More shopping for a used or new vehicle online proving less than satisfying

Shopping for a car online?

If you’re like most shoppers you are.

That’s according to Cox Automotive’s Car Buyer Journey 2018 study, which generally shows used- and new-vehicle shoppers are spending more time online with fewer dealership visits.

“While car buyers are using fewer websites during the shopping process than in prior years – 4.7 in 2018 down from 5.5 in 2017 – the perceived helpfulness of each website category has not changed,” said Cox. “Buyers continue to spend most of their time shopping on third-party sites.”

Here’s how you’re likely to shop Cox says:

  • Spending 61 percent of your total shopping or buying time – more than 15 hours for a used-vehicle shopper and about 12.5 hours for a new-car shopper – with used-car buyers spending a little more (63 percent) and new-car shoppers a little less (55 percent).
  • Using third-party websites (78 percent), such as Cox’s Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, or other sites including CarGurus, The Car Connection, U.S. News Best Cars, Edmunds, and, ahead of dealerships or manufacturer websites – a little more (82 percent) for used-car shoppers and less, though still a lot (67 percent), for new-car shoppers.
  • Spending most of your time on third-party websites (62 percent), compared to just 13 percent on Internet search, 12 percent on dealership sites and 8 percent at manufacturer sites. Again, used-car shoppers use much more time (69 percent) than new-car shoppers (42 percent).
  • Visiting third-party websites first and last if you’re searching for a used car, but third-party sites first and dealership sites last when searching for a new car.

But what motivates vehicle shoppers in the first place to begin a car-shopping and buying journey? For a large majority, it’s the need for a vehicle, rather than simply wanting a replacement.

Cox reported that 64 percent of used-vehicle buyers shopped out of the need for another car and only 36 percent shopped just because they wanted to drive something different. It’s different for new-car shoppers, according to Cox, with 54 percent needing a new vehicle and 46 percent wanting one.

And if you’re shopping for another vehicle, it’s increasingly likely that you’re buying out of need, 61 percent this year versus 55 percent and 56 percent the last two years, respectively.

Even more important than how the buying process begins, though, is the way it ends – are you satisfied?

With all the opportunity for comparison shopping that the Internet provides among vehicles and dealerships, it may be surprising that Cox found buyers generally are less satisfied.

“The percentage of car buyers visiting multiple dealerships has been declining in recent years,” said Cox. “At the same time, buyers report being less satisfied with the price they paid for their vehicle and less often trust that the dealership gave them the best deal.”

The lesson to be learned for used- and new-vehicle shoppers may be that spending more time online doesn’t guarantee a better result – unless it’s quality time.

And that’s what we’ll try to help you with in our next post on the Santander Consumer USA blog.

The Car Buyer Journey 2018, commissioned by Cox Automotive through IHS Markit, is based on a survey of 2,050 consumers who purchased or leased a vehicle within 12 months of Sept. 13, 2017.

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