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How to run an independent dealer

Jul 9, 2021
8
2
Awards
1
First Name
Francisco
I have a million questions and I want to be as competitive as possible, the only problem is the person I am working with has no experience in the internet side of dealerships. It has been in business for over 30 years, but it is getting to the point where we must transition into the digital marketing side, and start using all the possible tools possible to help sale cars. We rely heavily on returning customers/trade-ins and occasional auction purchase. We have 5 units that we can currently move. We operate as a Broker service, used car lot, I am in the process going through all current social media platforms, and setting up a website. I am fairly tech savvy and have no issues learning about any auction tools, inventory tools, etc.

I notice a lot of local independent dealers use things like Dealersync to operate their websites, and I wonder at what point we will need this. We go to 5-6 auctions a week and are looking to start moving some more cars. Just looking to link up with some like minded people who can lend me some advice! Thanks again for your time!
 
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Brian.Pate

Green Pea
Sep 10, 2020
8
5
First Name
Brian
Hey FrankPerez0210 -

I can only speak from my experience helping and working at single-location independent dealerships. My opinion (and bias) will be a lot different than others here. I like being transparent on pricing, but take all $ amounts with skepticism. These change regularly and prices always seem to be up for negotiation or grandfathered in.

Inventory & Dealer Mgmt System (DMS): Frazer - Here in Virginia, it integrates smoothly w/ the DMV and it's only ~$50/mo. It looks/feels like it was built in the early 90's, but it does exactly what you need. Automatically sends inventory feed to your website and other digital sites (CarGurus, etc.). The vAuto and Dealertracks are much more robust, but not worth the price (IMO) for a smaller single-location dealer.

I can't speak to DealerSync, but it seems similar to vAuto and Dealertrack. With the volume you mentioned (5), I think these tools would be more for when you're selling ~100 per month. With everything I'll mention in this post, I've seen dealers sell 60+ per month w/ very small payroll overhead.

Website Provider: CarsForSale - They're in the volume game, so you get a great looking site w/ solid features (i.e. SEO) for ~$100/mo and outstanding customer support. They have a team of devs to help with unique customizations. They're a decent CRM option, but it is limited compared to other solutions out there.

Note - Still $200/mo, Selly has a great CRM platform at a fraction of the cost of most dealer CRM options. Their customer service is not to brag about, but the automation options for lead follow-ups etc. are impressive for the price.

3rd Party Lead/Sales Sites:
CarFax - If you buy low (preferably 1) owner, solid service record and no accident vehicles, it's a great site to find sales leads. Price ranges from $400-2,6K/mo. (all of these tools increase price once they believe they're your sales lifeline).
CarGurus - If you can buy well enough to sell at floor retail (CarGurus "Great Price"), this is a great source. Your goal is to rank high in their search...dealer rep and price seem to be the two biggest factors. Again, price ranges from $300-3K/mo.
Cars.com & Autotrader - Can't speak to them, but I've heard MOSTLY good things.
Facebook - They're switching it up this September, but still a great place to post vehicles (review your State DMV disclosure requirements).
Craigslist - Mixed reviews, but still an opportunity to find sales leads. Costs $5 per dealer vehicle post (review your State DMV disclosure requirements).

Note: A lot of these lead sites/partners have mastered SEO. So if you learn the nuances to rank well on each, then you'll be maximizing the added benefit of their SEO power. It's hard to grow your local SEO (Google My Business - GMB, etc.) and it can take ~3-6 months to start seeing returns. Ranking high in search on these 3rd party sites can have a lot quicker return.

Digital Auctions:
Manheim/OVE - I don't buy here anymore and try to stay away from the entire COX family, but some dealers have great success. If you take the time to understand their vehicle inspection process and arbitration nuances, you'll for sure have success.
CarMax Dealer Auctions - Great success here and they're decently dealer friendly. Arbitration policy has always felt more reasonable than the Manheims, but again...just my opinion.
ACV Auctions - Extremely detailed condition reports, but the prices seem to be a little higher in return as they eliminate a lot of the vehicle quality concerns. They don't get as much credit for giving independent dealers the confidence to buy 100% remotely. I haven't had a bad experience, but their arbitration process has mixed reviews.
ADESA - Can't speak to them, but I've heard similar feedback to Manheim.

