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From the state of the economy to gas prices, compounded by the dynamics of interest rates, it goes without saying that there are a multitude of factors impacting the Canadian automotive landscape. However, one aspect that has proven its durability, regardless of market dynamics, is car shopper purchase intention.  

Our latest research study conducted by DIG Insights found that car shopper demand remains high, with about one in four Canadians planning to buy a vehicle in the next six months. In the first quarter of 2024, about 43% of vehicle intenders surveyed felt that the timing is right to make a major purchase, which is a slight improvement from the previous survey in the summer of 2023.  


Looking at consumer shopping behaviours, research is still primarily conducted through online automotive marketplaces, with 50% of used car shoppers stating they leverage marketplaces like when shopping for their next vehicle. Dealership websites come in at 34%, while 30% of consumers say they regularly use manufacturer websites. Taking advantage of promoting your inventory where consumers are looking puts your vehicles in front of the highest volume of shoppers at important phases of the path to purchase. 

Not only is it important to know how consumers discover vehicles, but you need to understand what elements of the purchase they want to do online, enabling you tailor your offering accordingly. Ninety percent of intenders said they want to complete parts of the buying process online, consistent with results from the previous study. However, there has been a 9% increase to the number of shoppers who are interested in some degree fully purchasing a vehicle online, now reaching 69%. 


The top elements car shoppers want to complete online have remained stable, with 97% engaging in research and comparing vehicles, 91% inquiring about a vehicle, 86% arranging a home test drive, 85% organizing delivery, 82% intending to pre-qualify for financing and 82% getting a trade-in valuation. Unique services like AutoTrader’s Instant Cash Offer (ICO) and Deal Builder can get you one step closer to aligning with consumer preferences and successfully converting shoppers into buyers.   

When asked about their confidence in their current personal financial situation, intenders rated this aspect at 77, which is similar to the previous result. Their confidence in the economy has risen from 35 last year to 44. When asked to rate these aspects over the short term outlook – the next six months – consumer confidence in their personal finances is at 73, while their confidence in economy increases to 58. With rising levels of confidence, it continues to be important to put your inventory in front of consumers as they shop for their next vehicle. 

The impact of external influences on consumer intent to purchase a vehicle has fluctuated slightly. Inventory shortages are slightly less of an issue than they were last summer at 64%, as are gasoline prices at 67%. Inflation has remained about the same at 75%, but surprisingly, intenders are less influenced by vehicle prices, 81%, and high interest rates, 74%. The bottom line is that they want to buy a vehicle, and there aren’t a lot of serious concerns that are going to stand in their way of their intent to follow through with this purchase. 

Overall, when facing all economic factors, including inflation, vehicle prices, interest rates, to name a few, the top action taken by the vast majority, (67%), of intenders impacted by at least one of these factors, is to comparison-shop to find the best deal. Because of high vehicle prices in particular, 40% of people spend more time comparison-shopping, which is on par with last summer’s result. Coming in very slightly behind are the number of people who may reduce their budget or delay their vehicle purchase, but that is down by seven points, from 45% last summer to 38%. While car shoppers naturally seek the best deal, they do intend to buy now rather than waiting any longer.   


Understanding how and where consumers are looking for their next vehicles is vital in a climate that’s returning to previous levels of consumer confidence, and their desire to buy the vehicles they want, instead of what they must settle for. Having the online tools in place to streamline the car purchase process is becoming increasingly more essential to finalizing any potential deal.  

Key Takeaways

  • Intentions to buy a vehicle remain steady amongst Canadian shoppers. 
  • Online automotive marketplaces continue to be a top source used amongst Canadian car shoppers. 
  • Appetite to conduct elements of the vehicle purchase online are rising 
  • Consumer confidence and outlook on the economy is stable since the summer of 2023. 
  • Factors affecting the industry are causing shoppers to spend more time price-comparison shopping. 

Sources: DIG Insights Car Shopper Perceptions & Intentions Research Study, February 2024, n=305