Get Newsletter Submit a Tip

Study: Low-Funnel Auto Shoppers Still Want Dealers

March 20, 2018 2 Comments

In advance of NADA this week, Autolist surveyed 1,095 car shoppers in March who are in the market for new and used vehicles.

According to the Autolist poll, the part of the buying process that consumers wanted to see improved upon the most was the time it took to complete the transaction. A third of respondents said it was the number one area where dealers could improve; two-thirds of respondents ranked it in the top three areas to improve.

The survey also found insights into how much of the process consumers were willing to complete online rather than in a brick-and-mortar store.

Eighty-nine percent of consumers said they would research a new or used vehicle online without going to a dealer. Just under half — 48 percent — said that they would prefer to negotiate the vehicle’s price offsite rather than in a dealership. Forty-three percent said that they would prefer to work out a vehicle’s financing without going to the dealer.
But consumers aren’t ready to move the entire car-buying process online, Autolist found.

Sixty-six percent of car shoppers said they were ‘unlikely’ or ‘very unlikely’ to buy a vehicle online from start to finish without ever seeing it in person. So what remains the draw for dealerships? Test drives.

Sixty-three percent of respondents said that the primary reason consumers would visit a dealership was to test drive a vehicle; this is also the part of the dealer experience that consumers enjoy the most.

Dealership size also plays a role in where consumers decide to buy their next vehicle.

While consolidation and corporate groups are quickly overtaking what was largely a family-run business network, buying from a national chain isn’t important to a majority of shoppers. Sixty-three percent said it wasn’t important to them that the store be part of a national chain; the remaining 37 percent said it was important.

About the Author:

The DrivingSales News team is dedicated to breaking the relevant and the tough stories affecting car dealers. Have questions for DrivingSales News? Reach the team at

  • Chris K says:

    Wow, thank you THIRD PARTY COMPANIES for telling us what we need at the dealer level. We really couldn’t do it without you. AND duh… OF COURSE people want to drive the car they want to buy! We could have told YOU that.

  • Patrick B says:

    It should be common sense that almost no one would buy a car start to finish sight unseen. But relying on the test drive to be the sole reason someone comes to a dealership shouldn’t be presented as a comforting thought; it doesn’t mean they “still want dealers.” They have few other options.

    The study stated that 89% of shoppers would start researching online. Most dealers haven’t adopted an online sales tool as robust as VirtualDeal, but I could guarantee that if they did, consumers would use it to minimize the time at the dealership. Shoppers start online because that’s what they’ve become accustomed to and the more friction-free the process becomes, the more dealers will need to catch up.

    There’s a web-series on that covers stuff like this (changing consumer preferences and new retail processes). The biggest hurdle to overcome is the want to avoid feeling hassled by a dealer.