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Throughout our ongoing consumer research, it has become abundantly clear that car shopping behaviour is constantly in flux. From how consumers shop, to where they shop and their preferred tools and resources, these factors often vary. In our latest study we turned to car shoppers to understand their car buying process preferences and behaviours to help you pivot and better align to consumer needs in 2022.

We opened the study by asking car shoppers on how many vehicles they’ve purchased throughout their lifetime. The majority of respondents, 71%, have personally bought more than four vehicles. Of those surveyed, 27% state they know the car buying process through and through, while 39% are somewhat knowledgeable. What’s interesting is that although most of these shoppers have been through the car buying process, there remains room for improvement to provide them with more resources and education, which we touch on further into the results of the study.

To get a better understanding of where consumers are online, we asked them about the resources they use throughout the car buying journey and the results remain consistent with the trends we observed in previous studies. At the top of the list are online automotive marketplaces at 79%, dealership visits with a test drive at 68%, dealership websites at 55%, and manufacturer websites at 54%.

With regard to the next stage of the car buying process, visiting the dealership, 48% of respondents state that they start to visit a dealership in the middle of their journey, 40% are late stage dealership visitors and only 12% frequent a dealership early on in the journey. This should come as no surprise as, in recent years, we have observed a strong shift to the car shopping journey commencing online, thus dealerships with a strong and engaging online presence are more likely to be the store that shoppers visit in the midst of their journey.

When asked how difficult the vehicle purchase process is the responses were rather neutral, with 42% of car shoppers citing that the process was not difficult nor easy, 9% citing no difficulties at all and 8% finding the process very difficult. Further drilling down into the aspects consumers find cumbersome, 50% are challenged with appropriately assessing vehicle history and condition, 50% are troubled with negotiating price and financing, 48% cite determining if they are getting a good deal rather taxing, and 30% are apprehensive about visiting the dealership and interacting with salespeople. Key online merchandising and car shopper engagement process enhancements to consider are being forthright and transparent with vehicle history and condition reports, clearly laying out payment and finance options, and reassuring car shoppers that your prices are competitive.

In general, consumers find the car purchase process enjoyable, with 12% of respondent rating it as very enjoyable and 35% somewhat enjoyable. On the opposite side of the spectrum, 10% of car shoppers find the process not very enjoyable and only 6% rate it as not enjoyable at all. To understand what makes the process agreeable with car shoppers, we asked them to rate the aspects they prefer.  Test drives are rated by most as an enjoyable aspect (61%), followed by deciding on brand and model (50%), comparing and determining if they are getting a good deal (44%), researching to gather more information (41%), and, finally, choosing the trim level that’s right for them (40%).

Circling back to what we touched on earlier, regarding how we can enhance and educate consumers on the car buying process, we asked survey participants what content sources they find useful. At the top of the list were real driver testimonials (65%), leveraging articles and reviews came in second place (64%) and tapping into automotive expert video reviews a close third (62%).

The factors that are most likely to influence a purchase decision are rather familiar, with 30% of respondents citing trust and previous experience with the brand and model and 27% are most influenced by a competitive price when comparing to similarly equipped vehicles from other dealerships. Simple measures, such as highlighting competitive prices, can play a significant role in driving more leads and closing sales opportunities.

With the results of our consumer research in mind, take the time to assess your strategy as well as resources to isolate areas of the car buying process you can improve for your prospective customers. In doing so, perhaps you will uncover gaps in educational content, inventory descriptions, the availability of history and condition reports, to name a few, which should be swiftly bridged to drive better engagement with consumers, better aligned to their preferences and needs. For more consumer research insights visit


Source: Vehicle Purchase Behaviour Research, December 2021 (n=496).