealership could take the money that is being put into ATC and Cars do their own targeted PPC campaigns and drive as much if not more traffic and leads to the dealership. I would LOVE to set up that test with VIN to get to some real numbers and truth but I’ll bet ATC will not like the outcome. VINLens on its own will not show you the real picture.

killing anything just for the sake of killing it is a poor strategy based on the numbers available now, for many dealers killing ATC is the right strategy, however it will take a real test with a number of dealers to determine whether ATC is really valuable and then the dealer will have to look at the numbers and determine for themselves what that value is worth to them. In the end value is relative to the customer and in this case the customer is the dealer.

As I said in Vegas:

“We the dealers allowed these 3rd parties to get between us and the customer reacting late to the internet and it will be up to us to get them out”

I have since the late 90’s been against 3rd parties being between the dealer and the customer. ATC and Cars started as portals aggregating ads and now ATC is on the offensive working hard to get between dealers and customer in many ways that are dangerous and can do nothing but cost dealers more money for less value.

I hope this helps will be happy to answer any questions from what I have said here.

Comment by Ed Brooks on November 12, 2010 at 10:31am
Hey Manny, If I'm not mistaken, while you don't work for Craigslist, you do work for a company that lists cars on CraigsList - for $7,000.00 to $9,000.00 a month. Not sure if those listings comply with Craiglist 'Terms of Service' or not, but the TOS has been a hot topic on some forums.

Additionally, while Craiglist had undoubtedly high traffic, huge portions of that traffic aren't there for cars: Apartments, Used Furniture and until recently, Prostitutes, all make up a large portion of their traffic.

I'm not saying a dealer shouldn't advertise on Craiglist, if it was me, I would. I'm just saying I wouldn't expect it to be the only place I'd advertise.

In the interests of full disclosure - and because I believe in full disclosure - I spent 10 years working for ATC and my current employer was recently purchased by them. However, my comments and opinions are my own and do not reflect those of any current, past or future employers.
Comment by John Giamalvo on November 11, 2010 at 6:34am
Wow Jay, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The “Do it yourself” and “Control Google Results” can make for a compelling offering to a local dealer. Problem is, particularly with Google’s recent changes, it’s EXTREMELY difficult, and consumer behaviors aren’t taken into account. That being said, you’re correct, the value to all aspects of creating upstream traffic to the dealer sites and VISIBILITY as “participating dealers” on the sites people shop on are instantly and BETTER served.

Much of it is that we look at 3rd parties as lead gens only and don’t look at the breadth of value that is garnered from the listing itself and leveraging the store with the content therein. “Lead” conversions go down and the baby goes out with the bathwater.

And, yes, we could go on about this all day.
Johnny G

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