When checking out your online listings, car buyers expect to find information beyond photos of the vehicle and a list of how it’s equipped. They’re looking for assurance that the car will both appear and perform as promised should they visit your store for a test drive and, ultimately, take it home. By utilizing independent tools such as vehicle history reports (VHR) and manufacturer certification programs, you validate the claims you make about your used cars and help shoppers feel good about moving ahead with a purchase. Read more to learn how you can leverage these tools to build trust with online buyers.


As consumers increasingly incorporate VHRs into their shopping process, it’s important to include links to the reports with your online listings. In addition to detailing the car’s ownership (e.g., was it truly a “one owner” car or a rental?) and service history, VHRs alert shoppers to any accidents in which the car may have been involved.

While shopping sites such as Cars.com offer consumers a direct link to purchase a CarFax Report, dealers also have the option to purchase CarFax Reports and share them online free of charge to the shopper. By offering these reports to shoppers free of charge and making them easily available from your website and listings, you give buyers a greater degree of trust in your dealership and show prospects you have nothing to hide.

What is the value of these reports to your bottom line? In many cases, the answer is the sale itself. Among car buyers who used a VHR, 57 percent said they would not have bought the vehicle without it.[1]

VHRs Also Help You

In addition to building confidence with consumers, VHRs help your store avoid a potentially costly mistake. When inspecting a customer trade-in, for example, accessing the vehicle’s report can bring issues to your attention that an inspection might otherwise fail to uncover. Knowing that a car was once part of a rental fleet, for example, gives you a better sense of how much money to offer the customer. Similarly, knowing the car was poorly maintained or involved in several accidents may be a sign that you should take a pass. In any event, you’ve saved yourself from being surprised by concerns that may surface later should you buy the car and retail it on your lot.

Manufacturer Certification

For franchise dealers, manufacturer-backed certified pre-owned (CPO) and certified used vehicle programs boost car buyers’ trust in late-model cars and drive sales. Consumers appreciate the multipoint inspections, extended warranties, third-party VHRs and roadside assistance that add peace of mind to their purchase.

In fact, leads submitted by certified shoppers close at a higher rate and faster than other car leads. On average, Cars.com visitors that send leads on certified vehicles buy a car seven days faster than noncertified lead senders. They also were 29 percent more likely to stay within the brand for which they sent the lead than were other used-car lead senders, fulfilling your goals to build brand loyalty.

Meanwhile, a more recent analysis of Cars.com customers who purchased a certified vehicle found similar results with respect to brand loyalty and repeat business. In reviewing more than 1.7 million sales of new, used and certified cars to Cars.com shoppers between 2004 and 2007, the study found that CPO owners were 25 percent more likely than used-car owners to be brand loyal when buying new, and 32 percent more likely than new- or used-car owners to be brand loyal when buying used.

When developing your online listings — whether on your store’s website or on an automotive shopping site such as Cars.com — put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Consider the information that would give you confidence that the product will perform as promised, then identify ways to include it with your advertising. Just as adding videos and photos help you visually verify the vehicle’s condition, VHRs and certifications give buyers additional confidence and peace of mind.

[1] J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Used Vehicle Sales & Certification Study