How to Be Successful in Internet Car Sales

August 21, 2019

Team ACV




How to Be Successful in Internet Car Sales

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This content has been reviewed and updated on July 11, 2023. 

Car dealerships have long been staples in their communities, with active sales departments and bustling service departments. Like many other industries, car buying has become increasingly digitized. Gone are the days of car shoppers simply walking right into their local dealerships to purchase a vehicle. In the past, landing a sale could take several hours, depending on whether the shopper test-drives several cars, applies for a loan, or wants a deeper understanding of the buying process.

Today, many customers are starting their car-buying journeys online. It’s becoming more accessible and easier to browse inventory online. Their in-person dealership experience is no longer an all-day process; in fact, it might only take a couple of hours to show the customer the cars they’ve researched and walk them through the contract. Some shoppers are even buying vehicles completely over the internet, confident in their selection. This type of shopping offers car shoppers the luxury of browsing their favorite makes and models from the comfort of their homes. 

COVID’s Influence on Online Car Shopping 

The COVID-19 pandemic certainly sped up the shift toward online car buying. Buyers are becoming so comfortable with online car sales that they are purchasing vehicles without even seeing them in person. Kelley Blue Book reports that, on average, consumers spend more time shopping for a vehicle online than at a dealership¹. During the pandemic in 2020, consumers spent about 7 hours shopping for a car online; in 2019, that time increased to almost 9 and a half hours.

That same report also found that about 57% of dealerships made the online shopping experience more user-friendly, streamlining the shopping process during the pandemic¹. This, coupled with customers knowing exactly what car they wanted even before starting the shopping process, helped speed up the process for consumers. About 71% of used car buyers and 74% of new car buyers reported feeling happy with their online purchase due to the fast process¹.

So, if you’re ready to transition from strictly traditional to online car sales, you’ll need to embrace new strategies and put a plan in place for capturing internet leads and consistently nurturing them. 

Here’s how to succeed in car sales online.

Internet Car Sales Tips for Success

Apply these tips for selling cars on the internet to stay ahead of the curve and your competition:

Build a Highly Informative Website

One of the primary reasons third-party websites are so influential is that buyers find them highly informative. If you want to gain more attention online and get more leads, try adding the following elements to your website:

  • Reviews about different makes and models—even ones you don’t currently sell
  • Videos that show the inside and outside of vehicles
  • Guides on the financing process
  • Calculators for determining trade-in value
  • A blog with news and timely information

The goal of your website is to be a resource for online car shoppers, not just a marketing platform. Qualified leads for a dealership have often visited the dealership’s website multiple times beforehand, so it’s worth investing in a high-quality, standout website². 

As part of your site optimization process, make sure it translates well to a mobile format. Casual shoppers often start their research on a phone or tablet, so the mobile experience is of the utmost importance.

Meet Internet Car Shoppers Where They Are

Many dealership owners think that all they need to do to address the rise in online car shopping is create or improve their dealership websites. While a strong dealership website is absolutely a must-have, it’s not all you need. 

Research from the 2019 Car Buyer Journey report found that car buyers spent 61% of their time researching online. But buyers aren’t just looking at dealer websites. Nearly 4 out of 5 shoppers use third-party sites to research vehicles³. Sites like Kelly Blue Book, Autotrader, and Carfax are now staples of the online car-buying process. 

Instead of trying to fight the influence of these sites or compete with them for customer views, consider working with them. You can capitalize on their popularity by partnering with third-party websites in one of three ways:

  • Add listings on sites like
  • Offer to write an expert guest post for a third-party website or contribute information
  • Link to detailed reviews of a vehicle make and model if you don’t have one on your site

Have an Active Social Media Presence

An increasing number of online car shoppers use social media sites during car buying. Currently, 21% of car buyers say social media directly influenced their car purchase⁴. 

The most popular social media sites that car shoppers use to inform their purchases are YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Consider creating pages for your dealership on these sites. As an online dealership, you can use social media accounts to promote specials, showcase vehicles, and connect with buyers close to the purchase phase.

