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Scope of post-COVID car buying searches extend 25% further

Karolina Edwards-Smajda, director of commercial products at Auto Trader

Auto Trader has revealed that car buyers are considering vehicles being offered for sale 25% further from their homes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19, the average distance between buyer and seller was circa 40 miles, but restrictions and the acceleration in digital retailing trends has driven a change in consumer behaviour, it said.

Auto Trader found that during the latest national lockdowns when physical forecourts were closed, the average distance spiked to 60 miles.

Although this dipped slightly since the reopening of physical showrooms in April to circa 50 miles, it marks a 25% increase on the pre-pandemic average.

With more retailers adapting to the changing expectations of car buyers, such as offering money back guarantees and extended warranties, car buyers are becoming increasingly comfortable with buying from further afield, Auto Trader said.

Car dealership sites are set to undergo a major transformation over the next decade.

Research by Auto Trader revealed that nearly two thirds (62%) would be open to buying a car without a test drive if they were offered a 14-day money back guarantee.

Auto Trader said the propensity for long distance buying was further highlighted by separate research conducted in May, which revealed that 46% of consumers are currently willing to buy from a retailer based over 50 miles away.

More than one in five (21%) were prepared to buy up to 100 miles from their home, 10% up to 200 miles, and 16% over 200 miles.

Auto Trader said the research highlights the market opportunities for retailers who are embracing online retailing.

Karolina Edwards-Smajda, director of commercial products at Auto Trader, said: “As online retailing becomes ever more prevalent and consumer confidence grows, the geographical distance between buyers and sellers is set to become less relevant.

“It represents a huge opportunity for retailers who can reach beyond their local market, whether that’s through click and collect or home delivery.

“Embracing these services means all retailers can compete with the online entrants who operate nationwide and invest heavily in national marketing campaigns.”

Auto Trader is set to roll out a suite of online retailing products throughout H2 2021, including a market extension tool designed to extend retailer’s reach into additional geographical regions to target new customers.

Auto Trader suffered a 29% decline in revenues and 38% reduction in operating profit as it acted to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on its car retail customers, its 2020 annual financial results have revealed.

May’s used car sales volumes were 14% ahead of the same period in the pre-COVID trading period of 2019, according to data from Auto Trader.

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