Inventory Sourcing Partners:
CarOffer (Now part of CarGurus family) - I've yet to try, but have heard nothing but good news.
KBB ICO - If you're lucky enough to get one of the limited spots in your local market AND have the time to feverishly follow-up on leads, this is a great program. Price ranges from $1.4-$5K/mo. depending on the program type.
Vehicle Acquisition Network (VAN) - I'm not a fan at how painful their website/tool is to use, but they're leaps ahead of any similar tool. They basically scrape Craigslist, Facebook and other marketplaces looking for inventory you can buy directly from the private market. Price is ~$500/mo.

Digital Auction Tools:
Stockwave - I don't use this and it's in the COX family, but it's the most robust simulcast tool on the market to buy faster in the bigger national auctions. Most experienced (full-time) buyers use this and nothing compares. I've only heard raving reviews from those that gave it a fair shot.
MyAutoHound - This is a tool I originally built for our lot (DISCLAIMER), but it helps dealers buy more on ACV Auctions by automating the condition report analysis. In short...it's a time savings (automation) tool helping dealers buy more, faster. It's $140/mo.
Accu-Trade's VIN-dow - It's the best VIN scanning and chrome browser extension I've found to help you buy smarter in real-time. Laser Appraiser, Autoniq, etc. are great, but they don't offer the user experience that Accu-Trade does (all these tools have the same price point). It's ~$200/mo.

Transportation Service(s):

Central Dispatch - This is the only transport service I've used and I'm breaking my 'no COX family tools' rule. It's a great site for transporting vehicles. Most auctions are now offering instant transportation options, but you can save a few $ with a little extra work by posting to Central Dispatch. Just be careful with arbitration windows bc the auctions aren't as flexible if you use a personal transport service that causes you to miss deadlines. It's ~$100/mo.

Email Marketing, Financing, Warranties:
Another day - You mentioned digital marketing, auction and inventory tools in your OP, so hope this helps a little. As you scale, the suite of tools that fit will change too. There are a lot of cool stuff out there (chat bots). Just find whatever you need now to get you through your next business hoop.
 
  • 1:light:
Reactions: Alex Snyder
Jul 9, 2021
8
2
Awards
1
First Name
Francisco
Hey FrankPerez0210 -

I can only speak from my experience helping and working at single-location independent dealerships. My opinion (and bias) will be a lot different than others here. I like being transparent on pricing, but take all $ amounts with skepticism. These change regularly and prices always seem to be up for negotiation or grandfathered in.

Inventory & Dealer Mgmt System (DMS): Frazer - Here in Virginia, it integrates smoothly w/ the DMV and it's only ~$50/mo. It looks/feels like it was built in the early 90's, but it does exactly what you need. Automatically sends inventory feed to your website and other digital sites (CarGurus, etc.). The vAuto and Dealertracks are much more robust, but not worth the price (IMO) for a smaller single-location dealer.

I can't speak to DealerSync, but it seems similar to vAuto and Dealertrack. With the volume you mentioned (5), I think these tools would be more for when you're selling ~100 per month. With everything I'll mention in this post, I've seen dealers sell 60+ per month w/ very small payroll overhead.

Website Provider: CarsForSale - They're in the volume game, so you get a great looking site w/ solid features (i.e. SEO) for ~$100/mo and outstanding customer support. They have a team of devs to help with unique customizations. They're a decent CRM option, but it is limited compared to other solutions out there.

Note - Still $200/mo, Selly has a great CRM platform at a fraction of the cost of most dealer CRM options. Their customer service is not to brag about, but the automation options for lead follow-ups etc. are impressive for the price.

