Most of the websites I have launched during my online career have been developed because of a passion or interest in a particular subject.
Knowledge is power and sharing my knowledge of a subject has been the foundation of every success I have had.
My latest passion is cars. I never used to be a car guy and was just happy with a car that got me from A to B; however, over the last few years I have become more interested in cars. There were a few reasons for this.
First reason was that I bought a cool little sporty coupe car a few years ago (it was a Fiat Coupe which I later crashed). For the first time in my life I started enjoying driving. I also started chatting to my friend Michael more about cars around this time. He is a big car enthusiast so I got to know more about cars because of him.
Perhaps the most relevant reason I am more interested in cars is because I am now driving around 1,000 miles per month. I am spending more time sitting in a car so it is more important for me to be comfortable and to enjoy the driving experience.
Over the last month or two I have visited car websites every day in my search for my next car. I am always watching reviews on YouTube, checking listings for new cars on sale, and discussing cars with fellow Rise Forums members.
It was therefore inevitable that I would start to look at creating a car website of my own. I have a lot of good ideas about how I could build a profitable car information website using the WordPress platform. I am still at the early stage of bringing it all together, but I have started looking at what car related plugins and themes are available online.
One of the best selling car related designs is Car Dealer Automotive WordPress Theme. Developed by ThemeMakers, Car Dealer was designed for companies who need to build a website to buy, sell, or lease vehicles.
In this article I would like to show you what Car Dealer can do and how you can use the theme to build a car sales website.
Design and Features
Let's get one thing straight before we move on. Car Dealer is not a general WordPress design that is simply being marketed with car styling and car images. It is a niche product.
You will find a lot of WordPress themes that are marketing as being for a particular type of website but can actually be used for everything. For example, I have seen sports WordPress themes that could easily be used for blogs and I have seen cooking WordPress themes that can be used for corporate websites. All you need to do is change the styling.
Car Dealer is different.
It has been designed from the ground up to help people design car sales websites. You will be pleased to hear that it does exactly what it was designed to do.
The theme boasts lots of features to help you display cars and sell them. Many of these features become apparent after looking at the demo of Car Dealer. The three demos on offer show you what is capable with the theme. There is a classic demo, a fullwidth demo, and boxed demo.
The home page of Car Dealer looks great. The LayerSlider powered slider showcases cars beautifully and the search box allows visitors to search for new cars using a wide number of fields. This includes make of car, price, year, mileage, condition, and more.
Car listings display key information about the vehicle and can be labelled as featured or sold.
A navigation menu is displayed at the top of the website. This can be made sticky through the theme options page and display at the top of the page as you scroll down.
Unfortunately, the header menu is the only menu location. I would like to see one or two more locations added in areas such as above the logo and in the footer. It's not a major issue though as there is a plethora of widget areas (more on this later).
One of the things I love about Car Dealer is how many ways it allows users to browse vehicles that are being sold. There are three different inventory templates that display car listings and you can display listings by car manufacturer, body type, and location.
Users can sort results and filter results in a number of different ways to help them narrow down the car they are searching for.
What becomes apparent quickly is the attention to detail in Car Dealer. There's lots of little options available to help improve the experience for users.
This includes a handy print button to print any car advertisement that a user sees and the ability to add cars you like to your watch list. You can also compare specifications of cars you like.
Signed in users can edit their profile on Car Dealer and define their company website and company address.
Users can also view a list of the cars they have added from the profile area.
To submit an an ad all the user has to do is state the features and details of the vehicle and then upload photos and videos.
Two different styles of blog index templates are provided with Car Dealer. The theme also supports five WordPress post formats: Default, video, audio, quote, and gallery.
A blog will be an essential part of marketing a car related website so it is great to see that the blog index and single post templates look great.
Native support for WooCommerce means that Car Dealer can be used to sell directly to customers. You could tap into your website's traffic and sell car related products and services.
WooCommerce is a flexible eCommerce solution that can be used for almost anything. You will love how easy it makes selling things online.
As you would expect, Car Dealer is responsive too. This means your website will look great on desktops and on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
To see how Car Dealer handles mobile visitors and get a better appreciation of how great the theme looks, check out the demo page for the theme.
