Web Sites Influencing Used Car Buyers

From Digital Dealer
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Issue 44

Among late-model used-vehicle buyers who use the Internet during the shopping process, Internet use has surpassed all other shopping methods as the source for locating the vehicle a buyer ultimately purchases, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Used Autoshopper.com Study released late last week.

The study finds that Internet vehicle locators, such as Autotrader.com, CarMax.com, Cars.com and eBay Motors, are increasingly leading consumers to the actual vehicle they buy. In 2007, nearly one in four buyers of late-model used vehicles (23 percent) used an Internet vehicle locator or online classified ad services to find the vehicle they purchased — a 44 percent increase since 2006. In addition, 2007 marks the first year that Internet use surpasses all other shopping methods in locating the vehicle a buyer ultimately purchases. The proportion of used-vehicle buyers who use the Internet in the shopping process and who ultimately found the vehicle they purchased on the Internet is 10 percentage points greater than the number of shoppers who found their vehicle through the second-most-popular method, visiting dealer lots.

“This is just one indication that use of the Internet is now perhaps the most efficient source for shopping for and purchasing late-model used vehicles,” said Jon Osborn, research director at J.D. Power and Associates. “In the past, the majority of used-vehicle automotive Internet users relied on the traditional method of driving around to dealer lots to find the vehicle they ultimately bought. However, as the number of Web sites specializing in the used-vehicle market continues to grow, and the use of video, photos and improved dealer inventory management tools proliferates, we can expect that consumer use of the Internet for used-vehicle shopping and for actually finding a desired vehicle online will continue to increase.”

Consumer-generated automotive content (CGC) is dramatically affecting Internet usage for used-vehicle shopping, as consumers are offering their own experiences and opinions on makes, models and dealerships. With hundreds of sites listing shopping tips, vehicle reviews, pictures and vehicle specifications, CGC is becoming a highly sought-after and trusted source of information for consumers to help determine their buying decisions. The study finds that slightly more than seven in 10 used-vehicle automotive Internet users (72 percent) use CGC on the Internet either while they are shopping for their vehicle or after they purchase it. By far, the most popular types of CGC are consumer ratings and reviews, with two-thirds of used-vehicle automotive Internet users accessing this type of content for automotive information.

“Not only are reviews written by consumers frequently accessed, but also the buyers who use them rate them as the most helpful of all types of consumer-generated content,” said Osborn. “Among used-vehicle automotive Internet users who access consumer-generated ratings and reviews, 94 percent say the information is either ‘somewhat helpful’ or ‘very helpful.’ With this level of utility, CGC is one area that consumers will continue to seek out and may even expect to find on all automotive Web sites.”

The study finds various gender-based differences in used-vehicle shopping trends among automotive Internet users. For example, women not only tend to decide to buy a vehicle earlier in the purchase process than do men (15.9 weeks before the date of purchase compared with 14.1 weeks), but also decide upon the vehicle type and model earlier than do men. In addition, at the beginning of the shopping process, men are much more likely to know the make of vehicle they want than women (49 percent vs. 38 percent), while a much higher proportion of women are initially open to any vehicle that would meet their needs than are men (22 percent vs. 13 percent).

The 2007 Used Autoshopper.com Study is based on responses from 5,476 used-vehicle buyers who purchased pre-owned 2002-2007 model-year vehicles in January and February 2007.


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