It’s been about three years since I started my own YouTube channel about cars, and I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two in that time. It hasn’t been easy, but somehow I’ve managed to grow the DriveAndReview YouTube channel approximately 700 subscribers at the time of this writing. I know – that doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering how much of a nerd I am in front of the camera, I consider it a miracle. What’s even more of a miracle is the fact that I get questions all the time from people asking me how to become a car reviewer on YouTube.
Making the decision to be an automotive reviewer
I am 44 years old now, and if you would’ve told the 10-year-old version of me that one day I would be making money reviewing cars, I probably would’ve pee’d my pants in excitement. I’ve always been a car guy. Always. My earliest memories usually involve me holding (or chewing on) a toy car, so I guess you can say that I’ve always had it in me. Becoming a car reviewer on YouTube only seemed natural to me once the option became available.
I’m going to get into more detail in a moment listing all the requirements needed to review cars, but the point I’m trying to make here is that more than anything else, you’ve got to have a passion for the automobile. Without that, reviewing cars is going to get old really fast. Trust me on that.
Two things you MUST have to become a car reviewer on YouTube
Now that we have established that a love for the automobile is the most important thing for even considering this, it’s time to move on to the nitty-gritty details. The good news is that it’s incredibly easy for anybody to start a YouTube channel and become successful. The barrier to entry is extremely low, so anybody with the right mindset can make it work. As I said earlier, if a nerdy guy like me can, anybody can.
1. A smartphone
Is there any better way to start a detailed list of the things you need to become a car reviewer on YouTube than with something you already have? I’m not psychic or anything. But I’m willing to bet that you’ve got a smartphone that shoots high-definition (1920×1080) video.
Did you know that TJ Hunt started with nothing but his mobile phone? Even more interesting is that streetspeed717 (an automotive YouTuber with over 1 million subscribers) still uses nothing but a little GoPro for every single one of his videos. Heck, even a total goofball like me managed to scrape together 700 subscribers with nothing but a GoPro and an iPhone.
Camera gear doesn’t matter. If you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got all the equipment you need to start a YouTube channel reviewing cars. The focus of your channel in the beginning should be all about learning the ropes and growing your subscriber base. You can worry about upgrading to better camera equipment at a later date.
Yes, it will be amazing when you upgrade to a nice point and shoot camera such as the Canon G7X (or even a DSLR like a Canon 80D), but you’re going to need to earn it. There’s no point in stepping up to better camera equipment if you can’t grow a channel with the amazing smartphone you already have in your pocket.
Becoming a car reviewer on YouTube means that you’ve got to prove yourself as quickly as you can. When you’re just starting out, it’s not likely that you’re going to have access to any interesting vehicles. That’s OK. The important thing is that you grab any car you have access to and start filming. If that means it’s your brother’s 2002 Toyota Celica GT or nothing at all, then so be it.
Proving yourself as an automotive reviewer as quickly as you can is important so that you can start approaching car dealerships (and even auto manufacturers) to review their cars. I’ll get into the details of how exactly to do that in a moment, but you’re going to need a catalog of approximately 20 to 30 really good and in-depth car reviews on your channel to take it to the next level. Yes, it’s going to be a ton of work, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
If you’ve never reviewed a car before, you’re likely to be in for a shock once you discover how difficult it really is. There’s a lot more thought that goes into filming a good car (other than just sticking a camera in your face and starting to talk) so just know that you’re going to have to plan out each review in excruciating detail long before you start filming.
Lacking the enthusiasm to pump out quality reviews of crappy cars such as Toyota Celica’s and clapped out Honda Civic‘s is an absolute must-have.
Taking the next step and getting access to more interesting cars
Before going any further, I think it’s important to clarify that “more interesting cars” Isn’t limited to what the local dealership has in their inventory. You can be a very successful car reviewer on YouTube by reviewing other people’s cars just the way that ThatDudeinBlue does. David built a following of 1 million subscribers by reviewing other people’s project cars. Not the newest stuff from the auto manufacturers. However, just know that you’re going to have to have a large network of friends and acquaintances to be able to get a constant supply of cars to review that way. It’s a ton of work.