Installing Car Dealer
Once you have uploaded Car Dealer to your website and activated the theme you will see a notice advising you to install certain plugins.
Two plugins are required: ThemeMakers Cardealer Features and ThemeMakers Visual Content Composer. The developers also recommend installing seven additional plugins: ThemeMakers AddThis, ThemeMakers DB Migrate, ThemeMakers PayPal Express Checkout, WooSidebars, Envato WordPress Toolkit, WooCommerce, and LayerSlider.
I was pleased to see that Car Dealer does not overtake your WordPress admin area. There are top level menu items for the staff and car post types and there are a few menu items added when plugins such as WooCommerce and LayerSlider are activated. Thankfully, ThemeMakers have kept the theme options area tucked away in the appearance section like it should be so your WordPress admin menu will not be a mess.
I normally recommend that WordPress users test each recommended plugin to see whether they need the functionality it adds. For example, if you use an all-in-one WordPress theme, you will not need WooCommerce activated if you are not selling anything on your website.
However, with Car Dealer it makes sense to activate all required and recommend plugins in order for the theme to work as it was intended.
Installing the Demo Data
It is easy to get lost when you first install a new WordPress theme as you are unsure about how the design works. This is why it is becoming commonplace to provide WordPress users with an option to import demo.
Car Dealer is a user-friendly WordPress theme, however I still recommend installing the demo content to help you get an understanding of how the theme works.
To do this, go to the theme options page that is located under the WordPress “Appearance” menu. Then scroll down to the “Import / Export” section at the bottom and ensure that the “Demo Data Install” option is selected. There is an option to import image attachments and to backup your database before you do the installation.
ThemeMakers advised me that the demo data is about 30MB in size and contains assets, settings, posts, and pages etc. Due to this, I recommend importing the demo data on a test WordPress installation and not on your live website. This will allow you to see how the theme works and save you from having to delete data from your live website later.
To see the demo import in action, skip to the two minute mark in the video tutorial below.
A list of car producers can also be imported through the import and export page. This is a step I recommend doing as it ensures your car sales website has an up-to-date list of car manufacturers. Doing this manually would be a royal pain in the ass so it's great to see import functionality provided for this.
A total of 1,130 car producers and cars were imported when I clicked for producers to be imported. This total will increase over time as new cars are released.
Configuring Your Website with Car Dealer
Car Dealer is quite unique when it comes to how it handles theme settings. It has two main options area.
The main theme options area handles common website settings, styling, the blog, etc. A separate settings area is available for all of your car listings. This second settings area is technically part of the ThemeMakers Car Dealer Features plugin that you are required to install, but it is such an integral part of Car Dealer that the functionality could have been built directly into the theme itself.
At the top of the main settings area you will find links to theme documentation and to a support forum. There are also buttons to save your settings and reset your settings to the default options. As I noted earlier, there is also import and export functionality to export your settings to another website.
Car Dealer does not give you as much control over your website as an all-in-one theme, but it doesn't need to. The theme is not designed to be an all-purpose design that can be used to create many different websites. It was designed to help you sell cars.
You can modify the styling of key areas such as your header, navigation area, content area, footer etc. Font type, font size, link colours, background colours, and much more, can all be changed too.
Key settings can be enabled and disabled at the click of a button. For example, in the blog settings area you can switch meta information on and off. Car Dealer also comes with built-in social media sharing functionality.
Everything to do with car listings and selling on your website is controlled in the settings page located under the car post type.
There are dozens of options to configure. You can configure payment settings, default page links, car listing pages, and more. In the car options editor you can define what specifications of vehicles are listed.
There are options for the home page slider and you can modify the emails that are sent to users. The default dealer types are personal, small business, and company; however more dealer types can be added via the settings area.
My favourite feature is the option to add a watermark to all of the images that are uploaded for car listings.
All you have to do is upload a suitable PNG image and then set the watermark opacity, size, and position.
Sadly, there is next to no support for the WordPress theme customizer beyond basic WordPress settings. I would love to see the styling options from the theme options area integrated into the customizer so that users can change styling and see the changes in real-time.