Include Everything About the Vehicle Specifications in the Listings

Specifications, such as fuel efficiency and safety, are the number-one reason a buyer purchases a certain vehicle⁵. This information outranks reputation, price, and dealership experience, so it pays to be thorough when writing vehicle descriptions.

The inventory is what brings most online car shoppers to a dealership’s website. Every single vehicle should have a very detailed description with every specification listed.

Understand the Internet Car Shopper

Internet salespeople understand that online car shoppers are a different breed of buyer—especially as Millennial and Gen Z customers enter the car market. Dealers expect that the online consumer has done their research, is gathering information on the first contact, and isn’t likely to buy right after the test drive. They also know that internet car shoppers are all about convenience, saving time, and getting a great deal. These things should influence the way you interact with internet car shoppers.

The online shopper’s activities provide valuable data and insights that can inform your in-person strategy. Knowing who a customer is when they walk in the door empowers you to understand their priorities and meet their unique needs.

It’s important to note that even though the buying experience starts online, most buyers still want to finalize their purchase at the dealership¹. When a sales team knows how to blend data gathered online with personal conversations over the phone, via email, and in person, customers come away feeling like their experience is truly connected and personalized.

Make Things Easy for Shoppers

One of the downsides of using the internet is that shoppers are overwhelmed with information. At the beginning of the car-shopping process, many people feel confused, and that confusion can lead to frustration.

Car buyers note that the most frustrating part of the process is filling out the paperwork³. Adding the capability to review and sign contracts online to your website can set you apart from the competition, increase customer satisfaction, and help facilitate more car sales. Even dealers who purchase vehicles from ACV Auctions agree the simplified paperwork process is a major benefit.

Another frustration is difficulty searching dealership inventory to find a vehicle. A robust inventory search tool is worth the effort and investment. Give car buyers numerous ways to search for a particular type of vehicle and filters to narrow the selection down.

Guide Leads Through the Sales Process

Once you have an online car sales lead, you need to take steps to convert that lead into a paying customer. The average conversion rate for website leads for car dealerships hovers around 1.5%, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for more conversions6

Remember, online shopping is about convenience and easy access to information. If you miss a call from a lead, make sure to call them back within a few hours. Answer email within the same timeframe. Although social media gets a lot of attention as an easy and affordable way to connect with customers, email provides a valuable personal touch. Even if you use an automated responder to confirm when a message is received, all follow-up emails should come from a real person to start building the salesperson-customer relationship.

As an internet car sales professional, you have to let leads know they should contact you when they’re ready to schedule a test drive. Explain that you can have everything ready to go and save them time at the lot. Making the car buying process as easy as possible will help ensure a positive response from internet car shoppers.

ACV Prepares Used Car Dealers for the Future

Many industry insiders are predicting that online car shopping will overtake the traditional sales process within the next few years. But the underlying principle remains the same: Successful sales start with great inventory. ACV Auctions is your source for quality wholesale and used car auctions that keep your lot stocked with the makes and models your customers want. Our detailed market reporting even gives you a head start on providing meaningful details about each car, so you can entice customers and convert qualified leads to completed sales. Sign up today to start bidding and ensure your dealership is prepared for the future of car sales.



  1. Tucker, S. (12 December 2021). 5 Crazy Stats for Online Car Buying During the Pandemic. Kelley Blue Book. Retrieved August 9, 2023 from 
  2. Steinberg, D., Kain, D., Lanham, B. A Look into U.S. Auto Dealership Data Trends. Foureyes. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from 
  3. 2019 Car Buyer Journey. Cox Automotive. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from 
  4. Social media influences seven in 10 car buyers. Automotive Management Online. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from 
  5. Armstrong, M. (7 September 2022). Most Important Factors When Buying a Car. Statista. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from
  6.  How Not to Waste Web Traffic: 7 Tips for Dealerships. Fuse. Retrieved July 3, 2023, from