For a litany of different reasons which we’ve discussed in earlier posts, new car inventory dropped during the pandemic and is proving challenging to get back up to pre-pandemic levels. While automotive ad airings in general took a hit in 2020, local dealerships and auto groups have tried to make the best of a less than ideal situation by showcasing their used car inventories. By looking at broadcast commercial transcription data, we found that among local dealership ad airings the number of ads using words such as “used” or “pre-owned” have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. They peaked in July of last year with 53,000 ad airings that month but have been holding steady as supply chains have shown to harder to turn on than off.

Used Car Airing Trends

Used Car Airings by Month

While it’s certainly not the majority of ad airings, we found that since the start of the year there have been 75,500 airings mentioning used or pre-owned vehicles. That amounts to 12% of all local dealership ad airings. The biggest used car advertiser is American Car Center Auto Group based out of Memphis with 2,200 airings this year. They have locations all over the Southern United States and, as such, advertise in a number of markets which helps account for the number of ads.

The map below shows local dealership ads using the terms “used” or “pre-owned” in the transcript by media market. The top market this year for used car advertising is Binghamton, NY, with over 3,000 individual airings since the start of the year. Other deep orange markets on the map are those that have seen over 1,000 used car ads from local dealers. We expect that used car ads will trend downwards as supply-chain problems are solved and new car inventory increases, but will continue to track this throughout the year.

Used Car Airings by Market