Consumer Research Results: Car Shopping Throughout the Pandemic
While the pandemic remains a concern for some Canadians, the general outlook for most consumers is that the COVID-19 situation is improving, and they’re ready to return to normal life, which includes car shopping. The online shopping tools that were a necessity during pandemic restrictions have now become the method of choice for the majority of Canadians for at least some aspects of the car buying process. It remains a mainstay even though consumers can now freely visit dealerships.
At AutoTrader.ca, we continue to examine car shopping trends as they relate to the effects of the pandemic. Overall, car shopping amongst Canadians has remains stable through waves of COVID variants, including the intention to buy a vehicle in the next six months. Seven out of ten car shoppers believe the pandemic situation is improving, which is a substantial gain over previous waves. Consumer confidence is steadily improving, and Canadians want cars.
In our consumer research study of purchase intentions conducted in March 2022, only 32% of consumers are considering putting off a vehicle purchase, versus the 68% just two years ago. There’s less concern about the ability to afford a car, or the effect of COVID on personal finances.
Rather, almost half of consumers now say the pandemic allowed them to put more money into their savings. When it’s time to spend that money, 62% plan to use it to buy a vehicle. That’s almost on par with the percentage reported a year ago, but how they will spend it has changed. Today, 43% say they intend to splurge and buy a more expensive vehicle than the one they originally planned to purchase, which is almost double those who would a year ago. Additionally, when it comes to the length of time it will take them to shop for and purchase a vehicle, only 35% believe it will take longer than it might have in the past; a drop from 72% at the beginning of the pandemic when consumers faced more uncertainty.
When car shoppers look for information, visiting an online automotive marketplace remains the number-one source for used vehicle intenders at 52%. Next-highest was asking friends, at 41%, and speaking with family at 38%. Still, consumers are overwhelmingly going online, with 35% visiting manufacturer websites and 30% visiting dealership websites.
While the percentages usually fluctuate slightly month-to-month, in studies over the past two years, online automotive marketplaces have consistently garnered the highest percentage among information sources, and usually by a substantial margin. With so many people relying on it, it’s important for you to advertise your inventory on marketplaces like AutoTrader.ca, and regularly update with what’s coming into your store.
The triggers that drive consumers to switch vehicles have changed slightly during the course of the pandemic. Two years ago, 24% said their vehicles were getting too old, while only 19% are concerned about an aging vehicle today. Instead, there have been slight upticks in the percentage of people who want a larger vehicle, those who are starting or switching jobs, and consumers who have leases are expiring. Even though some consumers want to spend their savings on a pricier vehicle, the overall number of people who want to upgrade to something nicer or newer stands at 16%, a drop from 25% two years ago.
Overall, consumer purchase intentions are stable, and nearly a quarter of those intending to buy said that nothing would cause them to consider delaying their vehicle purchases. Nearly 9-in-10 (89%) of consumers are interested in researching and comparing vehicles online and with online marketplaces still the top source for purchase decisions, putting your inventory in front of the most serious car shoppers using AutoTrader.ca will ensure you’re targeting consumers who intend to buy sooner rather than later.
Source: COVID-19 Pulse Wave 14, DIG Insights, March 2022, n=304