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Car buyers remain in the market after 3 months of lockdown research

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CarGurus' latest COVID-19 Sentiment Study has found that three quarters of car buyers who put off a purchase during lockdown are still actively searching for their next vehicle.

CarGurus reported that it had seen lead volumes increase 15% to its English trading partners as car showrooms repened their doors.

The number of car buyers delaying their car purchases decreased from 87% in April to 77% in June, according to the survey of 1,104 car buyers, while only 2% of those who planned to buy a vehicle before the pandemic had delayed their purchase indefinitely.

Consistent with sentiment in April, more than three-quarters of prospective buyers (76%) would prefer to use contactless services like virtual dealer appointments, at-home test drives, or home delivery.

Madison Gross, director of consumer insights at CarGurus, said: “With the vast majority of buyers still researching, and almost all expecting to follow through on pre-pandemic purchase plans within the next year, it’s more likely that we will see them dip back into the car market, particularly as vehicles become even more important to their daily life.

“It’s also clear that buyers are even more open to researching and interacting with dealers online, and dealers that can pivot quickly to contactless services will be in the best position going forward.”

CarGurus recently announced the integration of WhatsApp to its online used marketplace in an effort to gain traction with car buyers who are becoming increasingly accepting of social media's use in the purchase process. 

Despite suggestions from What Car? that many car buyers had emerged from lockdown with more to spend on a vehicle, CarGurus found that many car buyers are less confident in their ability to afford a vehicle purchase as a result of COVID-19 (43%), creating greater demand for financing deals.

Before the pandemic, 40% of car buyers planned to finance their purchase, now 51% plan to or already have.

Yet that confidence could soon return, with 27% of respondents saying they’re saving more than usual and 40% spending less on experiences - both of which could ease budgeting for significant purchases like cars.

The survey suggests that travel habits could change consumer demand over the coming months too, as more than two thirds (34%) of car buyers said they expect to use their vehicle more going forward.

You can download the full CarGurus COVID-19 Sentiment Study here.

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