3 must-know trends on how car buyers shop

December 2, 2019

By: Cherry Morgan, Digital Product Manager

How car buyers shop is evolving. Here are 3 must-know trends on how car buyers shop today and the opportunity for automotive dealers and manufacturers alike.

Trend #1: Car buyers are spending more time shopping online.

·  In fact, car buyers (both new and used) spend 61 percent of their time online when shopping/buying a vehicle.1

·  At the beginning of their buying journey, only one in three car buyers know the exact vehicle they want to buy when they start the shopping process.1

·  While the majority of consumers want to complete parts of the car buying process online prior to visiting the dealership, they also want to engage with digital technology while at the dealership.2

·  This especially seems to be the case for younger generations, as 54 percent of Gen Y/Z car shoppers in Canada find it useful to gather information using their mobile device at the dealership – vs. 25 percent of Pre/Boomers.3

Tip: With most consumers shopping digitally throughout the purchasing journey, you have the opportunity to up your online presence. To start, ensure your website helps consumers understand the value you offer by providing optimized vehicle detail pages and maintenance information. Given popular mobile usage – make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Additionally, you can track analytics on your website to help you better understand your digital engagement with consumers and look for areas for optimization.

Trend #2: Car buyers shop at more than one dealership before purchase.

·  Car shoppers are reported to visit an average of 2.3 dealerships before making a purchase. 4

Tip: With buyers shopping around, there’s no shortage of competition. It’s important that you differentiate through your service-levels, F&I plans, loyalty programs and more. Furthermore, having an online reputation management strategy is important as your online reviews can sway consumers to you.

Trend #3: Demographic preferences evolve and differ

·  Most Canadians buy a vehicle to upgrade from an older vehicle. For millennials, that is not the case. Millennials are 2X more triggered to make a car purchase when they have a milestone in their life like getting married, getting a new job, having a baby, etc.5

Younger generations also tend to have the following preferences:

·   81% of millennials state they need to see and test drive a vehicle before buying.6

·  Gen Z are more likely to purchase auto insurance in person, while millennials are more likely to purchase auto insurance online.7

·  36% of men are more likely to consider fully purchasing their cars online. Younger buyers are more likely to consider fully purchasing a car online.8

Tip: Based on your demographic targets, adjust your selling and marketing techniques to appeal to these differences. However, despite demographic preferences, it’s evident that customer-centric physical and online interactions will win more customers.


In today’s landscape, brick-and-mortar aspects of businesses are just as important as the utilization of digital technology in the customer’s purchasing journey. Given consumers’ strong digital presence in shopping and buying, check out our Digital FSO blog here for specific tips with your FSO. For digital retailing solutions you can leverage, you can reach out for a demo here.


1Cox Automotive: Car Buyer Journey Study 2018

2Cox Automotive Blog Post – Top Automotive Trends 2019

3Deloitte: 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study – Canada

4Cox Automotive: 2019 Car Buyer Journey Study

5AutoTRADER Insight: Millennials are changing the automotive industry

6CARFAX Canada on Auto Remarketing Canada

7Applied Systems and ORC International – The Next Generation and Insurance: Understanding Buying Behaviors and Preferences of Younger Adults

8Canadian Black Book Research