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Rise of online car portals spikes ‘unseen’ used car purchases

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Car buyers are increasingly purchasing used cars without seeing them in person due to a rise in online car portals, according to AA Cars analysis.

The number of drivers buying cars which they haven’t set eyes on in person now stands at a one in 10 (11%) as more people place their faith in online portals.

AA Cars believes this is underlining the fact that consumers are increasingly willing to put aside previously-held reservations about used dealerships in the hunt for a car that best suits their needs.

The AA-Populus poll of 19,350 drivers found that whilst historically the majority of drivers have only paid for vehicles after seeing what they’re buying, millions of UK consumers would change their habits and pay for cars they haven’t already looked at in person if they were more confident of the history and quality of the car.

AA Cars’ chief executive James Fairclough said: “A decade ago, the idea of buying a car without seeing it in person was highly unusual.

“These days, consumers are much more comfortable with buying valuable products they haven’t seen first – namely due to the sheer volume of listing information and all-angles pictorial evidence that is provided by respected portals online, making a prospective buyer feel like they have practically kicked the tyres themselves.”

More than half of Brits (52%) that haven’t bought sight unseen previously, for example, say they would be more likely to do so if it had been examined by a pre-sale vehicle inspector from a trusted brand first.

Other factors that would see consumers more likely to embrace buying blind include dealers being upfront and providing clear information about their right to cancel (48%), a significantly discounted price (44%) and knowing that the dealer was associated with a trusted body (44%).

Additionally, 37% of buyers would be more likely to spend on a car they hadn’t seen first if there were more pictures, videos and information about the vehicle online.  

Fairclough said: “Buyers can also increasingly feel at ease as they are sheltered by the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 which gives them a ‘right to return’ a car if it develops a fault in the first thirty days of ownership - or to ask for a repair in the first six months after it was bought.

“All of this has helped to contribute to an environment where drivers feel more comfortable spending on a vehicle they haven’t seen, but essentially feel they know intimately, despite not encountering it in the flesh.

“It’s worth noting that if you are thinking about buying online, it’s always good to consider asking for a car to be inspected before you do.”

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