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5 Data-Driven Insights on Used Car Buyers from’s March Report

Last week, a new white paper hit my desk. These kind of industry reports cross my path all the time, and few are worth sharing. But I felt this is one would be quite useful to some of our dealers, especially those who sell used cars.

CarStory, a U.S.-based company powered by Vast, published “How to Convert Used Car Shoppers to Buyers” this past March. If you are unfamiliar with CarStory, they create market-based analytics that help online shoppers discover and decide on the right used car. 

Their latest study sought to identify who used car buyers are, what’s most important to them, how do they approach finding the right car, and what a dealer can do online to take advantage of this.

To save you from having to read through this 5,000-word marketing report, I’ve distilled 19 pages down to a 5-point highlight reel:


1. The Top Reason why someone would buy a used car

The Number 1 reason why people are buying used is all about money (in particular, saving money). Over half of all respondents said that “to save money” or “to get a good deal” were why they decided to buy used, while the third-place reason, “to get a special model that you can’t find new” was important for less than a third of all respondents. Not much of a revelation here, but pricing your vehicles to the market is extremely important.

2. The must-have features people are looking for in a used car

The essentials are all about tech and audio: MP3, Bluetooth, and iPod compatibility. Are you prominently displaying these features on your VDP? Not only do around a third of used car buyers now expect these features, but almost a half consider MP3 capability to be mandatory before even considering your used inventory.

3. What people are looking for in a vehicle description

Once again, hindsight makes this seem intuitive: people want to read about the things you cannot show with pictures. Tell people about the vehicle’s condition, and certainly its accident and service history.

4. How consumers navigate through your inventory

To answer this question, CarStory analyzed 326 million searches, and “Make” and “Model” were the one-two punch winners. Does your website allow make and model filtering before anything else? (One filter option they didn’t cover in their study is colour, which we strongly endorse.)

5. The Call to Action (CTA) that provides the highest click-thru rates

Two words: “Check Price.”

Not only did this CTA convert on over a third of all page visits, but it was 3X more effective than the third best CTA category, “Contact the Dealer.” Why do we suppose that was? Look back at point #1.


Bonus points:

6. The generation most likely to negotiate price

CarStory found that millennials were more inclined to negotiate than older consumers. This is probably because they are the most connected and well-informed generation buying cars.


7. The ideal amount of photos to include in your inventory listings

Finally, the study also reported that sharing fewer photos was better. How few? 9 photos, specifically. Now I would disagree with the number 9; our data supports a number closer to 21, but I would agree with the sentiment that you do not need 48 photos for every vehicle. Which photos are even more important than how many? Also, don’t ignore variety; make sure to mix up the amount of exterior and interior shots in the first 10 photos to give the consumer a feel for everything.


This report isn’t the be-all and end-all of selling used cars online, but it is a great start. It shows something that the most progressive dealers already know: if you don’t adapt to the ever-changing marketplace, you’re sure to be left in the dust. And if you’re dealing with millennials, they might want to haggle over that dust.

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