One way to make money through Car Dealer is to sell account upgrades to users. The recommended PayPal module lets you easily do this. You can charge different prices to personal users, small businesses, and large car companies.
Car Dealer has great support for widgets. A whopping eighteen widget locations are provided in the theme and there is a page to add additional widget areas. This is great for integrating advertising and content into your website.
ThemeMakers, the developers of Car Dealer, have also provided a large number of custom widgets with the theme. Twenty-four to be exact. A further eleven widgets will be available if WooCommerce is activated.
These custom widgets really enhance the functionality of Car Dealer and help visitors find a suitable car. My favourites are the loan calculator widget, the search by body widget, the featured cars widget, and car statistics widget. The banner widget is useful too.
Sixteen page templates are included in Car Dealer. This allows you to assign any page on your website as a particular type of page.
Underneath the page template selection box you will see an option to add a slider followed by the custom page options box. These options are also available in blog posts.
The custom page options box lets you change the type of header being displayed on that particular page, the title bar, the background, and the sidebar position.
From the main settings area you can configure basic SEO options for your home page and for your car listing page and blog page. The meta title, meta keywords, and meta description, can be modified on a page for page basis.
I wouldn't suggest using these SEO options over something like Yoast SEO, but it good to see this functionality available. Unfortunately, the theme does lack an option to disable these options if you are using a dedicated WordPress plugin for SEO. Hopefully this is something they address in a future version of the theme.
You will also see an option for adding a post gallery in your blog post editor, but this is not available in pages.
Thirty-six shortcodes are available to help you style your content area. You will find the shortcode button in your visual editor.
In addition to common shortcodes such as pricing tables and contact forms, you will find many car specific shortcodes such as a car listing carousel, car locations, car makes, car bodies, and more.
I had assumed that the included shortcodes would be quite basic, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that each shortcode has many different fields and options. It would put many drag and drop page builders to shame.
The layout constructor helps you build your page as you want it. You can easily create new columns and rows. Simply edit one of the modules to bring up the WordPress editor and then add content as you see fit. You can easily insert text, images, videos, and shortcodes.
If I'm honest, I didn't expect much from the shortcodes and layout constructor but they both work really well together. If you buy Car Dealer, I would be hestitant to recommend a drag and drop page builder such as Visual Composer until you have tried this out for yourself as you may find that Car Dealer has everything you need.
Pricing and Support
Customers gain access to an active support forum and there is a large documentation area that explains every aspect of the theme. I recommend referring to this documentation area after installing the theme as it explains everything you need to know about the theme.
Car Dealer works with the WordPress Multilingual Plugin and customers will get access to two original Photoshop PSD files when they purchase the theme.
A quick check of the comments area on the sales page of Car Dealer on ThemeForest shows that customers are well supported and there are no major bugs reported. The theme has also been regularly updated since its release in October 2014 with the last update coming just a few days ago.
Car Dealer is a fantastic WordPress theme. It's easy to use, well documented, well supported, and can be used to build a profitable car dealership website.
There are some areas in which I think it can improve, such as support for the WordPress theme customizer, but it hard for me to complain about that too much when there are so many other great things to talk about. The number of custom widgets and the inclusion of content shortcodes and a layout editor was a really nice surprise. As was the inclusion of LayerSlider.
From a user's point of view, Car Dealer is really easy to submit new car listings and very easy to navigate. Users can search for new cars and filter results. They can also compare cars and save ones they like for future reference.
My job as a reviewer is to check the theme thoroughly. I did my best to test Car Dealer and look at how it works and how it can be improved. Through my testing I did not come across any errors or any bugs. Sure, there are ways in which the theme can be improved, such as an option to disable the provided SEO functionality, but I did not find anything that stopped me from using the theme as intended.
Of course, the real test for any WordPress theme is testing it on a live website. I tested Car Dealer on my test WordPress installation and imported all demo content to see how everything worked. Sometimes problems occur when a theme gets used on a live website due to plugin conflicts etc, but there doesn't seem to be any complaints from existing customers so I do not believe that is something to be concerned about.
To find out more about the theme, please visit the Car Dealer sales page on ThemeForest. Be sure to check out the live demo to see how the theme looks in different devices :)
Thanks for reading.