I think it’s time to address a problem that’s been plaguing car shoppers with eyes for more than a decade now. And that problem is: dealers who don’t take pictures of the vehicles they have for sale when they list them online.
Before I get started, I must admit that I recognize this may not be a huge problem for those of you with excellent imaginations. Also, people who draw very well may be able to create an image of the car based on Autotrader descriptions. For instance: you see “alloy wheels” and you draw some nice, big, handsome alloys. You see “rear spoiler” and you put a nice flattering spoiler on the trunk. You see “we finance anyone,” and you draw a salesman wearing a suit that cost as much as a bath mat.
But for the rest of us, we like to actually see the vehicle in question before we spend two hours in the finance office listening to a presentation on GAP insurance.
As an example of what I mean, I’ve decided to create a fictional automotive shopper named Roger, who is currently looking for a new vehicle. Roger has decided that he wants a brand-new Mazda6, because he has two primary goals in life. Number one: he wants to zoom. And number two: he wants to zoom.
So Roger logs on to Autotrader (which, full disclosure, I also write for occasionally) where he goes searching for a new Mazda6, only to discover that every single dealer in his region uses the same stock photo. That means every Mazda6 for sale near Roger is a well-equipped car with large alloy wheels in that metallic bright red color, going around some corner that may actually be a green screen. This includes cars that are silver and have hubcaps the size of a pocketwatch.
So Roger does what any logical car shopper would do at this point; namely, he begins searching for a Honda Accord. But then he discovers it’s the same problem in the Honda Accord world: stock photos everywhere. So he looks for a Camry. Stock photos. A Fusion. Stock photos. A Sonata. Stock photos. An Optima. Stock photos. He briefly considers looking for a Malibu, but then he decides on something better: a unicycle. Roger buys a unicycle instead of a car. That hipster bastard.
Now, the dealer’s argument against putting up pictures of every car in their inventory is twofold: number one, you already know what a new car will look like. It’s not like a used car, where you want to see the condition of the paint, and the age of the tires, and the status of the interior. All new cars are new, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that stuff. And number two: they’re lazy.
But here’s the thing, car dealers of the world: people are about 4 million times more likely to buy a car, even a new car, when they see photos of it first. To help illustrate my point, consider this scenario: you’re buying a car. What’s more likely to grab your attention: a stock photo of a generic car with generic wheels and a generic color? Or the actual car you might buy, glistening in the sun, with every piece of trim newly polished as if to say “PICK ME!” like an abandoned puppy at the dog rescue?
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: you are more likely to buy the puppy car.
Of course, this argument goes well beyond new cars. I cannot tell you how many times I log on to Autotrader, find a used car I’m interested in, and discover the dealer has taken three total photographs: one of the car’s exterior. One of the car’s interior. And one of the dealership’s giant sign out front.
NOTE TO DEALERSHIPS: I am not exactly enticed by these pictures. Instead, I look at them, and I study them carefully, and I think to myself: Did the camera battery run out? Or something?
Of course, I could also get into the fact that a vehicle description should not be one line about the vehicle and 37 lines about how you’re the number two Acura dealer in all of Central Oklahoma, but I’ll save that for another column.
Instead, today I’m here with just one Helpful DeMuro Tip For Car Dealerships. And it is: take pictures of your inventory. Take pictures of your new cars. Take pictures of your used cars. Take pictures of all your cars. Because winter is coming, and I think Roger could use a break from his unicycle.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.