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Struggling to Acquire Used Car Inventory? Marketing Can Help.

cars for sale on a dealership lot
Article Highlights:

  • Your customer database can be a valuable tool for vehicle aquisition.
  • Predictive analytics data can identify customers with high trade-in value.

Inventory acquisition is a part of daily life at a dealership, but with this recent shortage it can feel nearly impossible to find the used cars you need. As cars are being sold faster than they can be replaced, many dealerships are having a hard time keeping a decent-sized inventory.

If this is the case for your dealership, you may need to take a new approach to acquiring cars. Luckily, you don’t need to create a whole new game plan to find the used vehicles you want for your lot. Instead, you just have to know of a few good places to dig:

Expand Your Search

If the number of people trading in a car at your dealership is slowing, make sure you are looking into other places that customers are likely selling their cars—online. Sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist cater to people looking to sell their old vehicle privately. You can use the features on these sites to not only limit the results to cars within a certain distance from you, but to search for specific makes or models and be notified of any new listings in areas you’re interested in.

Reconsider Your Parameters

Generally, there are certain cars that you don’t want to pursue—ones with heavy mileage, in need of extensive repair, or that are simply too far away. When cars are hard to come by within your parameters, it is important that you revaluate them. Determine if you are able to provide your customers with the same quality of vehicles if you were to simply expand the radius of your search an additional 100 miles. Similarly, if you know there is heavy interest in a certain make or model in your area, it may be worth the time and effort to clean something up that you might have otherwise passed on.

That being said, reconsidering your parameters is not the same as sacrificing the quality of the vehicles you obtain in order to refill your inventory. It’s better to have a small (but quality) inventory than to buy up vehicles that you won’t be able to sell. Use your best judgement on what vehicles you should acquire and which you should stay away from.

Look to What (or Who) You Know

Your customer database can be an extremely valuable tool when it comes to acquiring vehicles. Not only do you have the advantage of already having a relationship with these customers, but you are able to have a better understanding of a car’s history when you made the original sale and serviced the vehicle.

Predictive analytics data can help you identify the customers that are more likely to be interested in selling their car or upgrading to a newer model. You are able to see what kind of offers and campaigns your customers are likely to respond to, what kinds of vehicles your customers are interested in purchasing, and who is most likely to buy based on past purchasing behaviors. With the right help, you may be able to identify customers who might not yet know how beneficial a trade in would be for them. This data can be a great resource when it comes to advertising to only the segments of your market that might be ready to trade-in.

With this sort of information, your dealership’s service drive becomes an invaluable place for acquiring inventory. Your service team offers a lot of value to your returning customers, but sometimes their best offer is showing customers a new vehicle that suits their needs better than their current one. Using equity mining can show you which service customers might be in the market to trade soon, and you can approach them with the exact numbers to form a win-win situation–your customer leaves satisfied in a new car, and you acquire another one for your inventory.

We all know how difficult it is to keep quality used cars in stock when the number of new vehicles being produced is low, but approaching your acquisition strategy using these tips can improve your rate of success. Simply expanding your search, reevaluating your business’ purchasing practices, and taking a deep dive into your own database can present new opportunities to find the used cars that you (and your customers) want.

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Mollie is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Reynolds and Reynolds. Since joining the team in 2022, she’s guided initiatives for Reynolds marketing products, produced the Connected podcast, and worked with dealers to collect testimonials and success stories. Mollie received her bachelor’s degree in Studio Art and English from Marietta College. She also obtained an associate’s degree in Marketing from Rhodes State College.

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