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How to sell cars without classified advertising

Dealer InsightsNick Maddren on 8th May, 2020

Pros & cons of classified advertising

Before we dive into alternatives, we first need to understand the pros and cons of classified adverts.


  • Consumers are browsing the classified website with the intent to buy a car.
  • No work on your part, list your cars and start receiving enquiries.
  • Particularly good for selling prestige/niche inventory because of the broad reach.


  • The costs can be very high.
  • You are directly competing against other dealers which drives prices down.
  • Some advertisers such as Autotrader and CarGurus have a deal comparison feature which can be very misleading, especially with used cars.
  • Classified adverts don't help your organic traffic (more on this later).

Moving away from classified advertising

Now that we know the pros and cons of classified advertising, it is time to start diving into alternatives.

Your website is your greatest marketing asset

First of all, I can't stress this enough, your website is essential to your business and here is why:

  • It serves as the core of all your marketing efforts. When a consumer hears about your business, there is a very high chance that their first interaction will be on your website.
  • It only sells for you, when users are browsing, they only see your inventory, unlike classified advertising.
  • Our data shows that our clients have 1000's of potential customers browsing their website each month. Investing in your website to convert traffic into leads is very important.
  • Your website is a long term marketing investment, unlike classified advertising which is short term.
  • It's serving your customers 24/7/365.

Essentially your website is the core of your marketing efforts.

A side note to this point, there are many other platforms that consumers can use to interact with your business, from Facebook to a phone call. Just remember that our goal is to make contact with the consumer, your website will play a big role in this.

Building website traffic

I will not get too technical in this section; I am going to introduce you to different forms of marketing that you can utilise.

Organic search/SEO


Organic traffic is traffic that visits your website from unpaid sources/searches such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. It is the most valuable form of traffic your website can have as it is free and will attract consumers with high intent. Growing your organic traffic will bring long term results.

Start gaining more organic traffic; your website should be search engine optimised. Contact us if you would like a free SEO audit. We have made sure our dealer website platform scores 100 out of 100 when audited against Google Lighthouse (A website auditing tool).

Paid search (PPC)


Paid search is the complete opposite of organic search. Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo allow you to show your website ads on their search engine results pages for a per-click fee.

The benefit to paid search is that you can send traffic to your website within an hour compared to organic search, which takes time and patience.

If you would like to start buying paid search ads, I recommend you start learning about Google AdWords. Google dominates the search market, maintaining an 87.96% market share as of October 2019. I believe every business owner should at least have an understanding of Google AdWords and how it can help your business.

Social media


Using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. is a great way to acquire traffic. Start increasing page likes/followers by posting content; many social media platforms utilise algorithms that favour content that causes discussion.

Social media marketing will have a longer customer journey than classified adverts. Many consumers you market to will have low intent when compared to classified adverts with higher intent. Just remember the actions you take on social media might not take immediate effect.

I have seen quite a few dealers that will post every single car in their inventory to Facebook. Doing this can be off-putting for your followers if you have a large inventory and you are spamming their feeds with content that isn't relevant to them. I recommend posting engaging content with a link to your website so that consumers can view your whole inventory; I would also limit your car posts and only show your most exciting cars. The previous point also applies to paid ads; I would refrain from advertising all of your inventory as it can be inefficient.

Word of mouth/Relationship marketing


Word of mouth and relationship marketing is probably the most underrated and straightforward form of marketing. Buying a car is seen by many as an uncomfortable experience; however, it doesn't need to be that way. By providing a pleasant experience, you will be able to retain customers, in the long run, this very beneficial. Customers will most likely point their family and friends your way, and they will continue to buy from you.

Email marketing


Email marketing is the practice of sending content to a list of subscribers via email. If you haven't already started building a list of emails you should, email marketing can be very effective.

You can grow your list of subscribers via your website. Some dealers also ask their customers for an email address when they visit the showroom.

Once you have a list, you can easily start sending emails by using tools such as MailChimp, import your list and start sending.

Bear in mind that you can only send emails to individuals that have given you consent to receive marketing content. For more information on this, you can research the General Data Protection Regulation. Your website provider should handle GDPR consent for you so that you can build a list of emails.

Tracking traffic


As it stands, we have no way to track how effective our marketing efforts are. We need to be able to track how much traffic our website is receiving. Your website traffic is an excellent indication of how many leads you are receiving and ultimately, how many sales you are making.

If you aren't tracking your website traffic, you are blind to your digital marketing success. Your website provider should supply you with an analytics tool such as Google Analytics or deliver analytical updates. We make sure all of our clients receive a weekly summary of their website performance, this includes stats such as enquiries vs last week and much more.


We have discovered that classified advertising yields fast results with minimum effort; however, it has high costs and is a short term solution.

Many alternative marketing techniques will benefit your business in the long run. Some of these alternatives can take time and patience but will be the ultimate marketing investment.

My advice is to start investing in other forms of marketing mentioned in this article. When you have gained enough traffic from other sources, you will only need to use Autotrader, Motors and CarGurus for niche/prestige cars.