Car buyers research online but dealers still trusted for advice

UK consumers are increasingly looking online to research prices, specification and models before they buy a car, according to the latest Britain Under the Bonnet report from Close Brothers Motor Finance.

The study found that in the last year, 1.5 million more car buyers checked third-party websites such as AutoTrader and Motors.co.uk when buying a new car. One in 10 said they checked online auction sites such as eBay and Gumtree, and the same proportion said social media was a key part of how they researched their next car.

Results also showed that 91% of all car buyers had done some research before they went to buy their car, with this proportion rising to 96% of those under 35.

Despite the growing popularity of online research, however, Close Brothers found that the proportion of consumers buying through a dealer has remained consistent. Over three quarters (76%) of respondents bought their car through a dealer, almost unchanged from 78% last year.

What’s more, dealers are still the most trusted port of call for customers looking for advice — especially those buying alternatively fuelled and electric vehicles.

In the survey, 77% of respondents who bought their car from a dealership said their dealer provided them with ‘expert knowledge’ and 74% received what they felt was ‘good advice’. This rose to 81% of AFV and EV buyers, who potentially have a longer list of questions about the newer technology.

Another 57% said that going to a dealership for advice saved them time that they would have had to spend researching themselves, and 83% said dealers could pinpoint their requirements.

The internet plays a key role in the customer journey, explained Se├ín Kemple, director of sales at Close Brothers, “but the more the customer is swamped with reams of information, the more they will continue to rely on the advice of dealers to decipher it all. Talking to dealers and taking on their advice remains an integral part of the process for car buyers. This expertise is essential to ensuring they end up with the right car.”

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