Car buyers still see physical dealerships as a vital part of the car buying process

by Oct 24, 2019Blog, News

Dealers worrying about the rise of online car buying can rest assured that the role of a physical car dealership is still key in the car buying journey according to a new consumer survey.

The latest NFDA Consumer Attitude Survey polled 2,000 consumers from across the UK with results showing that the total number of dealerships being visited by consumers this year was higher than in previous years.

It also revealed that three quarters of people purchasing cars under seven-years-old were doing so at franchised dealerships, with only 14% of these people buying them from independent garages. And only 5% of these people were using car supermarkets and another 5% bought theirs from private sellers.

When it comes to brand new cars, a whopping 93% of buyers were going through franchised dealerships.


“With the range of new vehicles coming to the market and their modern, innovative features, consumers are more likely to want to see a car before they buy it.

– Sue Robinson, NFDA director

The survey also showed that half of all consumers spent time on a dealership’s website before purchasing a vehicle, which emphasises the importance of motor dealers having well optimised, user friendly websites.

One surprising result, however, was that a third of customers bought a car from a physical franchised dealership having not visited any website. This includes a dealer’s site, a manufacturer website, or any other car sales operation online. So there are still a number of people out there who rely solely on the help they receive once inside the franchised car dealership.

Customers who bought cars from prestige brands are more likely to visit a manufacturer’s website, with 46% of these people choosing to do so. The survey also showed that 13% of prestige car buyers carried out research by reading papers and magazines. When it comes to people who bought volume brands, only 32% visited a manufacturer’s website, and only 8% spent time researching in magazines and newspapers.

The survey also looked to the future, revealing that 63% of all consumers intended to purchase their next vehicle from a franchised dealer showroom.

Speaking about their findings the NFDA director, Sue Robinson, said: ‘The survey has revealed a growing trend towards online retailing. As a result, a strong digital strategy is vital in today’s market, but consumers continue to see physical dealerships as an essential element of their buying journey.

‘With the range of new vehicles coming to the market and their modern, innovative features, consumers are more likely to want to see a car before they buy it. Additionally, consumers place significant value on their interaction with retailers, where they look for advice and reassurance.

‘It is encouraging to see that retailers continue to play a key role in informing consumers and helping them find the vehicle that best suits their needs.’

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