If your goal is to review cars from the dealerships in the manufactures directly, read on.
How to approach automotive dealerships
Becoming a successful car review on YouTube means having the ability to pick up the phone and network. And you know what? I’m not afraid to admit that the requirement to reach out and start doing cold calls is what has held back my own YouTube channel. It’s scary to put yourself out there when you’re even the slightest bit afraid of rejection, but it’s very necessary if you’re going to be successful at this.
The reality is that it’s not all that difficult to approach car dealerships to get access to their cars. After all, it’s a win-win situation for everybody involved because it’s great exposure for them and really good content for you. All it takes is for you to be proactive and to get out there and start making connections.
As long as you’ve built up a respectable subscriber count (say, at least 5000) and your audience seems to be engaged and enthusiastic about your reviews, you’d be surprised how many dealerships will say “yes” when you ask to review some of the cars on their lot. Explain how beneficial it will be for them (car dealerships love free advertising), and promise to include their contact information several times in the video. They’re likely to say “yes” more often than not!
How to approach auto manufacturers to get press cars
When it comes to becoming a car reviewer on YouTube, getting press cars from the manufacturers themselves is the ultimate goal. No doubt about it. Is there nothing more exciting than building a career out of driving brand new cars around and getting paid to do it? If that’s the pinnacle of happiness to you, then you are going to need to learn how to work with the auto manufacturers to get your hands on those highly-coveted press cars.
Surprisingly enough, getting access to press cars is a lot easier than you might think. As long as you’ve got a healthy and growing YouTube channel with an active and engaged subscriber base, there’s nothing wrong with contacting the PR department of your favorite car manufacturer and pitching yourself to them. As a matter of fact, that’s the only way they will ever hear about you. If you don’t reach out, it’s likely that you’ll never even be a blip on the radar to them. You definitely have to be proactive.
Your pitch to these PR departments should be short and sweet. It can be via either email or a phone call, but basically you need to drive home the point that you have an engaged audience interested in their products. It’s also important that you emphasize that you have the ability to provide valuable exposure to their brand.
Remember, this isn’t about you. No automotive manufacturer would want to work with anyone who is just looking to drive some fun cars for no reason.
One final point to make about getting access to press cars is the fact that you’re going to have to work your way up the ranks. That means a small YouTube channel isn’t worth a lot to them, so in the beginning, you’ll be lucky to get small and cheap economy cars to review. It’s going to take a lot of time to build up the clout to end up on the list of people that they hand the keys of $100,000 sports cars to a regular basis.
It’s all about relationship building, and that takes time and patience. Becoming a successful car reviewer on YouTube takes years – so be repaired for that. As a matter of fact, that’s a perfect segue into my next point.
Fact: you need the entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to succeed
If you look at all the biggest car reviewers on YouTube, you’ll see that nearly all of them have been doing this for five years or more. Some have been doing it for 10. Becoming a car reviewer on YouTube is an extremely competitive and mentally challenging thing. However, if your passion for cars is what gives you the energy to get out of bed every day, then there’s no reason why you can’t jump into the mix and become one of the biggest and best automotive channels on YouTube.
It’s going to take at least a year before you begin to see any progress and growth, so you have to be prepared to crank out videos for many months in a row knowing that very few people will see them. And that’s OK, because it’s likely that your first videos won’t be all that interesting. The initial lack of subscribers and viewers will give you the time you need to polish your craft and to create an engaging and interesting review style that will be the basis of your channel growth.
I’ve been in automotive entrepreneur for well over 10 years now, and I’m confident in saying that the vast majority of “wanna-be” car reviewers on YouTube won’t have the stamina to last more than a year. It sucks when nobody watches the videos you create, and the lack of subscribers makes it sting just a little bit more. It’s very necessary that you have the vision and determination to make it work over the long term. Make a plan, hang it your wall, And stick to it.
