How consumers research cars before buying

June 23, 2023

We explore your customers car buying research habits and share our top tips to catching their attention

As we shift towards an ever increasing digital landscape, how are consumers adapting to these changes and does it affect the way in which they purchase cars? Despite the challenges facing the automotive industry, the new and used car market shows no signs of slowing down just yet. 

Is the future of car buying online? We explore the impact of a digital marketplace and ask the all-important question; how do consumers research cars before buying? The information shared on your website could  have a bigger impact on customer car buying behaviour than you might think…  

How do consumers search for cars?

When it comes to buying a car, one thing’s for sure is that us Brits love doing our research. Not that we’re anal or anything, but we do like to make sure we’ve secured a bargain and get the best quality motor for our money.

According to our friends at AutoTrader, car buyers spend the majority of their time researching a new vehicle online; 59% of the time dedicated to car buying research is spent surfing the world wide web in a bid to find a dream drive at the right price. 

The interesting point to note here is that a huge percentage of consumers looking for a new or used car are in fact undecided about the make or model of vehicle, so are very much open to persuasion. From a dealer’s point of view, this is a massive opportunity to promote stock and the potential to make a sale. 

Market research company YouGov conducted a survey to understand how consumers are searching for cars, their findings are as follows:

  • Recommendations from friends and family = 50%
  • Reading customer reviews = 44%
  • Undertaking website research = 38%
  • Speaking to sales execs = 36%
  • Seeking advice from experts and influencers = 36%
  • Watching video reviews = 30%

The image below courtesy of YouGov shows in more detail the split between male and female consumers and how they are influenced in their purchase decision during the research process:

It’s clear to see that recommendations from friends and family have the biggest impact when it comes to buying a car. This leads nicely into the power of online reviews, something which we’ve touched on in our blog all about the importance of online reviews – it’s well worth a read!

Age also plays a big factor in the consumer car buying journey which highlights that the weighting of trust in family and friends is most relevant in the 55+ age bracket. In fact, consumers in this category are least likely to spend time watching video reviews when making a decision about what car to buy, choosing instead the advice from their nearest and dearest. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is car buyers aged 18-24 that prefer to consult video reviews via social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, with 42% of consumers relying on visual advice to help them come to a decision. 

The table below courtesy of YouGov highlights the pre-purchase research method by age. It breaks down the percentage weightings into six age ranges, which is then combined to display an ‘all’ column of the results for each category: 

Generally, consumers buy with their eyes, so a good video review whether it be from a member of the public, an influencer, motor industry expert, or the dealership itself, will let car buyers virtually get behind the wheel. Think of this as the ‘pre-test drive’ phase and as the stats show, it’s not to be sniffed at.   

What factors affect the consumer car buying decision?

Referred to as the ‘discovery phase’, there of course factors that can and will affect what decision a car buyer makes. Search engine giant Google says that a whopping 92% of car buyers do their research online before they buy. That’s a hell of a lot of potential website traffic coming your way. 

From the data Google holds, it shares that these car buying researchers consider how a vehicle fits into their lifestyle, the price, what features are available, and compare all of this to find the best possible solution. Google has seen a massive upward shift in the importance of video content when it comes to car pre-purchase research. 

So what factors do affect a consumer’s car buying decision? Well, data gathering company Statista reveals the 10 biggest factors that influence the decision making of car buyers in the UK, which we’ve shared below:

  1. Fuel efficiency = 60%
  2. Safety = 53%
  3. Suitability for everyday use = 49%
  4. Low price = 46%
  5. High quality = 38%
  6. High driving comfort = 38%
  7. Design = 35%
  8. Good warranty and customer service = 32%
  9. Spaciousness = 31%
  10. Environmentally friendliness = 23%

Unsurprisingly, it’s fuel efficiency which is deemed to be the most important factor for a car buyer in search of a new or used vehicle. In a cost of living crisis, reducing weekly petrol or diesel spend is a sought after solution by many motorists. 

Safety is of course a secondary consideration for would-be car buyers, followed by the suitability of a vehicle, which mirrors the data from Google in terms of lifestyle choices. As a car dealership, it’s absolutely vital you take these points on board and address these factors when marketing your stock online. 

How important is a website in the car buying research process?

What we’ve got to remember here is that a lot of car buyers feel uncomfortable about walking into a dealership before they’ve decided what to buy. Whether it’s concerns about a sales pressure environment or worrying about a lack of vehicle knowledge, the first contact a potential buyer will have with your business is likely to be via your website. 

It’s no secret that integrated plugins and ecommerce solutions that connect the consumer with the car, results in a website that delivers much more value to the customer. Don’t ever underestimate the potential of visitor chat tools; they provide a huge opportunity for dealerships to improve the overall customer experience from the off. This is because the time it takes to respond to a customer’s enquiry is a very important factor and definitely not one to be overlooked. 

Let’s look at the data here. On average, it takes dealerships in the UK over nine hours to respond to an enquiry via email. Compare this to an integrated visitor chat pop-up tool and the response can be instantaneous. This can make all the difference between a potential sale or missed opportunity during a car buyer’s research process.    

Car dealer websites that convert

Here at 67 Degrees, we know a thing or two about car dealer websites. Whether you’re an independent dealer with 10 used cars on the forecourt or a multi-franchise new car dealership, we’ve got a website solution that suits.

From result driven design to accelerated responsiveness and a powerful user experience, we can create a digital platform that steps your business up a gear. All this paired with optimised content which ticks all the boxes for those undecided car buyers.
As an award-winning automotive website design and marketing agency, you’re in safe hands. Have a sneak peek at our work and see for yourself why we’re a five-star rated business. We’re always at the other end of a phone call, email or direct message via social, so drop us a line and let’s have a chat.       

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