automotive mailing listAutomotive direct mail lists, sometimes known as “DMV mailing lists,” are available in the automotive industry. Mailing lists reach vehicle owners for marketing purposes. Some of the most common types of vehicle owner mailing lists commonly available include:

  • BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz owners
  • Ford car or truck owners
  • Chevrolet car or truck owners
  • Honda, Acura, Toyota or Lexus owners
  • Jeep, Chrysler or Dodge owners

Data sources: automotive mailing lists

First, it’s important to understand the DPPA and Shelby Amendment: These types of lists may or may not come from state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMVs). In fact, they probably don’t! Vehicle owner lists are available in part because of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). Congress enacted it as an amendment to 103 H.R. 3355, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The DPPA protects the privacy of drivers. In 2000 it was amended with the Shelby Amendment. In some cases, this is how some vehicle owner mailing lists are possible today.

The Shelby Amendment requires states to obtain a driver’s consent before giving out any personal information. This is for an individual or in bulk. Most vehicle owner mailing lists do not come from DMV records, however. In fact, most high-quality mailing lists today come from multiple data sources. These sources include automobile service chains and dealerships. These lists, sourced from multiple databases, tend to be more accurate with more coverage.

Today, many automotive mailing lists come from multiple sources including self-reported data from websites. It also comes from financial and insurance companies, dealerships, automotive service chains and national OEM ownership clubs and lists.

A note about “predictor” automotive mailing lists

Modeled or predictor mailing lists use consumer data, combined with statistical modeling to predict what may be in a consumer’s garage. In fact, these lists can sometimes be based on data that contains personally identifiable information (PII) but not allowed to be used as-is, so the purpose of some predictor lists is to actually add additional error to avoid regulations and data restrictions! It is important to ask questions when using a “predictor” automotive mailing list.

What makes automotive mailing lists unique

Mailing lists of vehicle owners are different than other types of mailing lists, with the main difference being vehicle data.

These fields should be included in a mailing list file as an absolute minimum requirement:

  • Vehicle year, make and model, submodel if available
  • Geographic select (state, county, radius around address)
  • First and last name
  • Street address, city, state, postal (ZIP) code including ZIP+4, formatted to comply with the USPS Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS™). CASS improves the accuracy of a mailing list by using software to match to 5-digit ZIP coding, ZIP + 4 delivery point (DP) coding, carrier route coding, DPV® or DSF2®, LACSLink®, SuiteLink®, eLOT® and RDI™
  • Delivery Point Validation (DPV)

These fields or types of information should be available upon request and may be an additional charge. These additional fields are “selects.” Discuss these with your mailing list vendor.

  • Automotive do-it-yourself (DIY) activity
  • Odometer reading
  • Number of vehicles in the household
  • Title of recipient if available (Dr., Mr., Mrs., etc.) or suffix (Jr., IV, II, Sr., etc.)
  • VIN code of the vehicle
  • Date of last National Change of Address (NCOA) processing
  • Phone number when available
  • Email address when available
  • Demographic information of the household including ethnicity
  • Type of fuel: gasoline, diesel, electric, etc.
  • Vehicle body type
  • Date a record was validated or added to the database
  • Presence of children in the household
  • Household income

There are other optional types of fields available. Discuss this with your automotive mailing list service provider.

Automotive mailing list accuracy

Mailing lists on the market today typically range from 75% accuracy up to 98% accuracy. It depends on the sources of the data and how often the database is updated. Lists on the lower end of the accuracy range tend to rely on DMV data and are limited to certain states. These lists are often the cheapest, too. They probably haven’t been verified through NCOA. One clue is the automotive list provider’s website: does it list a street address, and can you verify in Google the street address exists? Is the list provider marketing to you using a generic email address and is there a street address listed in the email anywhere? Does the list provider specialize in automotive mailing lists or is it one of several dozen types of lists available? Is the mailing list provider a member of industry trade associations like SEMA, the Auto Care Association or AASA?

Lists on the higher end of the accuracy range tend to be compiled from multiple sources of consumer and vehicle data and are updated on a regular basis, usually weekly. Ask your list provider when their database is updated.

Directly related to accuracy is the deliverability rate. Ask your list provider if the deliverability is guaranteed. It is not unreasonable to have a postal mailing list with a deliverability guarantee of 95% to 98%, meaning 5% to 2% of the mailed pieces are not delivered to the recipient.

How to purchase mailing lists

First, look at our list of mailing list providers. Call them and ask questions about their data, like how often the data is updated or what the sources of automotive data are. The more questions you ask the more educated you’ll be when purchasing your mailing list.

Years ago, mailing lists used to be for rental only, and for a one-time use only. Today, many lists are purchased outright and can be used multiple times. Ask your list vendor if the list you are considering is available for rent, or for purchase.

Usually postal mailing lists are delivered as Excel files, .csv files or .txt files. If you are using a mailing list from an Excel file or .csv file, watch for the typical “leading zero” error. For example, a ZIP code from the east coast is likely to begin with a zero, like “02101” for Boston. If the field setting is not correct that ZIP code may be truncated to “2101” instead, which is an invalid ZIP code. The same can be true for other fields including Delivery Point Validation (DPV) or ZIP+4 fields if not included in the main ZIP code field. For example, some mailing lists may have the ZIP+4 in a separate field so in the case of a ZIP code like “44236-0102” if the “0102” is in a separate field and the setting is not correct to include a leading zero the field may be truncated to “102” which is an invalid ZIP+4 record.

Typical mailing list costs

Mailing lists are usually sold “per thousand” names, which can also look like “per M” or “$/M”.  “M” is the traditional print shop way to abbreviate one thousand. It comes from the Roman numeral for 1,000. Lists are also priced at cents per record. If a list is $130 per thousand or $130/M, that’s the same as 13 cents per record or $0.13 per record.

Adding additional “selects” to a mailing list such as VIN codes, email, phone numbers, etc., usually increases the cost of a list.

Mailing list costs for vehicle owner postal lists can range from $75 per thousand up to $140 per thousand (7.5 cents per record to 14 cents per record). This usually depends on the number of selects. Sometimes you get what you pay for: Cheaper lists may have more undeliverable records. That means the printing and postage you paid for is wasted and offsets paying less for the cheap mailing list. Ask your mailing list provider about deliverability rates.

Email mailing lists usually cost more and are usually not sold outright. They’re usually sold as a service: You pay an email company to send emails on your behalf. Emails usually range from $100/M up to $300/M depending on how specialized the list can be. Be wary of lists that are sold outright for cheap because these lists can be compiled from poor sources and they have likely been overused by the time you get them. Email companies often limit direct access to email lists to prevent abuse and to maintain list hygiene by monitoring soft and hard bounces.

Aftermarket sources for automotive mailing lists

To see sources of lists, see our list of mailing list service providers, here.

Sources:, mailing list FAQs.