Dealer Marketing Tip: The Secret Sauce to Finding Pre-Owned Vehicles

Let’s face it, pre-owned vehicles are hard to find and it’s even harder to pay the price that you, Mr. Dealer, want to pay.  Pre-owned vehicles are a competitive market because every dealer wants a lot full of vehicles at $10k and under and the prices at auction continue to increase.

The best way to get pre-owned vehicles – and by best I mean the most cost-effective ROI – is to get them from your dealership’s customers though a Vehicle Buy-Back Program.  With a Vehicle Buy-Back Program, your dealership is making a conscious decision not to go to auction, pay all the auction fees and buy vehicles you know nothing about, from people who you have never met.  This should not only be part of your internal decision making process, but also teach your sales staff those exact word tracks and use them when they talk about your store’s approach to buying used vehicles.

Now you may be thinking, “I’m not just here to buy cars…I need to sell them too! And I need an ‘in the market’ customer today!”  I know…I get it.  But how much more ‘in the market’ could a customer be if they are in the process of selling their car to your dealership?!  Let’s be honest; most consumers have a perception that they get the short end of the stick on a trade so it’s pivotal that you make the trade the reason for their visit and your interest in them.  Your staff should start the meet and greet process by talking about how much you want a prospects trade.  (Unless of course it’s being towed to your store.)  Promise them that you’ll give them a better trade than anyone else and that their car is gold to you…and hold up your end of the deal by coming through for them.

The other huge advantage to this approach is that it’s unique in your market.  Every other dealership will start the process starts with “What do you want to buy today?”  As you know, no one wants to be a “buyer.”  That’s why 90%+ of the prospects that drive on your lot tell you they’re “just looking.”  However, the Vehicle Buy-Back approach will put them in the “Seller’s position.” When done successfully, you’ll see the customers’ defensive walls fall, allowing you more quality time with each prospective buyer.Once you’ve completed the trade conversation, then and only then can you discuss a purchase of a vehicle.  There is no better lead at this point…because this customer will need a car!  This is when your salesmanship and quality of your product comes into play.

Now that we have an understanding of the Vehicle Buy-Back Program, let’s look at how to run it successfully.  Many dealerships have attempted to run the program but have done so unsuccessfully because they did not do a full-blown marketing campaign around the program.  Don’t just send a direct mail piece to everyone and anyone under the sun.  It’s critical that you use every medium possible, from mail to email, TV ads, radio ads and calls.  Yes, a multi-channel communication effort is required to make the program worth your time, effort and money.  Here are some automotive marketing recommendations for a successful Vehicle Buy-Back Program:

  1. Get the right list!  Use your customer database and look at the competitive makes/models in your backyard.
  2. Send personalized mail pieces and emails to your targeted audience in your database.
  3. Follow up with outbound calls.
  4. Include Vehicle Buy-Back Program in your News, Radio and TV ads, with each having it’s own tracking mechanism, such as a 800 number and/or QR code, as well as a link to your website.
  5. Place a video on your website, explaining the program.
  6. Put an emphasis on a sales to service conversion.  Make sure that your service advisors are identifying/recommending Vehicle Buy-Back prospects.
  7. Track your results!

The Vehicle Buy-Back program can be your secret sauce to finding quality pre-owned vehicles, as well as finding the perfect ‘in the market’ customer available from a sales perspective.  However, as mentioned above, a comprehensive multi-channel communication endeavor is needed to make it a success.

~ Steve Dozier, National Director of Training @ DMEautomotive


Steve Dozier brings 15 years of experience in the automotive industry to DMEautomotive (DMEa). Before joining DMEa, he held upper level management positions in the retail industry. Steve also owned a consulting company that specialized in CRM and direct mail, which brought in $2 Million in Sales for approximately 5 years. While serving as a consultant Steve was consistently recruited by the top 3 CRM firms of that time. Steve started at DMEautomotive in a managerial position overseeing the Direct-to-Dealer team, and is now responsible for developing and growing DMEa University; DMEa’s in-house dealer training organization. Steve is married with two children and enjoys scuba diving and boating in his free time.

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