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As the car shopping journey continues to be impacted by various economic factors, being informed of these dynamics is essential to addressing consumer needs and offering timely support across the various stages of the purchase process. By understanding the factors that impact car purchasing decisions, you can adapt your strategy to reach even more prospects and provide them with a rewarding and memorable shopping experience.

The results from a recent AutoTrader study by DIG Insights revealed insights from Canadian consumers intending to purchase a car in the next 6 months and the steps they take throughout their car buying journey. Despite the various economic challenges affecting the market, there has been a considerable increase in vehicle purchase intentions, especially over the past year, with a 10% jump from March of 2022.


Car Shoppers Start Online & Marketplaces Continue to Rank on Top

When consumers embark on the research stage of their car buying journey, turning to online sources is routine. Of those surveyed, 84% of both used and new vehicle intenders use online sources, up from 78% in 2022. Online automotive marketplaces continue to be one of the top sources of information for vehicle intenders during the purchase process, with usage increasing by 9 percentage point when compared to last year, totalling 42% in 2023. Now more than ever it is crucial to capitalize on this channel to reach shoppers and influence their purchase decisions.

Buy Online Services Are Increasing in Popularity

With the increase in usage of online sources, it should come as no surprise that the appeal of purchasing a vehicle online is more widespread. Seventy percent of vehicle intenders stated they were somewhat or very interested in purchasing a vehicle entirely online. When asked if they would be keen on completing parts of the purchase process online, 90% of shoppers see this as an attractive option. As partial or complete online vehicle purchase appeal grows with car shoppers, it is crucial for dealerships to offer services that align to these preferences.


Online Services Integrated into Your Virtual Showroom

With 95% of vehicle intenders signalling interest in researching and comparing vehicles online, it is imperative that your listings provide the requisite features to facilitate this preference. As 90% of car shoppers state they are interested in inquiring about a vehicle of interest online, you’ll want to ensure you are setup to provide swift responses, addressing every question, to get a leg up on your competitors.

The study also found that 87% of consumers are interested in booking an at home test drive, 83% pre-qualifying for financing and 85% arranging for vehicle delivery, directly from the vehicle listing. To improve customer experience, consider investing in tools and resources to facilitate these preferences. Additionally, 83% of car shoppers are interested in obtaining trade-in valuation online. AutoTrader offers a unique program which allows you to connect with private sellers looking to sell or trade their vehicle, creating a frictionless experience for both the consumer and the dealership.

Economic Impacts on Purchases

Inflation, lofty gas prices, high vehicle prices, increasing interest rates, and inventory shortage are all factors affecting the automotive market, but how do they impact consumer purchase behaviour? Overall, the study discovered that vehicle intenders affected by at least one of these factors tend to spend more time price-comparison shopping, consider delaying their purchase, or decrease their budget. Understanding the factors that impact purchases can help you adjust your strategy accordingly.

For example, when dealing with inflation or high vehicle prices, dealers who advertise their prices according to market value are presented with ‘Great’ or ‘Good’ price badges directly within their inventory listings on Price transparency is synonymous with increased consumer trust and satisfaction. If inventory shortage is flagged as an issue by prospective customers, be transparent about timelines or offer them similar vehicles that could suit their needs and budget.

With a positive outlook ahead, Canadian automotive dealerships can steer their way to success by capitalizing on the insights gained from our ongoing research into the car shopping journey and get on the front foot to seizing the opportunities available to them, both now and in the near future.


Key Takeaways

  • Be where consumers are online – the usage of online automotive marketplaces continues to grow and is a top source for Canadian consumers used throughout the car purchase process
  • Car shoppers are interested in purchasing a vehicle online and even more so conducting parts of the purchase process virtually, ensure you provide the tools for them to do so
  • Consumers are highly interested in researching, comparing, and inquiring about vehicles online – detailed listings with multiple opportunities to get in touch with your dealership will work to your advantage
  • Adjust your strategy accordingly to support car shoppers who may be impacted by the dynamics of the current economy

Sources: DIG Insights Car Shopper Perceptions & Intentions Research Study, May 2023, n=305