New vs. Used Cars: A Strategic Approach Is Key in Car Dealership Marketing

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

New car registrations are released every March and September, but do new car or used car searches come up trumps with car manufacturers and retailers at these times of year?

Traditionally, September and March are the hottest months for car sales. While this is partly because new registrations come out in these two months, it’s also when people are likely to have more money on hand for a big investment. Summer holidays have been taken and the expensive Christmas period has passed, meaning there’s more disposable income available.

However, it’s not just about people rushing to splash the cash on new car registrations – the prices of used cars dip as well, as garages rush to sell their older registrations to make space on the forecourt for new ones, according to CarBuyer.

But how do new car registrations affect the sales of both new and used cars? Is there a better time for car retailers to sell their wares? We dig into the data to find out.

The Competitors

We decided to focus on three different types of car retailer: car manufacturer Peugeot and leading car classified ads website Autotrader to see how their bidding decisions changed when new car registrations were released in September and March.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”×650.png” title=”Care retailers share of clicks, Adthena data” src=”×650.png”][/lightbox]
Care retailers share of clicks, Adthena data

Peugeot’s trend graph over the last eight months shows a decreased SOV in September and October, a spike in November and December, then another drop towards March, when the new registrations are released.

Peugeot’s drop in January isn’t surprising, as it’s unlikely people would be looking to buy a brand new car straight after Christmas. However, its spike in December could be due to Christmas bank holiday traffic, with customers looking at what’s available before purchasing the following year.

Autotrader’s SOV trend shows a strategy different from its other competitors. The company’s hot periods coincide with the release of new car registrations, suggesting that they’re trying to take advantage of people rushing to trade in their old cars.

This influx of available used cars in turn means greater choice for purchasers, so Autotrader is attractive to both sets of customers. Additionally, the data shows that March is the more popular time for people to sell cars, rather than the end of summer.

Which Keywords Were Responsible for this Changeable Market Share?

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Top car related keywords trend, Adthena data

Unsurprisingly, most of the top keywords related to car sales increased in September 2014, bar used cars and second hand cars, but this doesn’t explain Peugeot’s drop, which mostly advertises only new cars.

At this point, the data shows that, although used cars remained the highest trafficked keyword, it was on a very significant downwards slope into October. The more generic cars, as well as the slightly more niche cars for sale and used cars for sale keywords all saw a spike at this point – hardly a surprise, as droves of people were selling their cars to buy a newer model.

Autotrader’s top keywords for the period were used cars and cars for sale, but it dropped spend completely on cars at the end of January, which is why the overall number of clicks dropped significantly as the calendar flipped to March.

Unlike Autotrader, Peugeot showed a more strategic focus over the course of eight months, keeping its performance on new car keywords consistent. The company used its sale-focussed words like car sales in the run up to new car registrations and upped bids on car for sale at the beginning of March to boost its SOV.

At this time, it completely dropped spend on other words in hopes of boosting its ROI, which, as the overall SOV graph shows, it didn’t manage to do against Autotrader.

However, clicks overall for all the keywords in March dropped significantly in comparison to September, with the highest trafficked keyword used cars accounting for around 4,000 clicks, a far cry from its September total of 20,000.

Could it be that car retailers knew people would be on the hunt for cars in March – as is traditionally the case at that time of the year – and cut back on spend? After all, the market in September is much slower and in much greater need of an advertising boost than in March.

[lightbox rel=”group1″ width=”860″ href=”×624.png” title=”Car retailers keyword head to head, Adthena” src=”×624.png”][/lightbox]
Car retailers keyword head to head, Adthena

So Who Is Bidding More Intelligently?

Autotrader employs the most intelligent strategy, ensuring it gains the majority of clicks during periods of high demand by using used car-specific keywords.

It also adapted its approach for the two different hot periods during the year, focussing heavily on the generic cars keyword in September and switching to a wider selection of used cars-related words in March.

Adthena’s competitive intelligence for search allows car dealerships to determine when the best time to bid on the most relevant keywords is. In an industry where timing is essential to getting the best ROI during valuable times of year, businesses are able to see what their competitors are doing in the market and react quickly.

No Adthena client data was used in this analysis

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.