9 Clouds Automotive Marketing Blog

Where automotive meets digital marketing.


Auto Dealers: Here’s How to Target Facebook Ads


Using Facebook ads makes selling cars as easy as selling water at a marathon. But you must target the right customers. Here's how. 

Targeting Facebook Ads

Targeting is the most important part of your Facebook ad. Unless you are using a custom audience, you’ll need to select your audience via Facebook targeting.

You can learn how to make Facebook ads, which are a big part of any automotive inbound marketing strategy, here.

Test, Test, Test

Before we go any further, your biggest takeaway from this post should be the importance of testing. Don't limit your campaign to a single ad set unless you have an extremely small budget.

The best way to lower your cost per click (CPC) and find the right audience is to split your budget between at least two ad sets to see which performs better.

General Targeting

Once you start your ad set, create your new audience under the “Targeting” section.

First, set your audience near the location of your dealership (+25 miles of your city is usually a good bet, unless you are in a densely populated city with many dealerships — then you might want to set it a bit lower). If there are any cities you want to exclude from your ad, set that parameter here as well.

For age and gender, unless you are an expert on your dealership's demographic, use the default setting of all genders ages 18–65. Otherwise, you could be missing out on potential buyers.

You can also select languages in this section. If you are in an area of the U.S. with a high population of people who speak a foreign language, adjust this section accordingly.

Detailed Targeting

Detailed targeting will make or break your ad — and your ad budget. When you find the right targeting, you’ll get better results from your ad: a larger reach, more clicks, and a lower CPC.

In this section, you can also add a “Connection,” which allows you to choose “People who like your page,” “Friends of people who like your page,” or “Exclude people who like your page.” This can be a good option if you're looking for another way to narrow your audience and/or want to add an element of social proof.


Facebook will give you “Suggestions” for detailed targeting options, but we don’t trust those. Your best bet is to go to “Behaviors > Automotive” and then select what fits your ad best. Don’t let the multitude of options intimidate you.

Where does Facebook get this automotive behavior data? The social network uses “multi-sourced, US consumer household information from IHS Automotive (Polk) that draws from geographic, demographic, and area-level vehicle characteristics validated using actual vehicle registration.”

Since the data is based on actual vehicle registrations, you can bet it's accurate.

New or Used: 90 Days vs. 180 Days

Choose different behavior sections depending on whether you are selling new or used vehicles. We’ll start with new.

You can choose “New Vehicle Shoppers (In market)” or “New Vehicle Shoppers (Max in market).” While it may not seem like it, there’s a big difference between the two.

“Max in market” shoppers are hotter leads. They want to buy a vehicle within 90 days. “In market” shoppers are looking to buy within 180 days.

Each option has a trade-off. If you select “Max in market” shoppers, you can narrow the options down to the type of vehicle the shopper is looking for (mid-size SUV, full-size sedan, etc.). That’s it. When you choose “In market” shoppers, you can select the particular brand of car you are selling.

So which one is better?

Who Is the Hotter Lead? We Tested to Find Out

This is why testing is so important. Here’s what we found from comparing the two types of new vehicle shoppers.

For one of our clients, we focused an ad set for a new car carousel on “Max in market” new vehicle shoppers. For the other set, we chose “In market” and selected our dealer’s make.

To summarize the difference, one set targeted people looking to buy any make within 90 days, while the other catered to people looking to buy the make advertised in our carousel within 180 days.


The “Max in market” option garnered a lower CPC and higher reach.

Despite one of the ads being targeted specifically to people interested in the brand we were selling, the “Max in market” ad performed much better, with more clicks and a lower CPC.

Why? Well, Facebook doesn’t explain these things, but we can hypothesize that people who are in the 90-day market are more antsy to click on a car ad, regardless of the brand they are seeking. They are hotter leads.

Test Your Audience

This is just one test out of many we have conducted at 9 Clouds. Results can and will vary by market and brand. We can’t guarantee you’ll get the same results.

However, we can guarantee that if you test your audience, you’ll find the right targeting for your store. You can run similar tests with used car shoppers.

Other Targeting Options

There are many Facebook targeting options for automotive in addition to what we mentioned. You can target potential customers by:

  • Owner: Find someone who purchased a car four years ago and may be looking to upgrade.
  • Income: Selling a luxury car, like BMW or Lexus? Target people who make more than $100,000 per year.
  • Make: If you are selling Chevrolet, target people who are looking for a Chevy.

Facebook has many options. Test your audience. Find the targeting that is getting you the highest reach and lowest CPC, and stick with it.

Facebook Ads Webinar

Think you've got a good grasp on Facebook targeting? Take the next step: take a look at our video series, 9 Clouds Live: Season 1, Facebook.

Whether you’re a beginner or a pro at Facebook ads, this series is packed with useful insights, lessons, case studies, and tips for your dealership to find success on this powerful platform. Best of all, it’s free to check!

Or you can click below to get broader help and insight from 9 Clouds: