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The automotive retail landscape has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, driven primarily by the advent of digital marketing and online marketplaces. Traditional advertising mediums such as print, radio, and television have seen a shift towards more dynamic and interactive platforms, predominantly online. This transition has been particularly impactful for car dealerships, which have traditionally relied on local and conventional advertising methods to reach potential buyers.

The emergence of online marketplaces like Autotrader, CarGurus,, and Carfax has revolutionized the way dealerships approach marketing and sales. These platforms offer extensive reach and detailed targeting capabilities, potentially connecting dealerships with a vast audience of interested buyers. However, the effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) of these marketplace listings have been a subject of debate among dealership owners and managers.

In the past, a few strategically placed ads in traditional media could reliably draw customers into dealerships. However, the modern car buyer’s journey is increasingly starting online, with a focus on conducting thorough research before setting foot in a showroom​​. This shift has necessitated a different approach to dealership advertising, with a greater emphasis on digital marketing strategies that align with current consumer behaviors.

Digital marketing offers several advantages over traditional methods. It allows for increased online visibility, as online searches are now a primary method for customers to find dealerships. The top organic search results on Google, for example, have a click-through rate of about 28%, underscoring the importance of strong online presence​​. Additionally, digital marketing enables dealerships to personalize the customer experience and directly engage with potential buyers, especially through social media platforms​​.

Despite these advantages, the cost-effectiveness of online marketplaces has been questioned. Dealerships often grapple with high costs, difficulties in differentiating their offerings, and challenges in tracking direct sales attribution from these platforms. The debate centers around whether the investment in these marketplaces yields a sufficient number of quality leads and actual sales to justify their costs.

Consequently, dealerships are exploring alternative advertising strategies. These include leveraging digital marketing avenues like search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, mobile optimization, and video marketing, each offering unique benefits and potentially higher ROI​​​​. For instance, SEO improves the visibility of dealership websites in search results, email marketing allows for personalized communication with potential buyers, and social media marketing enables direct engagement with a broader audience.

This research article aims to delve into the effectiveness of listing vehicles on online marketplaces for dealerships, examining both the benefits and drawbacks. It will also explore alternative advertising strategies that can complement or substitute marketplace listings, aiming to provide dealership owners and managers with a comprehensive understanding of the options available to them for maximizing their advertising ROI in the evolving digital landscape.


  1. DealerSocket Digital Marketing Guide:
  2. – (Background information on major marketplace sites like Autotrader, CarGurus, and their features)