At the onset of the pandemic there was much uncertainty surrounding just about every aspect of automotive. As we embarked on a journey to gain a better understanding of consumer perceptions surrounding car shopping during COVID-19, we too were uncertain what the results of our research would uncover. Following numerous waves of consumer research, one thing became apparent – vehicle purchase intentions remain strong and stable amongst Canadian new and used vehicle intenders.
When comparing results from our previous study, conducted in January of this year , to our most recent run in March, consumer intention to purchase a vehicle within the next six months remained steady, at 17%. We’ve also witnessed a trend in the right direction with regards to timing to purchase a car amongst consumers who intend to buy a vehicle within the next 6 months. At the very start of the pandemic, we reported that 72% of shoppers within this cohort believed it would take them longer than usual to make a vehicle purchase, whereas we can now report a significant decline with this cohort, with only 38% expecting to extend the timing of their purchase.
Triggers to purchase have remained more or less consistent with previous research waves. The largest group of respondents, 27% specifically, state that their current car is getting too old, while 18% desire to upgrade to something newer and 9% require a larger vehicle. The most common information sources used by pre-owned car shoppers remain unchanged, however, a slight uptick in automotive marketplace and dealership website usage was noted. Our study found that 62% of consumers use automotive marketplaces, 39% access dealership websites and 33% use manufacturer websites throughout the car buying journey.
Considerations of COVID-19 as worsening generally decreased. Of those surveyed, 41% said they were very concerned about COVID, which has shown a double-digit decrease when compared to the 66% metric recorded at the start of the pandemic. We have also witnessed further easing specific to consumer concerns about personal finances. At the beginning of COVID, 75% of respondents were nervous about the effects of the pandemic on their personal finances, while our most recent research shows that number has decreased to 49%. Similarly, at the start of the pandemic, 68% of respondents reported that they intended to delay their vehicle purchase, whereas today, that group has nearly halved, to a mere 36%. Finally, respondents who were nervous about their ability to afford a vehicle because of COVID has decreased from 56%, recorded in March 2020, to 37% in March 2021.
Based on the findings from our latest wave of consumer research, it’s fair to say that the general levels of uncertainty and apprehension that car shoppers reported just a year ago continue to trend in a positive direction. We’re optimistic that the results from our latest consumer research combined with the double-digit growth in key traffic and engagement dimensions right across the country on AutoTrader.ca will translate into yet another surge of new and used car shopper demand for our dealer partners going into what should be another hot selling season.