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Online overtakes dealership visits as car buyers’ preferred research method for the first time

Time 10:51 am, July 3, 2018

THE latest research from Close Brothers Motor Finance has shown that more car buyers would choose to do research online than in a dealership. 

The finance solutions provider’s latest Britain Under the Bonnet report, which surveyed more than 200 dealers and more than 2,000 drivers, shows that 57 per cent of motorists use the internet to help inform their choice of car, compared with 40 per cent last year.

However, although the internet has overtaken dealerships for research for the first time, 79 per cent of consumers still buy their cars from a physical site, while only two per cent make the purchase online.

The top eight most popular research methods seen in the report, along with the percentage of consumers who used them, were as follows:

  1. Online search – 57 per cent
  2. Dealership visit – 53 per cent
  3. Discussion with friends and/or family – 34 per cent
  4. Independent car website search – 32 per cent
  5. Auction website search – 15 per cent
  6. Motoring magazines – 15 per cent
  7. Motoring section of newspaper – 13 per cent
  8. Social media search – 10 per cent

The study found that all age demographics, except for over 65s, prefer to research online than at a dealership. In addition, 48 of consumers bought their last car from a new dealer, 31 per cent from a used dealer, 12 per cent from a private seller, four per cent from family or friends, two per cent from the internet and two per cent from auction houses.

Of those who bought their car from a dealer, 67 per cent said the reason they did so was because they felt they would get a good deal, while 36 per cent sought advice for the price range and 35 per cent wanted help to finalise the decision.

Sean Kemple, director of sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, commented: ‘As technology evolves, the way people research and purchase cars is changing. As a result, dealers are undoubtedly facing new challenges.

‘As buyers carry out online research before entering a forecourt, the main challenge is encouraging them to take the next step and walk into a dealership. In order to do this effectively, dealers need to make sure their digital forecourt has as compelling an offering as their physical one.

‘With challenges come opportunities – the internet is a way to get substantially more eyes on dealers’ stock than ever before, so having a strong digital presence will ensure they can take advantage of these shifting consumer behaviours.

‘Let’s not forget that drivers still look to dealers for advice and support, even if they are spending more time researching online and less time in the showroom, so ensuring their staff are best equipped to deliver genuine insight and advice to prospective customers is going to be crucial in the months ahead.’

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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