Car valuation tools are all over the web, yet manufacturers are notably absent from the search result rankings. Here we ask whether this represents a potentially missed SEM opportunity and discuss whether or not car manufacturers should introduce valuations.
When buying or selling a car, you want to know that you’re getting a fair price, and online car valuation tools are ten a penny. Type a phrase like, “how much is my car worth” or “car valuation free” into Google and you will find a lot of competitors vying for these prominent keywords, including share of voice leaders carcraft.co.uk, wow.com, and autotrader.co.uk. What you won’t find is a variety of car manufacturers advertising their own valuation tools.
The Benefits for Online Dealers
But why not? Surely, the manufacturer understands the value scale of its cars better than anyone. It knows how its used cars sell and for how much. It also understands the factors that affect a car’s value and possesses all the necessary information relating to each of its competitors’ models, as well as those attached to its own brand.
Unlike car manufacturers, online dealers and trading sites actually buy used cars from their customers. As a result, valuation services must be conducted in a manner that suits such a service’s agenda.
As noted by The Telegraph’s James Foxall, these sites typically offer prices below actual market values. Of his experience trying to sell a 60-plate Volkswagen Polo 1.6 TDI, Foxall writes that the worst offers made to him by the various valuation sites were £555-£1200 below the Glass’s Guide price. While Foxall does touch on a few positives, on the whole, his article seems to emphasise the unreliability of these sites in delivering a fair price.
Advertisements relating to car valuation and purchasing sites generally claims to take the fuss out of selling cars, making for a quick and pain-free experience. But how much money should the customer be prepared to hand over for this convenience? Isn’t getting paid too little for a perfectly good vehicle the most painful experience of all?
This is not to say that these sites should be avoided. For customers, the key is to shop around. As Foxall says, “These firms are essentially online car dealers, so they are open to offers.” If the customer finds a better figure elsewhere, they can go back to their preferred site and reopen negotiations.
Why Manufacturers Avoid Valuations
So why don’t car manufacturers offer valuations in the same way? Essentially, it’s because they’re operating within a different market. It’s in the trading sites’ best interests to create a fast and furious selling environment. If a customer values his car and sees that it’s losing value, he may want to undersell it then and there, leaving the site to mark the car up and the seller to look around for a new car.
For car manufacturers, the circumstances are different. Although they do sell used cars through their websites, they don’t buy used cars directly from customers. In this way, it doesn’t make sense for manufacturers to offer valuations. Providing the customer with his or her car’s estimated value might give the wrong impression that the manufacturer would buy the car from the customer at that price.
Reasons to Reconsider
Yet declining to offer valuations also has some obvious drawbacks. If customers are drawn to a trading site like Car Craft or Auto Trader because it offers all the services and tools they need, it makes sense that they might start looking for their next car as long they’re on the site.
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Looking at the bigger picture, by offering fair valuations on their own sites, car manufacturers might theoretically assist in moderating car value, keeping prices steady in the industry as a whole. If proven effective, this approach would certainly be in the manufacturer’s best interests. A particular make or model could become well-known for maintaining its value, attracting customers to the cars in question as sensible, long-term investments.
If car manufacturers decide that they want a slice of the action, they have a lot to learn from current PPC trends. According to Google Analytics, the most important and frequently used search terms relating to the subject include “car valuation,” “car valuation free,” “car valuation online,” “how much is my car,” and “how much is my car worth to sell,” all keywords to prioritise when calibrating a new campaign.
The most searched car valuations according to Adthena data are currently for the Mini Cooper (the beloved, tiny British auto owned by BMW) and for BMWs themselves. With the German car manufacturer a prime candidate for introducing car valuations to its site, maybe they should ask themselves the obvious: who better to say how much a BMW is worth than BMW?
For auto manufacturers, valuing used cars for customers presumably ranks comparatively low as a priority when compared to the concerns of auto dealers and trading sites. Yet, as we have explored, being linked with such a service may prove to be a net positive – for the company itself and for the industry as a whole.