But according to research revealed today, more than half of UK consumers do not believe the buying process has changed significantly in the past three years.
Only one in ten consumers believe it has changed significantly, according to research by Black Horse, one of the UK’s leading motor finance providers, in association with YouGov.
However, of those who recognised a change in the car-buying process, nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) recognise there is much more use of online tools, with nearly a half (47 per cent) acknowledging there are more places and choice to buy a car from.
Six out of ten car buyers (62 per cent) think the process has become easier.
And less than half (47 per cent) of prospective buyers who are considering buying a car in the next 12 months think the process has become easier.
Chris Sutton, managing director of Black Horse, said: ‘It is surprising to see the majority of consumers do not think the car-buying process has changed over the past three years.
‘Clearly, though, for those who do feel there has been a change, the single biggest difference has been the use of the internet and other internet tools.
‘Certainly the internet has provided consumers with more choice and prepare them before they step into a car showroom.’
Overall, dealerships are still the preferred option for car buyers, with six out of ten using this route when they last bought a car. The remaining consumers use a variety of other outlets including private sellers, second-hand dealerships and family members.
More than half of car buyers (57 per cent) visited a dealership within a month of deciding to buy a car, and one in five (19 per cent) decided to buy a car after visiting a dealership. Nearly a third (32 per cent) of car buyers visit only one dealership before buying their car of choice, with a fifth (22 per cent) visiting two dealerships, and 22 per cent visiting three dealerships.
The research also revealed a fifth (19 per cent) of buyers changed their mind about the car they wanted to buy after visiting a dealership. The overwhelming majority (58 per cent) remained on track and did not change their mind.
Consumers also found the overall car buying process a positive experience. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of buyers would recommend visiting a dealership when buying a car.
‘Car dealerships clearly still fulfil an integral role in the car-buying process,’ said Sutton.
‘While dealers will be focusing on maintaining strong sales this year, they should also ensure they have appropriate knowledge of finance options available to buyers. The major challenge in the industry has been the change of regulator to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) overlooking point-of-sale finance, which took place last year.
‘The new framework has been far reaching and has had a significant impact for lenders and dealers. While there have been many hurdles for the industry as a whole to engage with and implement the FCA rules and guidance, dealers are gradually gaining a better understanding of how to put the rules and guidance into practice.
‘We do see the changes as providing even more trust and transparency to consumers, which can only be viewed as a good thing for the industry overall.’