Almost Half Visit Only One Dealer Before Buying

April 15, 2015

Almost half of consumers visit only one dealer before buying a car. A recent DMEautomotive study illustrates that consumers are doing more of their research online, resulting in fewer physical visits into dealerships.

Fewer Consumers Visiting Dealerships

DME’s survey of roughly 2,000 automotive consumers found more than two-thirds (68%) visited two dealerships or fewer before buying, while 40% of consumers visited only one dealer before buying.

On average, car buyers only visit 2.2 dealerships.

“This avoidance of physical dealerships is in stark contrast with how much online vehicle research is happening: 4 in 5 people now use the Internet for car buying, visiting 10 auto websites in the process, ” said DME.

Few Dealerships Visited

Few Dealerships Visited Pre-Purchase

While all ages/genders report a low number of dealership visits, a bright spot for dealerships is that car buyers under 35 make slightly more visits than their older equivalents. Sixty-three percent of those under 35 visited two or more dealerships, vs. 53% of those over 35.

Women show more pronounced dealer avoidance: 46% of women visited zero or one dealerships to look at inventory, vs. 41% of men.

Fewer Consumers Test Driving

DME’s survey of roughly 2,000 automotive consumers found 16% of consumers elected to take no test-drive before purchasing, while 33% test-drove only one car before purchasing. With a combined half (49%) of buyers reporting only test-driving one (or no) vehicle before purchasing their latest vehicle, it’s getting harder to influence and differentiate consumers with a good test drive experience.

On average, car buyers test-drive only 1.9 cars pre-purchase, with just over a quarter (26%) test-driving 3 vehicles or more.

Car buyers under 35, who may be more enthralled with the newness of the car-purchasing experience, are slightly more likely to take test-drives and try out more vehicles. For instance, 57% of those under 35 test-drove more than one vehicle (vs. 48% of those over 35) – and 33% test-drove more than three (vs. 23% of those over 35).

But women, who influence 85% of all car purchases(3), were bigger test-drive avoiders: 19% skipped it altogether, vs. 12% of men.

Trust of Dealership is Challenge

The DME survey also measured consumer trust of dealer salespeople, and the results were sobering: only 21% claimed they perceive them as “trustworthy,” a lower trust rating than reported for lawyers, mortgage brokers and insurance salespeople.

A significant majority of consumers (56%) rated car salespeople untrustworthy – another 22% reported they “neither trusted/distrusted them”.

Perhaps surprisingly, nearly twice as many car buyers under 35 trust dealer salespeople (30%) than those over 35 (17%).

Dealerships have a perception problem with their women customers: only 19% of women trust their salespeople, vs. 24% of men.

Implications of the Research?

One shot to make a sale: As consumers rely more on their online shopping process to identify the right car and right dealer to buy from, it’s going to be more important that both OEM and dealer evolve their digital presence. The importance of a seamless hand-off from a great online experience to a great in-store experience will assure that a dealer’s one shot at a dealership visit or test drive wins over the consumer and results in a sale. There will be less margin of error in the future – and no second chances for the sale.