What to Ask your Auto List Supplier

When you decide to purchase or rent an automotive consumer mailing list, you should be asking some pointed questions. This article won’t cover everything, but with the information contained here, you should be better informed and better able to make sure you are buying a quality list that will work for you.

When you decide to purchase or rent an automotive consumer mailing list, you should be asking some pointed questions. This article won’t cover everything, but with the information contained here, you should be better informed and better able to make sure you are buying a quality list that will work for you.

The biggest issue with auto lists, in my opinion, is that many of them lack robust “hygiene” practices. The other issue is lists that are built, illegally, from data obtained from the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles” for non-marketing purposes. Since the implementation of the Shelby Act in 2001, it is illegal to use DMV data for marketing purposes. It can still be bought for non-marketing purposes like OEM recalls, surveys, etc., but the law is quite restrictive and if you are caught using such a list, be prepared to spend a lot of money on legal bills and fines.

When you look online and find companies advertising that their auto list contains 1 BILLION vehicles in the USA, run quickly the other way.

According to a 2007 DOT study, there were an estimated 254.4 million registered passenger vehicles on the road in the USA. There were just under 8 million motorcycles.

How, then, can a company have four times that number in their list?

Easy. They never clean out old records when new data come in. They may have the same vehicle listed several times with different owners.  If I have a Ford Escort, and end up in their database, then sell the vehicle to Joe Smith, and HE ends up in the database, in those lists, if you specify Ford Escorts, you might get the same vehicle twice.

Of course, if you send me marketing materials specific to Ford Escorts, they are going straight to the trash since I no longer have that vehicle.

It is critical to ask your list vendor how and how often they “clean” their data, and how they ensure that a vehicle is only in the database once.

In our case, we clean ALL data as it comes in the door.  We key every record to the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). When a record comes in, we look up that VIN in our existing data. If we have it in the database already, we check to see if it still shows the same owner and address. If the new record and the old record match, we throw out the new record since we already have that vehicle and owner. If they DON’T match, we then run a series of tests to determine which one is correct, then throw out the one we determine is not the current owner. It’s complicated and time consuming, but it’s how we make sure that we keep the accuracy of our database high.

With respect to DMV data, it is important to understand where your vendor gets his auto data. If he won’t or can’t tell you, run. If he says he gets it from the DMV, run. If he kind of mumbles and avoids the question, run.