3rd Party Lead/Sales Sites:
CarFax - If you buy low (preferably 1) owner, solid service record and no accident vehicles, it's a great site to find sales leads. Price ranges from $400-2,6K/mo. (all of these tools increase price once they believe they're your sales lifeline).
CarGurus - If you can buy well enough to sell at floor retail (CarGurus "Great Price"), this is a great source. Your goal is to rank high in their search...dealer rep and price seem to be the two biggest factors. Again, price ranges from $300-3K/mo.
Cars.com & Autotrader - Can't speak to them, but I've heard MOSTLY good things.
Facebook - They're switching it up this September, but still a great place to post vehicles (review your State DMV disclosure requirements).
Craigslist - Mixed reviews, but still an opportunity to find sales leads. Costs $5 per dealer vehicle post (review your State DMV disclosure requirements).

Note: A lot of these lead sites/partners have mastered SEO. So if you learn the nuances to rank well on each, then you'll be maximizing the added benefit of their SEO power. It's hard to grow your local SEO (Google My Business - GMB, etc.) and it can take ~3-6 months to start seeing returns. Ranking high in search on these 3rd party sites can have a lot quicker return.

Digital Auctions:
Manheim/OVE - I don't buy here anymore and try to stay away from the entire COX family, but some dealers have great success. If you take the time to understand their vehicle inspection process and arbitration nuances, you'll for sure have success.
CarMax Dealer Auctions - Great success here and they're decently dealer friendly. Arbitration policy has always felt more reasonable than the Manheims, but again...just my opinion.
ACV Auctions - Extremely detailed condition reports, but the prices seem to be a little higher in return as they eliminate a lot of the vehicle quality concerns. They don't get as much credit for giving independent dealers the confidence to buy 100% remotely. I haven't had a bad experience, but their arbitration process has mixed reviews.
ADESA - Can't speak to them, but I've heard similar feedback to Manheim.

Inventory Sourcing Partners:
CarOffer (Now part of CarGurus family) - I've yet to try, but have heard nothing but good news.
KBB ICO - If you're lucky enough to get one of the limited spots in your local market AND have the time to feverishly follow-up on leads, this is a great program. Price ranges from $1.4-$5K/mo. depending on the program type.
Vehicle Acquisition Network (VAN) - I'm not a fan at how painful their website/tool is to use, but they're leaps ahead of any similar tool. They basically scrape Craigslist, Facebook and other marketplaces looking for inventory you can buy directly from the private market. Price is ~$500/mo.

Digital Auction Tools:
Stockwave - I don't use this and it's in the COX family, but it's the most robust simulcast tool on the market to buy faster in the bigger national auctions. Most experienced (full-time) buyers use this and nothing compares. I've only heard raving reviews from those that gave it a fair shot.
MyAutoHound - This is a tool I originally built for our lot (DISCLAIMER), but it helps dealers buy more on ACV Auctions by automating the condition report analysis. In short...it's a time savings (automation) tool helping dealers buy more, faster. It's $140/mo.
Accu-Trade's VIN-dow - It's the best VIN scanning and chrome browser extension I've found to help you buy smarter in real-time. Laser Appraiser, Autoniq, etc. are great, but they don't offer the user experience that Accu-Trade does (all these tools have the same price point). It's ~$200/mo.

Transportation Service(s):
Central Dispatch - This is the only transport service I've used and I'm breaking my 'no COX family tools' rule. It's a great site for transporting vehicles. Most auctions are now offering instant transportation options, but you can save a few $ with a little extra work by posting to Central Dispatch. Just be careful with arbitration windows bc the auctions aren't as flexible if you use a personal transport service that causes you to miss deadlines. It's ~$100/mo.

Email Marketing, Financing, Warranties:
Another day - You mentioned digital marketing, auction and inventory tools in your OP, so hope this helps a little. As you scale, the suite of tools that fit will change too. There are a lot of cool stuff out there (chat bots). Just find whatever you need now to get you through your next business hoop.
Thank you for the in depth response! It helped tremendously, and I will continue to reference a lot of the information!

It looks like I might end up securing carsforsale.com since it is fairly affordable and comprehensive for where we are at this stage.
 
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Reactions: Brian.Pate