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70% of buyers want to view their next car at a dealership, finds eBay Motors

Inside JW Autos' new used car showroom in Holborough, Kent

The majority of car buyers still prefer the full in-person dealership experience, according to new research by eBay Motors.

Its latest Consumer Insight Panel study reveals that 70% of in-market buyers want to view and test drive their next car at a showroom and, when ready, purchase it from the dealer.

Around one in five (19%) say they plan to visit dealerships to view and test drive cars and then buy them online, while just 11% say their preferred choice is to view and purchase cars solely online.

Lucy Tugby, marketing director of eBay Motors Group, said: “Despite the rollout of digital car buying services during the pandemic, we have not seen an accelerated move towards buying cars unseen online.

“For most customers the preferred buying experience remains unchanged, they still want to visit dealerships to view and make their purchases in-person. That said, online purchases – either after visiting a showroom, or unseen – are still valued for convenience by a quarter of buyers.”

The findings also show how the number of consumers choosing to use purely online buying services has not increased significantly in the last two years with 14% saying they would be “very comfortable” in purchasing a car, a small increase from 13% in 2021.

Tugby added: “Our research highlights the importance attached by consumers to the physical buying process, with many of them arriving at showrooms having already researched online, but not making their final decisions until they’ve had a chance to see and test drive the cars they’re interested in.

“Customers expect to be able to conduct varying degrees of their buying journey digitally and it is significant that nearly a fifth say they prefer to visit a dealership first and complete the buying process online.

“For dealers this means being flexible to customer needs and offering a mix of hybrid and fully digital online buying services.”

Younger buyers are fuelling the transition to online sales with almost 40% of Gen Z car buyers saying they prefer to transact online, according to the EY Mobility Consumer Index.

V12 Motor Finance recently revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of motorists would contact a car dealer for advice on their next car purchase first, before speaking to anyone else. It believes the used car dealer role will not reduce in importance when it comes to online sales and that it would remain relevant.

The latest AM industry special issue

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Any general manager has so many plates to spin, and they must foster a talented team that they can rely on to not just do the basics well, but to sprinkle some magic on top that customers can notice.

If the marketplace in 2023 is steadily returning to relative normality, this normality now includes the drive to find customers for an increasing supply of electric vehicles, and the need to source used cars from all channels and market them carefully. And of course there are the desires to delight consumers with an omnichannel experience and to hold on to decent margins after a couple of years of strong profitability.

The expectations of both the customer and the business’s stakeholder must be achieved to the optimum level.

In this special digital publication, industry experts, prominent suppliers and franchised dealers share their insights on the major aspects required in running a modern dealership well.

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