Buying cars online has always been a bit of a taboo subject in the automotive industry. The risks of purchasing online, only to be delivered or picking up a substandard vehicle, has turned consumers away from taking that leap of faith and understandably so. However, with the restrictions in place this year throughout and out of lockdown, it appears that more consumers have been willing to take the plunge and buy online.
A study by Auto Trader conducted this year has shown that 41% of car buyers are willing to buy online, up from 37% just in August 2019, including conducting certain parts of the process without ever having to see someone face-to-face. In a Covid-driven world, this style of buying offers social distance, ease of purchase and can all be done from the comfort and safety of home. It’s no wonder so many people are jumping on the bandwagon.
The report released by Auto Trader revealed that most buyers expressed a preference for completing most of the tasks associated with buying cars online and at home. This included 77% of buyers preferring to find their insurance online, 66% prefering to explore car finance online and 69% preferring to check availability online. Alongside this, it was revealed that 45% of consumers would prefer to agree a price online and 53% wanted to arrange the delivery and collection of the vehicle in the same way.
By sending most of the more mundane or admin-focused tasks online, showrooms could be at risk of losing footfall. As standard, most car buyers will already use the internet to check the features of a car (46%), the running costs (45%) and the type of car they need (42%), which limits the face-to-face conversations previously needed. Whether this will affect sales or not has yet to be seen, but a concern rests in whether a lack of opportunity for sales tactics will limit the number of new or used cars being purchased.
However, despite the worries, buying cars online is still relatively new, at least to the scale that consumers demand. The report highlighted that not all of the jobs available online were easy to navigate or it wasn’t immediately clear they were available at all. 33% of consumers said they would be more likely to complete part exchanging online if they knew it was available, alongside 36% saying the same of finding the total cost of ownership.
The potential for online car purchasing in the future is huge, but it’s clear that the industry needs to bring itself up to scratch to cater to demand. Making it clear which tasks can be done online and making it easy to do so, as well as adjusting business plans to suit a new way of buying can help both consumers and dealerships stay afloat during the months and years ahead.