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Majority of car buyers open to online car buying due to COVID, CarGurus finds

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CarGurus’ 2021 Buyer Insight Report has found that the 63% of car buyers are now open to the idea of buying a vehicle online as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The figure is up from 43% in the pre-pandemic car retail environment, it said, and came alongside data which suggested that consumers would only visit a dealership once online research had ensured that they were “extremely certain a vehicle is a good fit”.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of buyers reported exhaustively researching and comparing vehicles, while nearly half (45%) will wait until they are very or extremely certain of their purchase , it said.

But despite the shift towards remote research and car buying, CarGurus’ study – the result of feedback from 1,508 gathered by CarGurus and research partner GfK – found most car buyers (67%) would still ultimately prefer to buy their car in-store and in-person.

Wendy Harris, CarGurus, UK Managing Director said: “The car buying journey has evolved rapidly over the past year, largely influenced by the limitations imposed by the pandemic.

“The good news is that many dealerships are embracing this shift toward digital and they have used this time to adapt their processes to meet the expectations of today’s car buyers.

“We are seeing evidence of pent-up demand building with consumers actively researching their next car purchase on CarGurus and PistonHeads.

“It is a critical time for dealers to focus on their digital presence in order to build pipeline ahead of dealerships reopening.”

With dealerships across the UK planning to reopen in April pending government guidance, CarGurus’ said that the findings of its research indicated that the UK’s car retail market was set to benefit from similar pent-up demand to that experienced in July 2020 when showroom doors reopen.

In fact, the report found that nearly all (93%) buyers said they plan to maintain or increase the number of vehicles in their household, and over a third of millennials indicated they plan to buy more.

When it comes to choosing a car dealer, 59% of buyers said price was the most important consideration, followed by location (39%), probability of a fair deal (27%), and availability of inventory (23%).

Driving their choice were a range of practical factors such as budget (38%), reliability (34%), and driving feel (29%). After researching independently online, buyers first reach out to dealers most often by phone (36%) or online (31%).

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