Did you know that was how TJ Hunt grew so big? If you look back on some of his older videos, you will often see him referring to his “whiteboard of goals” he had hanging in his room. I remember when one of those goals was to reach 20,000 subscribers, and at the time, I thought it was a ridiculous and impossible goal considering how small and unpolished his channel was. Think about that.
Fact: having a blog will help
Want to know the secret of becoming an extremely successful car reviewer on YouTube? Create a blog to accompany your channel!
Trust me on this. Despite all of the things you’ve heard about blogging being “dead”, it’s completely untrue. Blogging has never been more popular, and as a matter of fact, it has the possibility to be far more profitable than a YouTube channel. This is because you are in 100% control of your blog. It’s 100% yours, you call the shots, and you can monetize it any way you see fit.
A blog also serves as a mechanism to attract attention from those who would have never have found your YouTube channel in the first place. Google search engine traffic and YouTube traffic are two completely separate animals, and you are going to find major success if you can capture them both.
The best part about having a blog to go along with a YouTube channel is that it’s not all that difficult to create content for. A strategy that works for me is to create a written version of my most popular videos, sprinkling in a few pictures and additional comments along the way (m7 2016 Hertz Shelby Mustang GT-H review is a good example of this). There are also a lot of really good companies out there who can transcribe your videos for you if you don’t have a time, but really it’s not all that difficult to do yourself. No matter how you do it though, it behooves you to get the blog up and running as soon as you can.
An added benefit of having a blog to go with your automotive YouTube channel is the fact that you will appear to be more established and professional in the eyes of the car dealerships and auto manufacturers that you reach out to.
Some resources for starting a car review channel on YouTube:
Ready to get started? Here are a list of some handy resources that helped me when I was starting my YouTube channel (and blog). You certainly don’t need to use all of this stuff, but there are some handy tools here that will help to accelerate your growth if you’re willing to invest the time and energy into them:
- Matt Maran‘s YouTube channel. Of all the independent car review channels on YouTube right now, Matt is doing it the best IMHO. As you will see after watching just a few of his videos, he has a very clear and consistent style between every review. He is the YouTube car view master as far as I’m concerned, and you can learn a lot from him.
- The GoPro Hero 7. Even though I already mentioned that camera gear isn’t important (and a smartphone is all you need to get started), I fully believe that the GoPro line of cameras is the best “step up from a smartphone” for beginners just starting to do car reviews. It’s small, cheap, and has extremely good image quality. The image stabilization is the best part though. Nobody likes watching shaky videos, and the GoPro Hero 7 is the king of stable video at this moment.
- Web hosting from a reliable place like HostGator or BlueHost. Trust me – it’s not worth fighting. You’re going to need a blog if you want any credibility in this business. Not only that, it may end up being your largest source of income over time. I’ve been using HostGator to host driveandreview.com since 2011 and I couldn’t be any happier. It just works.
If you have a life long passion for cars and a determination to make your hobby a career, becoming a car reviewer on YouTube is one of your best opportunities to make it happen. It also happens to be one of the opportunities with the lowest barriers of entry. If you’ve got a smartphone and access to at least one car, you’ve got everything you need to get started.
I should also note that having an engaging personality will go along way towards building the success of your channel. It’s OK to be clumsy on camera, but as long as you let your personality shine through, you’ll do fine. The good news is that if you keep it up, you’ll naturally become better and a lot more comfortable.
No matter how clumsy and nerdy you seem, just remember to have fun and smile. I am about as clumsy and nerdy as anyone can get on camera, but I make it a point to joke around as much as I can to keep the mood light and interesting. A dry personality won’t get you very far on YouTube!
Anyway, feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific questions about starting an automotive review channel of your own. I’ve gained a lot of experience building the DriveAndReview brand, and I’d be happy to offer assistance.
Now get out there and start filming!