CivicScience | More Americans Opt to Test Drive the Online Car Buying Experience

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More Americans Opt to Test Drive the Online Car Buying Experience

Image Credit: Carvana

Earlier this week, CivicScience published part one of a study on the auto industry. You can read about new and used car ownership here. The study below is part two which takes a look at online car dealers and more.

Americans who have used online car dealers – such as TrueCar, Carvana, and CarMax – have been relatively flat over the last six months, although a recent uptick in the data suggests people plan to take this method of buying a car out for a spin. And when usage and intent are merged together, the upward trend is plain to see. (September percentage represents the month to date.)

Overall, more than 20% of Americans have either used or plan to use these services, while a full 16% of Americans have never heard of this concept before.

But perhaps the most notable number? Of those who have used online car dealers, people who liked the experience triple those who didn’t. A word of mouth tipping point might be upon us.

Unsurprisingly, those 55 or older are much less likely to be users or intenders of online car dealers. But perhaps the biggest takeaway in this space is income, with Americans making over $100,000 a year the most likely to have used, or plan to use, online car dealers. 

Looking at the online car dealers, Carmax and Auto Trader are the clear industry leaders.

Models, Types, and Importance

Looking at numbers over the last nine months, quality and reliability remain firmly in first place when it comes to what’s most important to Americans when buying a car.

When it comes to actually going out and buying a new or used car, brand and price are, by leaps and bounds, the most important considerations to consumers.

Interestingly, Gen Z is the least price-sensitive and values a good experience with a sales person more than any other age bracket. Those 25- to 34-year-olds are equally price and brand conscious and place the least amount of value on interaction with a sales person.

When it comes to model preference, SUVs rule the road, with 40% of Americans saying that’s their favorite type of ride. When combined with trucks, nearly 6 in 10 Americans prefer to step up to, instead of into, their automobile.

Overall, the car market – one of the most mature consumer markets – remains solid. It appears as if Q4 is shaping up to be a good time to be in the car sales business. The one area most worth watching, however, has to be the online space. With younger and wealthier individuals taking the ease of one-click purchasing to heart, the days of high-shine floors – and higher-shine hair sprayed car salesman – may begin to go the way of the Studebaker.

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