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One-in-ten car buyers to head online due to COVID-19, says BuyaCar

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One-in-ten car buyers plan to head online to purchase their next vehicle according to BuyaCar research indicating that specialist online traders are set to gain increased market traction.

The online retail platform said that it was experiencing the highest level of demand during its 18-year history and almost one-in-ten of 356 automotive consumers polled by the business suggested that the reason was a COVID-prompted swing towards digital traders promoting contactless sales and home delivery.

The results also revealed a dramatic shift in general car buying plans compared to the picture three years ago, when motorists were last asked when they plan to change their car.

Currently 71% of car buyers don't plan to change their car during the coming 12 months, it said, compared to half of all motorists questioned back in 2017.

In 2017 only one-in-four motorists also told BuyaCar that they would not return to the market for two years or more. In the latest research that figure rose to nearly half.

Speed of recovery a surprise

Andy Oldham, the chief executive of BuyaCar, said: "This is the first time we have established a clear independent link between COVID-related concerns or restrictions and an increased appetite for buying cars online, from the safety and comfort of your own home.

"We knew, from our experience of maintaining emergency deliveries for key workers and other essential drivers during lockdown, that online car sales were providing a unique benefit to people who were unable to go out in the usual way to buy a car. But now we have the evidence that people intend to buy online, whether or not there are any further lockdown restrictions."

Buyacar promised to sell cars at a loss if it must to keep key workers mobile during the COVID-19 lockdown and also suspended its usual £199 delivery fee while providing a £499 two-year warranty for free.

But Oldham indicated that its recovery from the lull in consumer demand had been strong. He said: “The scale and speed of our own car sales recovery has surprised us, but the evidence we have now found about future buying plans suggests that it is more than just the release of pent-up demand following the lockdown.

“The evidence now points to recovery of Britain’s car market in general being led by the online specialists.”

BuyaCar’s research was conducted amongst known regular car buyers – or 'in-market' consumers – who use every type of car sales channel, from traditional dealers through to online-only specialists such as BuyaCar and Cazoo.

2020 - the year of the digital trader?

This year has already shown signs of the growing strength of online retail channels and a home delivery option for consumers.

Online used car stocking source, Motorway, returned to operation with a record sales result on June 10 – selling £1.34m of vehicles in a single day.

Meanwhile, Cazoo announced this week that it had attracted a valuation of $1 billion (over £800m) – earning it the status of a ‘unicorn’ business for its fast rate of growth – following a further £25m funding round.

Big Motoring World chief executive Peter Waddell and former Cox Automotive president of international operations John Bailey announced the launch their “Amazon-style” Carzam online retail offering back in March.

Pendragon founder and chief executive Trevor Finn, meanwhile, is also muted to be preparing for the launch of a digital-led used car retail business.

Earlier this month, in the latest of a series of social media posts announcing his plans for a return to the sector, Finn said: “I have spent a year forming a team who have the knowledge and experience to drive the digital and resource transformation that’s required to re-engineer parts of the industry that aren’t functioning efficiently.”

Finn added: “There are a both industry insiders who recognise the need for change and new participants who see the huge potential.” 

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