In Person or Online? Here’s What Auto Buyers Prefer

Author: Annette Malave, SVP/Insights, RAB

If you have spoken with anyone who has purchased or leased any vehicle within the past year, you will probably hear about the highs and lows of the process. While inventory may not be as big a challenge as it has been in years past, there are other difficulties.

There are numerous vehicle options for consumers today – color, type, size and choices in what powers a car are some options to consider. In today’s environment, there are other considerations – interest rates and economic uncertainty, for example. These considerations, combined with the complexity of the entire process, can impact an auto buyer’s decision, but are auto dealers in tune?

A survey of over 2,000 car buyers and 400 car dealers takes a deep dive into the buying process. The greatest concern of auto buyers is inflation – not a surprise since the cost of everything seems to be higher. Inflation is also a concern of dealers, per the 2023 Capital One Buying Outlook.

While the pandemic created challenges in auto sales for dealers, it also caused the auto industry to reevaluate their sales process to provide alternative buying options.

According to this survey, nearly six in ten auto buyers believe that digital tools make the buying process more transparent, and 45% of buyers believe that these digital tools have made financing a vehicle a little easier.

Despite these shifts to digital with financing, the hybrid approach to the actual buying or shopping process is preferred by dealers and buyers alike. Eighty-three percent of auto buyers and 74% of dealers say that half of the buying process is done in person. Specifically, pricing and financing is done in person while the traditional “tire kicking” (aka research and inventory search) is done online.

With improved inventory levels, auto dealers should turn to broadcast radio to promote available vehicle options for auto buying intenders. Almost seven in ten adults who plan to lease or buy a new or pre-owned vehicle listen to broadcast radio, per MRI-Simmons.

Radio listeners prefer the personal experience when it comes to vehicle purchases with nearly nine in ten (86%) stating that their most recent purchase or lease was done in person. When they make those purchases, 63% purchased them directly from a dealer or manufacturer versus online only or via a digital marketplace.

What matters most to radio buyers? Auto dealers would benefit by highlighting rebates and incentives as 49% of radio listeners are influenced by this. Dealers should also note that radio listeners are savvy and confident. Over half (56%) are confident in negotiating with automotive salespeople.

Radio is the perfect medium for dealers to reach viable auto buyers and drive sales – 63% of adults who spent $60K or more tune into broadcast radio.


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