A total of 71% of used car buyers visit a dealer’s website before making their purchase.
Plus 57% of people say they visit a website to check the range of stock, 41% to check availability of a car for sale and 53% to check prices.
One in five looked for practical information like opening hours and contact details while location maps were sought by 13% of visitors.
The finding is included in the latest buyer behaviour survey* for Auto Trader.
Based on interviews with 1,300 new and used car customers, it revealed a higher proportion of visits to car supermarket websites, at 78%, and independents at 75%.
The proportion visiting a franchised website was slightly lower at 61%.
When asked what information they look for in a dealer website, most buyers focus on stock.
“The internet has fundamentally changed the way cars are bought and sold. Consumers do most of their research online when looking for their next car and this includes visiting dealers’ websites”, said Auto Trader’s market research director Nick King.
“Consumers don’t feel the need to contact dealers as much either; they simply turn up on a forecourt knowing exactly what they want to buy.”
But the research also suggests that dealer websites are increasingly used to build trust in the company from which they wish to buy, King said.
“Today, around one in 10 buyers actively look for customer testimonials on a dealer website.
A similar proportion seek background information on the dealership itself, such as how long it has been in business.”
Building trust is an important factor in the success of family-owned business Chrome Motors, based in Macclesfield.
Managing director Danny Towns said its brand success had been built on an understanding the industry has changed, that customers have higher expectations and are better informed than they have ever been in the past.
“I would say that between 30 - 50% of our customers use our website to help build trust in our business,” he said.
“When they arrive on our forecourt and we talk to them about testimonials, they often tell us they’ve already seen them on our website. I would estimate that about half of our customers research us solely online before visiting in person and I’m very comfortable with that.
“Our website isn’t perfect yet, but it reflects our track record in supporting local community projects and reputation for providing excellence in customer service. Customers like that.
“Today we are all looking for the John Lewis-type experience. We want to feel warm and comfortable about doing business with a company. Reviews, testimonials and support for community projects help us achieve this.”
In the last year Chrome Motors has reported a leap in business, and Towns says this has come particularly from those in the local community. From an average of 50 - 60 sales per month last year, the company is now retailing between 90 - 100 cars every month.
* The Annual Buyer Behaviour Study (previously known as the Dealer Sourcing Study) was set up to get a better understanding of consumer behaviour and journeys when buying a car through franchise, independent and supermarket retailers.
The second study built on a pilot last year.
Consumer sales data was supplied to Auto Trader by participating dealers.
This was then supplied to research agency GfK. GfK conducted telephone surveys with 1,300 customers (624 franchise, 376 independents and 300 supermarkets) over a three month period, asking about their buying journey and experience.