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How dealers can more effectively source cars from consumers

By considering these five essential factors, dealers can assess the effectiveness of their trade-in tools.

In the fast-paced world of automotive retail, it is easy to get bogged down with day-to-day operations and overlook critical aspects of your dealership’s efficiency. However, it is important to take a step back to ensure that the trade-in tools and techniques currently employed to source vehicles from consumers are efficient, easy to use and most importantly, effective. In doing so, dealerships will not only maximize their value and overall profits, but further establish a trusted relationship with customers in a dealership’s local region.  

To access the ultimate efficiency of a dealership’s consumer trade-in method, ensure that the below aspects of dealer inventory sourcing methods are ongoing:  

Ensure the Current Method is Easy for Both Dealers and Consumers 

It is paramount to make sure the trade-in tool being leveraged provides a simple and streamlined form to simplify the experience for customers. Complex and lengthy forms can discourage potential customers and ultimately lead to missed opportunities for dealers. Therefore, dealers need to select a tool that prioritizes simplicity and speed to boost consumer engagement and completion rates, such as a widget that can be added to dealerships websites for consumers to use. For example, some allow potential customers to input high-level information about their vehicle, along with a few images, and then receive a condition-adjusted price quote that consumers can present to their local dealership. Importantly, dealers need to opt for a tool with transparent pricing models that delivers productive leads for dealers to jump on. Ultimately, this will help optimize dealerships’ marketing budgets and ensure they get the most value from their investment. 

Invest in AI-Powered Tools  

Machine learning and AI-enabled technologies are playing an invaluable role in acquiring the right inventory for dealers’ unique business needs and enabling consumers to better participate in the process. As dealers gain access to data from millions of inspections, the most influential information is available from the very start of the buy or trade-in process. Utilizing the right technology allows dealers to sort through large amounts of data, better understanding what is selling and for how much in their specific market to quickly determine the vehicles that will turn quickly and for the most profit. Even further, AI is allowing consumers to share vehicle information from their own home or place of work, capturing photos to automatically detect damage and condition issues, which is a key part of ensuring transparent condition and pricing discussions between dealers and car owners. This AI-driven experience is vital for consumers online or in-personBy implementing these tools, car dealers can maximize profit and time by using AI to keep inventory levels steady, stock the right inventory and find vehicles that sell in speedier fashion for higher profit.  

Provide Competitive Offers 

Accuracy is key when pricing consumer trade-ins. Ensure the trade-in tool utilizes up-to-date market information to generate precise and competitive prices for each vehicle. This fosters transparency and trust with consumers, increasing the chances of successful transactions. Also, avoid competing with a dealership’s own trade-in offer, which can frustrate consumers and dealers alike. Select a trade-in tool that allows you to set prices that are both competitive and profitable for your dealership. This balance attracts and retains customers while maximizing profitability. 

Prioritize Customer Satisfaction  

Ultimately, the success of the trade-in tool depends heavily on the consumer experience. Look for features like clear communication, responsive support and seamless integration with your dealership’s platform to enhance user experience. Prioritizing consumer satisfaction not only encourages repeat business but also boosts your dealership’s reputation in your local market.  

Assessing Off-Lease & Service Lane Inventory Opportunities  

Lease returns previously represented a significant portion of dealers’ used inventory, which they would then compliment with inventory acquired from auction purchases. However, in today’s market dealers are not seeing as many returning leases as they would in years prior due to pandemic-related production shortages. This requires dealers to find alternative methods to identify inventory. With that, dealerships should look for opportunities to acquire more vehicles from their service lane to account for this market shift. Service lane vehicles are a critical part of any dealer’s inventory strategy, as they represent a customer’s daily driver. Additionally, the dealer will likely already have a history of the vehicle on hand, helping to avoid potential issues down the road. Plus, acquiring service lane vehicles will help save auction and/or transportation costs for dealerships. Furthermore, service vehicles also come with a customer that has already chosen to do business with the dealership and presents a new opportunity for the dealer.  

By considering these five essential factors, dealers can assess the effectiveness of their trade-in tools and identify areas for improvement to enhance overall dealership efficiency and drive greater success in consumer trade-ins. 

John Hosier is the Director of Implementation and Client Delivery of ClearCar at ACV. Launched in 2023, ClearCar offers a suite of tools for dealers to build and enhance their trade-in process transforming the automotive industry by delivering accurate vehicle pricing and demystifying the trade-in process for customers.  

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