Our latest AutoTrader.ca user study dives into the minds of car shoppers, to provide our dealer partners with key considerations to make while reopening and retooling their dealership sales operations to align with the needs and desires of consumers. We surveyed roughly 600 Canadian car shoppers who are currently in-market to purchase a vehicle. The goal of the research was to uncover the most crucial factors of the car buying journey during COVID-19, by understanding how many marketplace users planned to buy a vehicle prior to the pandemic, those now considering a vehicle purchase as a result of the pandemic, and the differences in car shopping behaviours between both cohorts.
Of the AutoTrader.ca marketplace shoppers surveyed, 58% planned to purchase a vehicle prior to the pandemic and 6% are new to the car market, with a desire to purchase a vehicle as a direct result of the pandemic. The positive news to be drawn from these results is that there is an overall lift in car shoppers and a large majority of those who planned on purchasing have not been dismayed by COVID-19.
We dug deeper into the data to learn more about the background of these shoppers and glean insight for our dealer partners to better prepare for the types of consumers to expect in the very near future. Of those who always planned on buying, 79% currently own a vehicle, while 21% are not current vehicle owners. On the flipside, for the group that now have a car purchase within plan as a result of the pandemic, 69% are vehicle owners and 31% are new to the car market. The key takeaway here is that there is quite a large pool of consumers who are first-time car buyers, in search of the right vehicle as their new means of transportation, as a result of the pandemic.
The key considerations both cohorts are making throughout the car shopping journey, as they inch closer to a purchase decision, are price (81%), brand and model (73%), and, handling and drivability (46%).
With price identified as the most crucial factor for both groups of shoppers, we wanted to understand the exact price point they are leaning towards. 77% of respondents plan on spending less than $35,000 for their next vehicle. More specifically, 51% of those who plan on purchasing a vehicle due to COVID-19 say that they are looking to spend $20,000 or less. It is important to note that these consumers are more budget conscious and demonstrate a sincere inclination to good prices and a range of payment options. As they had not originally planned to purchase a vehicle, many are doing so for the first time, and are actively combing the AutoTrader.ca marketplace in search of a great deal.
To help dealers understand how to best service these customers, we asked all respondents if they would be more or less likely to purchase from a dealership that allows them to book a contactless test drive. Overall, both sets of shoppers approved of the notion of contactless test drive booking options, but the results generally skewed to the group of consumers planning to buy a car due to COVID-19.
To conclude our summary of the research, we found that 3 in 4 car shoppers are considering another vehicle brand, compared to what was within their consideration set just prior to the pandemic. Consumers are showing that they are open to change, and that budget is of utmost priority, even if that means shifting to a make and/or model they had not considered before.
Through our various studies conducted over the course of the pandemic, the belief that COVID-19 has influenced the need to own a vehicle, as either a first-time buyer or to add another car to the stable, becomes increasingly more clear. As the numbers of new cases continue to decline and governments react with easement of restrictions, more and more people will be returning to work; the majority of whom will need a vehicle to keep them away from public transportation. We see through this study that car ownership is becoming increasingly more popular – and, not just leasing, but, also, owning a vehicle outright.