Using Craigslist Paid Ads At Your Used Car Dealership


Last December, Craigslist made a huge change in how dealers could market their cars. Most dealers are painfully aware of this change. As of December, dealers have to pay to advertise on Craigslist at the cost of $5 per vehicle. This change was met with a lot of groans and gripes from dealers, and if I’m honest, I was groaning as well. However, in our office, there was one who had a differing viewpoint. The owner of MotorLot said that this would be the best thing in the world for dealers. While I didn’t believe him at the time, I have to admit he was right, for a large number of reasons. Let’s look at why paying for craigslist ads is one of the best ways to advertise your dealership and some dos and don’ts of advertising on Craigslist.


The first and foremost reason Craigslist going paid is awesome is that it drastically reduced competition for advertising space. In Phoenix, a very competitive used car market, cars for sale by dealer on Craigslist went from having around 15,000 ads being posted daily to around 1,500. That is a 90% decrease in the number of daily ads. That means your ads are 90% more likely to be seen.


Back in the days of free Craigslist ads, dealers would engage in some ruthless practices, like posting a car 100’s of times in a day. They would do this to bury another dealers inventory. This was an especially brutal practice for customers looking for a specific car. If I, for example, searched for a 2006 Toyota Camry, the first hundred results could all be for the same car, but with all different titles. It forces the customer to look at all the ads and eventually give up hope and not look at any other dealer. It was a great practice for the one dealer that got the sale, but terrible for the customer and other dealers. With paid ads, situations like that are no longer a reality.


Finally for those of you dealers that advertised on Craigslist in the free days, you probably remember the constant struggles with flagging and ghosting. Some days, ads would go fine, others, it would be next to impossible to get an ad to stick. Between flagging and ads getting buried, managing Craigslist was a full time job.


So, we can agree that Craigslist going paid is a good thing, yes? Good. With that out of the way, let’s look at a few basic dos and don’ts.

Call script

DO: Use call tracking. Call tracking is the best way to know how well your ad is performing. Especially if you have more than one person answering the phones at your dealership. A good call tracking system will assign specific numbers or extensions to each ad and give you reports based on those. They will collect your leads for you and give you usable data so that you can adapt and grow how you use Craigslist. Check out MotorLot’s call tracking service for an example of what call tracking should be.


DON’T: Try to cram more than one vehicle into one ad. I’ve seen this one semi-often. A dealer, thinking they can stretch their advertising dollar, lists 10 or so cars onto a single ad. At best this looks cheap and unprofessional and at worst it’s horribly confusing and turns a potential customer away from your dealership.


DO: Post a lot of pictures. I’ve already talked a lot about photos in a previous post which you can see here. For brevity, I’ll condense that article down to this statement: Lots of good pictures will sell your car.


DO: Write a good honest description. Again, this is a topic I’ve covered at length here. To make a long article short, having a good, well-written, honest description will sell you more cars.


DON’T: Post the same vehicle more than once a day. I’d even venture to say not more than once a week. For one, that violates Craigslist’s terms and conditions, but more so, it’s a waste of money. With the relatively small numbers of ads these days, it is not at all necessary to flood the marketplace with your cars.


DO: Put the actual price of the vehicle. I have seen too many time, dealers listing their cars at $1. Most people will not respond to those ads because it looks like the dealer is hiding something. Be honest and up front about your prices. Don’t put the monthly payment in the price field on Craigslist, save that for the vehicle description. That level of honesty in advertising will sell your cars.

MotorLot Logo
DO: Get a tool like MotorLot to manage your postings. MotorLot makes managing Craigslist simple. With MotorLot, one click is all it takes to get a live ad up on Craigslist, and we give you all the tools you need to track your ads performance and help you maximize your advertising dollar.

August 8, 2014 - Written by

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