A Driven market is Heating up within Car Sales Australia

The online car sales market in Australia has been dominated by CarSales.com.au ever since it was first created in 1996, an impressive fifteen years, however new players are pushing hard to fight for a share of the market. Any effort to compete may be in vain as one of the biggest challenges for other used car sales related websites is to appear in search engine result pages (SERP) for the search terms “car sales” and “used cars”. There is a distinct advantage to the domain name CarSales.com.au as it naturally dominates search engine results for the search query “car sales”, yet there is some variation in SERP position for the next most popular search query “used cars”. The TradingPost.

com.au has recently made a significant effort to compete with the search term “used cars” with obvious SEO optimization techniques as their website has suddenly become visible on the first page of search queries in recent months. It has also been sharing penultimate number 1 position for the Australian version of Google (www.google.com.au) recently which is a surprise to the long term dominance of CarSales.com.au.

Another competitor in the space is CarsGuide.com.au, which is part of News Limited. They have recently taken a different approach to compete with CarSales.com.au by swamping traditional media such as radio and billboards with messages similar to marketing themselves as “the smart choice for selling your car online”. A commentators in the industry suggested that CarsGuide are attempting to establish themselves as the “Number 2” in the industry and have accepted the premise that beating CarSales off their top podium position is an impossibility. Perhaps such an assumption narrow minded since CarsGuide is a News Limited entity which has tremendous resources at its disposal.

The publicly listed company’s interests span newspaper and magazine publishing, Internet, Pay TV, National Rugby League, market research, DVD and film distribution, and film and television production trading assets. Nonetheless, CarSales announced in their end of Financial Year 2011 Report that Profit was up 35% from the previous financial year to $58.3m after tax. Who would have thought that a website dedicated to facilitating the selling of vehicles in Australia would be so profitable? Being a public listed company offers transparency to competitors and may inevitably drive those competitors to the belief that competing is worthwhile. Meanwhile, there are a number of other sizeable corporations competing as well, including eBay with their “Motors” section in combination with the eBay owned company Gumtree.com.au. A striking difference between CarSales and its competitors is that CarSales is the most expensive option to list your car for sale in Australia.

A direct approach taken by CarsGuide is to simply offer listings for “half the price” at $30 versus $60, however is listing on CarsGuide at least half the value? If we take a look at the “Private Cars for Sale” on CarsGuide, the number of cars listed as at 9th April 2012 is not even close to half with just 12,112 versus 72,819 on CarSales. On these metrics alone it would appear that 16% of the cost compared to CarSales comes to less than $10, so it really does not appear to be good value for money. Of course, the true value for money comes from the number of potential buyers, however these types of metrics are not publicly disclosed. In contrast, what if we were to analyze the FREE market of online car sales in Australia? Is it possible that there is some value there instead? Thankfully for many faithful users of Gumtree it continues to be a free option available despite its ownership by eBay and it boasts 63,246 cars for sale at the same date. While these numbers appear to be similar to CarSales, the downside however is that Gumtree seems to have significant regional popularity and lacks market penetration in the capital cities throughout Australia. For example, there are only 4,443 cars listed in Brisbane versus 16,341, so the largest population market is still clearly dominated by CarSales. A surprise competitor in the free Car Sales market however is Boost Classifieds, which boasts 8,615 Private Used Cars listed in Brisbane, which is obviously significant value for money since it is absolutely free. With such fantastic free options available we’re led to question why people continue to pay to sell their cars online? The simple reasoning is the lack of marketing, while CarsGuide, TradingPost and CarSales can afford to help convince the public that paying to sell their car on their sites is good value for money, the truth is that even selling one of your greatest assets online can be achieved without cost.